How To Stop an In-Store “I want this” Tantrum Before it Starts

Every parent has to confront the in-store tantrum eventually. Many times this will happen because a parent won’t buy the child a toy or something that he or she wants. We all know the scenario.

Sammy: “Daddy, can I buy this car?”

Daddy: “No, Sammy I am already getting you the ball you wanted”

Sammy: “But I want this car alsooo!”

Daddy: “You can only get one thing. What do you want, the car or the ball?”

Sammy: [raising voice slightly] “I want both.”

Daddy: “I am not getting you both. Pick one. Do you want the car or the ball?”

Sammy: [voice getting louder in a whiny tone] “Yes! Both! I want the car and the ball”

Daddy: [getting mad] “Sammy keep your voice down!! You can get either the car or the ball or nothing. Do you understand? I am not getting you both!”


Sammy: [now yelling] I want both the car and the ball!!


Father yanks both toys out of son’s hand and slams them down on the counter.


Sammy: [falls to the floor screaming and kicking with eyes rolled back in a zombie like look] “NO!!! AHH!!! AHHH!!! NOOOO!!!”

I remember my daughter had this episode when she was three years old. I had to carry her out of the shopping mall in front of thousands of staring faces while she was kicking and screaming. I swear, people must have thought I was kidnapping her. It was horrible. I simply didn’t want that to happen again. Therefore, I decided I needed to learn some serious parenting skills.

So how do we prevent this from happening in the first place?

Here’s a great idea that works every time my child asks if they could by something and I am ready to say “No”. I read this in a book somewhere (I think it was in the back of How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk – great book. I highly recommend it. I will be mentioning it in an upcoming post one of these days.), and I tried it a couple years ago and it worked like a charm. Take out a pen and paper and tell your child that you’ll write down all the things that they want so that you’ll know for next time. Now, don’t misunderstand me here. I am not suggesting you grab a clipboard and walk throughout the entire toy store, like an inventory manager, jotting down all the things your son wants. While standing in the check out line write down the three different things you child is holding in their hand so that you know for next time.

In Practice
A few months later, we were at a gift shop of a science museum. There were tons of toys in the gift shop and my daughter finally picked something simple she wanted. As were ready to get into the check out line she came over to me with more things she wanted. So of course, I said to her that she already picked something and that we weren’t going to buy something else. I could sense right away in the look on her face that a tantrum was on its way. At that moment, I remembered the writing down tip and implemented it right away.

I took out a piece of paper and pen and said to my daughter “Hey, you know what? How about if we write down what you want and we’ll know for next time.” I couldn’t believe it when her response was “Ok”. She started bringing me all these things to write down. I made a list and then asked her what she wanted right now. She picked one thing and that was it.

I was so impressed with this technique that I’ve used many times in the past. I can’t guarantee that it would work for everybody but its better than saying “No!”. Also, keep in mind that this won’t work once your child is on the floor screaming. If it gets to that point then it’s too late. All you could do is walk away and say, “Whose kid is that?”

This post has been submitted to the Babylune Group Writing Project.

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15 Responses

  1. Rory says:

    What a great idea, Eric. I have yet to try this one because Beth is not too “expectant” in the shops. This might have something to do with the fact that we use toy shops as play areas – she plays with the toys, pressing the buttons, dancing to the music, etc. and then eventually it’s time to go…or she gets fed up.

    Of course, you know I’m bias because I love How To Talk So Kids Will Listen. But it is good to read an example of this method working so effectively.

    Hey, you should enter this into Babylune’s Parenting Mistakes Group Writing Project. Get yourself a link and a few more visitors.

  2. Eric says:

    Thanks Rory for the positive feedback.

    I entered the post into the group writing project upon your suggestion. thanks

  3. Jan says:

    I have to agree with Rory. This is a great suggestion. I am definitely going to try this next time we go to store.

    I like your posts. Keep up the good work.

  4. Great Idea, Eric. I’ll try it soon. Thanks for sharing and wish u all the best.

  5. Eric says:

    Jan, Julia welcome. I would love to get feedback from everyone who’s tried it.

  6. David says:

    This relates to a general tip on saying “No” that I read in the recent parenting book ‘Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice’.

    The author suggests that one should always avoid using the specific word “No” as a response. This seemed strange to me at first, until she gives an example scenario, asking which response one would prefer (I will attempt to paraphrase it from memory):

    Husband: How would you like to go out for dinner tonight dear?
    Wife: No.


    Husband: How would you like to go out for dinner tonight dear?
    Wife: That would be so nice, but I’m really exhausted. Could we take a raincheck?

    In all honesty, which response would we prefer? It’s no different with our kids – they’re people too, and simply treating them as such, without apologetics or pandering, will garner a better response without undermining our parental authority.

    Here’s a link to the book which I’ve really found useful:
    Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice

  7. Eric says:

    Hey David, thanks for commenting. That book is really great and I plan on writing about it in a future post. There’s a lot of great information in there.

  8. Genesis says:

    Good tip! I wonder if it will work on an 18 month old?

    I have to read that book, I have the other one by the same authors, “Siblings Without Rivalry” and it is excellent. The only problem is finding a copy in English down here in Guatemala!

  9. Eric says:

    I hope you 18 month old doesnt have 3yr old sized tantrums. That would be pretty tough. Wouldnt it just be easier to carry the 18 month old out of the store and distract him/her with something else?

  10. tovorinok says:


    Great book. I just want to say what a fantastic thing you are doing! Good luck!


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