Discipline Strategies – Shopping With A Two Year Old

So Little Cat and I have a regular (but fairly flexible) routine on a Monday. We go to the supermarket to do the big shop and after that we share sushi together while he plays on the helicopter ride on – I don’t put money in it, he enjoys it more without.

After our lunch we tend to head across the road to the pet shop to visit the animals; The degus are his favourite, I like the reptiles. It’s become a bit of a regular tradition and makes doing the food shop far less stressful as we both know what to expect.

Well this Monday it became very apparent that I really needed to buy some more summer clothes after wearing my one and only pair of shorts for four days running.

There’s a clothes shop right next door to the pet shop so I thought we would just pop in there before going to see the animals.

Let me just preface this next part by saying: As a rule, I do NOT enjoy shopping. I’m a get in, try it, buy it, get out kind of girl. I have been known to come up with elaborate lies to deter friends from joining me on my very infrequent shopping trips. The idea of making a day of it is hellishly stressful to me.

That being said, we were having a beautiful day, the sun was shining and I was feeling incredibly calm and happy as we entered the shop. My mood was improved even further when I found a skirt and a pair of shorts I actually liked. So with my loot in hand we headed to the fitting rooms to try it on.

Little Cat picked up a colourful child sized umbrella on the way, and was happily using it as a walking stick, and we found the changing rooms to be nearly empty and got in without a wait. It was really hot and stuffy in there so I took my time, trying to keep cool and chatting to LC about his brolly.

I was halfway through trying on the clothes when LC’s mood changed. He suddenly went into hyper mode, deciding that he HAD TO open the door. I was standing in my pants and not at all ready to go, so I told him to wait. I didn’t know if it was the heat or the allure of the Degus at the pet shop, but it was apparent that his patience had disappeared in the blink of an eye. He ran to the door trying to open it, laughing as I pulled him away, before running back to try again. I heard some more people coming in to try clothes on, and suddenly felt very frazzled and tense. The heat was getting to me and I remembered why I usually avoided shopping alone for clothes with my toddler. The more he tried to open the door in his new found game, the more worked up and angry I became.

We probably looked quite ridiculous, me chasing him round in my underwear with a face like thunder, him running red faced with his little umbrella giggling like mad. I had lost control of the situation and needed a minute to think of a solution, but he wasn’t giving me a second.

So, I leant against the door blocking his route to it, closed my eyes and breathed, ignoring the little person jumping at my legs.

OK, what is going on here?” I asked myself. He is hot, confused by the change of routine and keen to get on with the visit to the pet shop. I am frustrated that my impromptu shopping trip has gone so disastrously wrong (from my perspective in the moment), and also feeling hot and tired which is clouding my ability to reason. It suddenly clicked that LC was particularly interested in the door and how it worked, and was desperate to see if he could work out how to open it. OK, I know what I need to do.

Eyes open.

Down in a crouch to his eye level.

“OK, baby, I know you want to open the door and go to the pet shop. Just wait for me to finish up here and then you can open the door and we’ll go.”

Little Cat: “OK.”

Calmness resumed. He immediately got down on the floor and went into “cat mode,” meowing and peeking under the door at the women outside. He was happy and cooperative once again and I was free to finish trying on the clothes and to get dressed calmly and peacefully.

Moral of the story?

What could have ended in tears, shouting and anger on both sides was averted by some deep calming breaths which gave me the ability to look calmly at the needs behind the behaviour – both his and mine. Once he knew that he would get to open the door, he was happy to wait.


Sometimes we forget to explain what’s happening to our children, which amps up their stress, especially if we are breaking the normal routine, and this can lead to behavioural difficulties.

By including them and letting them know what to expect, we can help to prevent any stress and uncertainty within them which may lead to disconnection and conflicts.

Do you shop with your toddler? Have you found it more likely to produce stressful situations or have you found the trips enjoyable? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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9 thoughts on “Discipline Strategies – Shopping With A Two Year Old”

  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. It’s so important that, before we can take care of a situation, we need to check if our own head are in the right place. Calming down, thinking it through, and then moving into action: wonderfully done.

  2. Wow, I need to learn how to do this. I just had a shopping trip with my 2 yr old (not a usual one) ended rathed badly. We were waiting for the bus and my little one had aquired a large ball he picked out at the store. Come time to go for the bus I have a stroller full of bags, need both hands to push the stroller and he refused to hold his ball. -.- I pretty much lost it at this point I was angry and yelling. I saw a bus pull in that I believed to be ours it’s getting late and we still hadn’t had supper. So he’s playing with his toy car which I snatch away and used as leverage to get him to carry his ball. We get to the bus stop and it was not our bus. Break time, I return the car and take the ball explain how if he helps mommy it’s good and he gets his car back. Then our bus comes and again a fight over the ball, I was beyond mad took he car and put it in the garbage. Should I have left the ball? I feel bad for losing my cool but not sure how else I could have handled it. My little one is very stubborn when he sets his mind to something just like myself. I needed him to carry his ball and he no longer had interest in it.

    1. From what you’ve shared here it sounds to me like the situation was deeper than first appears. You bought him the ball with certain expectations attached to it. You hoped he would love it and want to hold it on the way home, but when that didn’t happen you felt disappointed, and perhaps felt that he was being ungrateful for the gift you had given him. Obviously I am only going on the comment you’ve written so forgive me if I’m way off.

      Anyway, your son didn’t want to hold the ball any longer and this caused your anger to flare as things were not working out as you had planned. We have to be very careful with placing expectations on to our children. When we give a gift it should be given freely without conditions.

      The way I would solve this on future trips is to question if you really need to buy anything at all for him, and if you decide that you do, then make sure it is something that you can carry if it comes to it. Had the ball been smaller in this situation, you could have popped it in your bag and eliminated the need for either of you to become stressed. I hope this is helpful to you, thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. Hi. I have paintings in my home. My little boy of almost 2 years of age jumps on the couch and scrapes his nails down them and this removes chunks of the paint on the artwork. I try to remove him from them, try distraction, tell him why I dont want him to do it, but nothiing works, he just laughs. Any suggestions?

    1. We can only control our own reactions, not the actions of our children. I would move the paintings to protect them from damage and re-introduce them when you feel he is able to understand the boundary of not touching them.

      1. Thank you so much. I did remove the paintings when I realised that he was probably too young to understand boundaries but was very interested to see if you had an alternative way to deal with it. Loved your response that we can only control our reactions to things. Thank you for an incredible website, finding all your articles so interesting and helpful.

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