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  • Writer's pictureAnwuli Anyah

Bring the Toddler Along

Updated: Aug 5, 2019

Taking your kids out is the right thing to do. But sometimes, when the child in question is a toddler, you just want to leave him or her at home. I get it. They can be so much work. I don’t know how your kids behave but mine throws embarrassing tantrums, tries to eat the groceries in the cart, and once, very loudly, he called the cashier a ‘bad man’ for taking our food. The poor guy was just bagging our groceries. I am almost always mortified and embarrassed at restaurants. He never sits quietly. He constantly asks to get out of his high chair, blows annoying loud bubbles with his straw and water, tries to reach sugar packets kept at the tables, spills the salt from the shaker, calls out loudly to neighboring tables to engage in conversation, and the floor around his high chair is often littered with food. Two Sundays ago, we went out to dinner before mass and he did all the above, got out of his highchair and also managed to stain my dress, so I looked ridiculous at church.

It is very tempting to either stay home or leave the toddler at home to avoid all these situations but I consciously try not to. They need these outing experiences to learn about society and the environment. And exposure to situations like this is the only way to teach them to behave appropriately. The toddler years are tricky. I find it especially difficult because I am not sure exactly how much, my son understands, of what I tell him. But I remind myself that the general rule is that they understand more than you think. So yes, you should keep running errands, going to restaurants, and grocery shopping with your kids because it is the right thing to do for their development. Apart from the moments of toddler bad behavior, these ‘field trips’ with my son are always so fun and rewarding and at the end, he always learns something. As a working mom, I cherish the little time I have with my son so I hate to leave him to run errands. I have gotten good at managing him in public. I have only had to leave the grocery store, abandoning my shopping cart, only a couple of times. I think that’s pretty good. Here are a few tips that help me overcome the embarrassment these trips bring.

1. You are doing nothing wrong. So stop feeling bad or embarrassed. The only people who will take offense at a toddler’s behavior or melt-down are inconsiderate people and you know what? Their opinions don’t count.

2. Calmly correct the toddler’s misbehavior. This works if you are persistent about it. This is my husband’s strong suit. He is so level headed. See step 5 if it doesn’t work.

3. Promise a reward for good behavior. Always follow through, it works.

4. Ignore minor meltdowns.

5. Physically take him or her away from the situation if you are in a place that requires quiet or calm like a church or nicer restaurant. I usually go to the bathroom and have a stern talk with my toddler. Sometimes we hug it out but sometimes he goes in timeout. Then we calm down and resume our activity.

6. Be efficient with you time at restaurants. Know what you want before you get there. Order once you sit so that you have enough time on good behavior. It always seems like the longer the wait, the more irritable my toddler gets.

7. Don’t be too ambitious with list of errands. Just pick one or two stops when are doing errands with the toddler. If your errand is grocery shopping, doing just that is enough when you are with a toddler.

8. If you have multiple errands to run, including a fun stop for your toddler can help them behave. Taking a break at a toy library or children’s museum can help them let some steam out. A restaurant stop for a snack at the end of you errands is always fun.

Some generous mamas who follow me on Instagram also gave me good tips and I am listing my favorites below:

9. The most popular suggestion was to bring snacks and toys to distract them. According to @hillkez91011 and @crickettevans, snacks are always a great idea. @loandcobows suggests coloring/sticker books, @fashionandford says bring whatever toy your child is currently obsessed with. An activity kit to keep him or her busy while you try on clothes in the dressing room is a very neat idea that @amandabreen suggested.

10. For really long errands or a sit-down dinner at restaurants, some screen time could be your saving grace. Bring an iPad or equivalent, says @this.mama.bird and @mamabirdchronicles

11. Keeping the child involved in whatever task or activity you are doing helps. ‘My kid gets fussy when no one is paying attention to her. As long as we talk to her, she is manageable’ says @imperfectly.perfect.lyf

12. Playing games, drawing inspiration from your surroundings can be really fun and distracting. This helps pass the time and can be a good learning opportunity. @sistersandbubs suggests playing I Spy.

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