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We have an 11-month-old boy who is very mobile (has been walking since 9 months) and now loves to play, run around, and climb on things. One problem we have is that when we're in the grocery store, he'll usually sit calmly in the cart at first but his state eventually deteriorates and he desperately wants to be unbuckled so that he can run around. We've tried to keep him preoccupied with food or toys, and it helps, but it usually doesn't last long.

We've started (perhaps mistakenly) to let him out and push the cart around in the store. (He also loves pushing his stroller around at the park or anything that has wheels really). It works for a while in terms of us being able to continue shopping, but eventually he gets bored and wants to run all over the store. This, of course, is not conducive to shopping, and he doesn't follow us around much; he just wants to run (i.e. top speed/max distance run). He really resists being put back into the cart (e.g., screams, flails, etc... an early tantrum maybe?).

Before taking him to the store we've tried making sure he

  1. is not hungry
  2. has recently woken up from a nap
  3. yet has had some time to run around at home for a bit
  4. and has access to toys and things to distract him.

He shows similar behavior after being in his high chair for a while. Once he is done eating, he tries to get out of the seat, flails, and screams. We've tried teaching him some sign language (e.g., "all done") but he doesn't understand that this will get him out of his high chair much easier than screaming. Generally, it seems like he doesn't like to be restrained. He will sit in a stroller calmly for a while, but it's obvious that he really just wants to walk. Other than this problem, he is mostly very happy (e.g., smiles and laughs a lot, loves to play with us, be around other kids, etc.).

It seems like most questions and other internet resources on tantrums are geared toward toddlers, specifically 2-3 year olds. There's not much on one year olds, and the issues seems to be different. E.g., our son isn't upset that we're not buying him a toy or a candy bar, he just wants to walk around.

TLDR; How do we deal with a one year old who wants to walk/run around but needs to sit in a shopping cart?

  • Go to the store with 2 parents. 1 can shop while the other disciplines. Also, you have to be more persistent than him and not be afraid to take him out of the store. Not taking him is also a good idea. Sounds like there are 2 of you and this really is not a fun battle to fight as a parent. You can socialize him later and more easily than in a store in front of everyone. – Adam Heeg Jul 11 '18 at 19:10
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Our eldest was just like this. He would push anything with wheels, or even chairs without wheels. He wanted to be like us so if we were pushing a trolley that's what he wanted to do.

There are some simple solutions:

  • get him his own toy trolley, ideally a fold down one for easy carrying. Even let him load it with a few non-breakable items of shopping
  • let him push your trolley. This works best if he pushes low down while you push on the handle. Some kids don't like this though, so if yours wants to be in control this may not work.
  • more shops offer trolleys with a car on the front for a child to sit in, with a steering wheel and gear lever. These may distract him longer.

Or just split up - one of you take the child while the other does the shopping. This makes things much easier, and ended up being my preferred method.

  • Thanks for weighing in! "He wanted to be like us..." I think this is a big part of the issue! He does push our cart, which helps, but eventually he gets bored with this and starts running all over the store (I think I explaiend this in the question). Based on this, I don't having his own separate cart would work. I wish places would have carts with a car on the front, but I haven't seen these in my area. Splitting up would be nice but I work full time and my wife often has to run to the store on her own. – haff Jul 9 '18 at 19:44
  • Did your son grow out this eventually (i.e. get to the point where he would sit in the cart on his own), or did he just learn to follow you in the store while walking his own cart/pushing yours? – haff Jul 9 '18 at 19:44
  • He ended up walking round with us and helped put things in the trolley. It wasn't a phase that lasted that long. – Rory Alsop Jul 9 '18 at 21:49
  • And amusingly, once he was a bit older and my daughter wanted to do things, he was given the task of being in charge, and they had to play "sneaky" - hiding from us while being as close to us as possible so that when we got to the tills they would be right there. That was quite successful :-) – Rory Alsop Jul 9 '18 at 21:50
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You can't win a fight with a toddler. It's that simple.

If he want's to push the cart, let him. It's that simple.

If you he want's to run and what not, then pick him up, put him in the cart and gently explain that running is not allowed. That he must "hold" the car or sit in it. Those are his options, but that he can choose.

He may not understand the words, but he will understand run=sit in the cart, push=I get to push.

Finally, if he is going to pitch a fit, I use three methods that work well, though I certainly look strange in the store. Choose the one that works for you.

  • "If you want to throw a fit fine. Go for it." Then I stop doing anything. Stand there and just stare at him. When he is done, continue on.
  • If he is on the floor and does the toddler flop, "Well if you're going to pitch a fit better do it right" then I sit down on the floor, and instruct them how to throw a proper fit. "Scream, cry, kick those feet. I don't think you're trying hard enough. Come on really scream" Even a 1-year-old will find that situation odd enough that they will think twice before causing that, and as a bonus if it is a real fit you can usually divert it into a game.
  • Totally ignore him. If you're sure it's just a tantrum, then just totally "ignore" it. Remember tantrums are to get your attention. Just don't give it. Remember though that tantrums are also a way to express emotions that they don't yet fully understand. Also, you don't want to ignore it, but you do want to seem like you are. Just don't interact. If I were at home I would say, "If you want to throw a fit do it in your room." Then pick them up and put them in bed.

Yes tantrums are natural, and yes you do need to be aware of them, but toddlers only do them until they lean a better way to express their feelings. Showing them how to express their feelings when there calm, and "ignoring" tantrums when they're not is a swift way to put an end to them. Just don't forget to also teach other ways to express emotion.

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