Grocery Store Showdowns: Does Your Child Embarrass You in Public?

Posted July 5, 2012 by

Sometimes it feels like our children know when being defiant, misbehaving or not listening will embarrass us the most. Like when you’re visiting  Grandma and your child decides they don’t want to be friendly, or they turn their head when an elder aunt tries to kiss them on the cheek. Other embarrassing moments are when they have a temper tantrum or scream at the top of their lungs (because they didn’t get their way) while you’re in the supermarket with a cart full of groceries.

All children have different personalities and ways of expressing themselves.  Of course as long as it’s appropriate, we don’t mind that expression. As parents however, many of us want our children to always do as we ask or tell them to — but that does not always happen. So parents can feel shame, embarrassment or guilt when children do not behave or act appropriately, especially in public or in front of others.

Parents have to remember that a child’s embarrassing behavior will likely be temporary. If a parent can keep that in mind, the behavior may not seem so overwhelming when it happens.

Another thing to remember is that most children will test limits again and again…especially if there were no consequences before for similar behavior.

With that in mind, parents can try to avoid embarrassing behaviors by:

  • Having a talk with their child before leaving the house, or in the car on the way to the store (or Grandma’s house).
  • Tell the child the expected behavior and outcome of the outing.
    (For example, “We are going to pick up some groceries and I expect you to be on your best behavior. If you are not, here’s what the consequence will be.”)
  • If it works for you, tell the child that they are allowed to pick out an item at the store at the end of your visit as long as they listen.
  • Tell the child if they are not allowed to pick out an item at the store and be firm in that decision (regardless of whether or not they get upset).
  • For younger children, try to ensure that the child either has a nap before the outing or that they can be comfortable in the cart (with a fabric cart cover).

If your child begins to have a temper tantrum or displays embarrassing behaviors, remain calm, be firm but loving with your child and talk to him about appropriate behaviors once he has calmed down.


Kumari is a social worker and a parent coach. Her company, Optimistic Expectations fosters better parent/child relationships and family cohesiveness on her website Optimistic Expectations. She is the author of Real Talk: Ten Parenting Strategies to Raise Confident Successful Children.

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  1. Lnlinder (Edit) Report

    About 15 years ago my youngest son had a monumental nuclear meltdown in the grocery store. I had explained terms of behavior and the no toys policy before entering the store that afternoon, yet despite my planning ahead, there was still an issue over a toy helicopter down the cereal isle. Normally, I would have avoided the toy isle to deter temptation, but the cereal isle was a must. After sticking to my guns and reminding him of my earlier statement before we entered the store, my golden haired child threw himself face down on the floor in the middle of the aisle. Waves of horror and mortification came over me as I tried to remain calm. I knew reason was a moot point at this juncture, so I turned the cart around and continued my shopping. Before I reached the end of the aisle, my cherub ceased his tantrum long enough to ask where I was going. I calmly explained that I had shopping to finish and he was welcome to stay on the floor or join me if he could be on his good behavior. He chose the latter. 🙂



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