Avoid Mall Meltdowns

Nothing sours holiday shopping like a child's temper tantrum. To keep mall meltdowns to a minimum, try the Four Step PREP, recommended by Tracy Underwood, a pediatric clinical psychologist at Children's Medical Center of Dallas.

Prepare

your child for a shopping trip by feeding him a snack or a light meal. You'll not only be able to skip the food court, you'll avoid your child's hunger-induced crankiness. Also, make sure your child hits the bathroom before you leave.

Review

acceptable store behavior while you're still in the car. Discuss your shopping plans so your child has an idea of what's going to happen. Set clear consequences for misbehavior.

Enforce

those consequences if your child throws a tantrum or goes against the rules you've laid out once you arrive at the store. The next time you go shopping, your child will know that you mean what you say and will be more likely to remember the rules.

Praise good behavior.

Bring a special treat from home (a cookie, a small toy) so you can reinforce appropriate behavior with a fun surprise. Avoid buying your child something at the mall?it might set up a future expectation that good behavior always means you will buy him something.

While these steps won't guarantee a stress-free shopping trip, Dr. Underwood says that the more you can predict your child's moods, needs, and desires in a given situation, the more you and your child will enjoy your time together.

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May 25

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