McIPP (Managing Children In Public Places)

A SAHM (stay at home mother) struggles with managing toddler behavior in stores.

Dear Susan,

I am a SAHM with a wonderful, active 30-month old.  She is very bright and happy and I seem to manage the “terrible twos” just fine.  At home.  But while running my daily errands and I have to go into a store, Sadie goes wild!  How can I discipline my mostly wonderful two-year-old in public?


Lucky Mommy


Dear Lucky,

Your question got me thinking back to when I had toddlers, before I was a parent coach.  So, I decided to visit the archives of John Rosemond’s articles to find the right solution for you.

Here’s what I found:

Three Steps to McIPP

McIPP is the acronym for “Managing Children in Public Places.”

1.  Strike while the iron is cold (note this does NOT reference striking your child in any way).  The common way to hear that phrase is to strike while the iron is hot but many times striking while the iron is cold is even more effective.  It simply means to anticipate problems and address them BEFORE they have a chance to occur.  Before you go into a store, simply tell your toddler the expected behavior.  For example; “Sadie, when we go into the store I expect you to 1. stay with Mommy at all times, 2. look only with your eyes, and 3. remain quiet when Mommy is talking to another adult.”  Note that all expectations are given in the “positive” rather than the “negative” (like using the word don’t).  Further, give only a few simple rules for this age child.  After giving the rules, ask Sadie to repeat them back to you so you are sure she understands.

2.  Now is the time to strike when the iron is hot (if there is misbehavior).  If one of the three rules is breached, simply and firmly ask “What did I tell you?” and if she cannot remember, then say “I told you to look only with your eyes” and then tell her what you want her to do. “When you are in this store, you only look at things.  Now put your hands by your side and look with your eyes.”

3.  The final step is for “when all else fails” and shouldn’t have to be used often if you are firm and consistent with steps one and two.  But, when all else does fail, remove Sadie to a quiet place (even if it means leaving the store) and tell her that you are going to stay in this place until you feel she is ready to go back to the store.  When you feel the time has come to return to the store, repeat step one.  

Eventually (after practice and several days of errands), the lessons will sink in.  Just stay the course and soon you’ll see results.

Let me know how it works for you!


Do you have a parenting question for Susan?  If so, send her an e-mail at susan@ParentCoachAtlanta.com

Collins November 16, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Love the question, and the answer! Why....because I have a 2.5 year old who is the catalyst for me saying lately, "I swear, at home she is hilarious and says the funniest things and then we get in public and she is the undefeated champion of the quiet game!" I've made it a point to not talk on the phone when I'm around her when I can help it. In the car, I focus on her and driving safely. At home, I focus on her and making sure I go to bed each night knowing how her day was...and telling her a little about mine. BUT, just this week I HAD to be on the phone with her nearby and she kept interrupting me. Her fault, or mine? MINE. If I never give her a chance to practice waiting patiently for my attention and focus, she'll expect she can have it whenever she wants or needs it! And as ALL of us guilt-burdened moms know...while we would LOVE to never say 'no' to our kids....sometimes saying no means saying yes to a bigger life lesson.
Nicki Salcedo November 16, 2011 at 04:02 PM
I am frequently in the store with 4 small kids. Rule #1 works. It really works. My kids recite the rules to me before we go into the store. Susan, this is great advice! But our rule #2 is just leave. It's behave or we have to leave. Two rules seem to work for us! And we've had the public meltdowns where we've had to leave the store, but I'm okay with that. Next trip shopping always goes much better. :)
Susan Eppley November 17, 2011 at 02:07 AM
Thanks, Anilda. We can all look back and say that! I'm not sure that I agree with the sentiment that it's never too late, but I do think that we can start where we are, wherever that is, and, at the very least, do our best at each given moment. PS I recently discovered that *yippee* I have perfected my mother's "church look." My children were goofing off in church and all I had to do was turn my head and look in their little eyes...the stopped short and immediately paid attention. I had to bite my tongue to keep from smiling (and it didn't happen overnight!).
Susan Eppley November 17, 2011 at 02:12 AM
Great comment, Collins! Thanks. I have a job where being on the phone is a large part of helping clients and my work hours are often early in the morning and in the evenings and on weekends. I, too, have to continuously reflect upon my talking and driving (I am a work in progress) and have figured out when NOT to accept a client call when my children are around. It is more about being smart when I'm on the phone rather than forcing my children to be silent right after school or right before bedtime when they do need to communicate with me. When you get a chance, check out John Rosemond's Bill of Rights for Children...#1 will be on particular interest to you!
Susan Eppley November 17, 2011 at 02:16 AM
Nicki, I have left Costco with two crying girls but without a basket full of stuff. And I didn't lay on the guilt on the way home, either. I think that I shocked them by leaving all our stuff in the cart and even more shocked that I said very little about it. Now today if I mention that I went to Costco without them, they get upset! It's a happy yet unintended consequence of "behave or leave."


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