Naughty Behavior at Target

Kids are terrible at Target. They demand stuff. They’re loud They run away. The touch everything They can’t control themselves. Everything and anything can cause a meltdown.

At Target (where I spend way too much money and half my income) I hear “stop that”, “put that down”, “no, we are not buying toys today”, the dad negotiating “if you can be good, we’ll get a cookie” the mom threatening “knock it off or we are leaving”. I heard the frustrated mom hiss “WE ARE NEVER COMING BACK TO TARGET EVER!” and I’m sympathetic but I don’t believe her any more than her kid does. No matter how bad it is at Target, we all come back.

Sometimes you give them the speech in the car, set clear expectations and are able to get in and out in less than an hour with no one crying. You think you’ve got it figured out. You own Target! Next time, none of that works and everyone stares and they cry and you cry and this time you suck at Target.

This is one of the great mysteries of life…except it isn’t. Target and other major retailers have teams of marketing experts who design their stores to manipulate us to their advantage. Let’s think about this. Here’s how Target works. You give yourself the talk in the car- just the things on the list, just the few sensible necessities you have on your list. And suddenly there are all the things- the things you didn’t even know existed that now you NEED. You go off list. You go to the parts of the story you know aren’t a good idea. You start touching things. You get to taste things and sample things. The total measure of your emotionally intense out of control behavior? The bill never seems to be under $200… every single time. Target increases impulsivity- intentionally. With placement and lights and store design, they want you to WANT THINGS.

I finally figured this out when I read the research that said that Target and other large retail stores are huge triggers for combat vets with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People whose brains are sensitive to shock, to intensity, to overstimulation have to avoid situations that make them physically sick. They have treatment programs to help those with PTSD learn to cope with this enormous stress.

Be gentle with yourself. Be patient with your kids. You’re going to go to Target, you know you are. You and small children and a building full of people impulsively acting out. Of course you can’t let them touch everything and run up and down the aisles. Trust me those mommas who are eyeing you are mostly on your side…or they have stress induced amnesia of their own early parenting years. Just soldier on. Practice the breathing exercises that got you through 22 hours of labor.
All of us are struggling in the long life lesson of how to behave at Target, how to manage our impulses and stick to the list without throwing ourselves on the floor.


Don’t forget two last classes before the holidays.

Monday Coaching Kids through Big Feelings and STOP YELLING on Wednesday November 2nd.

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