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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My 3-year-old son recently threw a tantrum in a large department store. I had called a "time-out," and he started yelling and screaming.

I picked him up and started for the car. All the while, he cried and struggled to get away from me. At one point, I put him down to get a better hold on him. He threw himself on the floor and lay flat. It's not easy to pick up a heavy child who won't cooperate, but I managed, then took him to the car to finish his time-out.

After the episode was over, it struck me that not one person questioned whether this child, who was trying so desperately to get away from me, was mine! How did they know whether he was throwing a tantrum or if, perhaps, I was kidnapping him?

Although I'm grateful no one tried to interfere, I'm also alarmed that they didn't.

Did I do the right thing when my son threw that tantrum, Abby? Or was there a better way to handle this? I'm a young mother, and if there's a better way, I'd like to know. -- CARING PARENT IN ARIZONA

DEAR CARING: Under the circumstances, you handled the situation appropriately, and I agree, it is alarming that the public accepts without question a child being forcibly carried from a public place.

Although it is unlikely a kidnapper would want to draw attention by forcing a screaming child out the door of a department store, if customers observe a suspicious situation, store clerks or management should be notified immediately. Most stores have policies to deal with such incidents. Should police intervention be necessary, management would be able to initiate security procedures and could reach emergency services faster than customers.

The National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse shared the following tips for parents, which you and others might find useful. Read on:


1. Establish "rules for shopping" before leaving home. If you have a "no candy" rule, be clear and consistent about it. Review the rules periodically so they are familiar to even small children.

2. Take along a favorite toy or book, or a surprise treat to eat during the shopping trip.

3. Make up "store" games that engage the child. A suggestion: As you select fruits and vegetables or canned foods at the market, ask the child, "What could we make from oranges?" "What could we make from apples?"

4. Let the children know ahead of time that good behavior while shopping will earn them a treat later in the day.

5. Try not to let a shopping trip interfere with the children's naps or mealtimes. Plan your outing when children are well rested and not hungry.

6. Reinforce good behavior. Let your child know you appreciate his or her willingness to cooperate.

7. If the child misbehaves, remove him or her to a more private place to discuss the behavior. Avoiding a public scene will make you (and the child) feel better.

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