What to do when your toddler picks up a “throwing things” habit

Some people bite their nails, some people grind their teeth, and some slightly younger people, like Baby, like to throw things. Everyone has their habits, right? Unlike nail-biting, though, Baby’s throwing-things habit can leave a mess throughout your home, make taking them out in public a little more treacherous, and even has the potential to hurt people, if they throw something just the wrong way one day. So why does they do it? And, more importantly, how can you get them to stop?

Why do toddlers like to throw things?

There are as many reasons why a toddler might throw something as there are toddlers, but a lot of projectile launching tends to fall into a few different common categories.

  • They wanted to: And because they hasn’t really developed much impulse control at this point, the fact that they wanted to are all it really takes, whether that desire came from a sudden hatred for whatever they were holding, a desire to make a mess, or just the fact that they were wondering what might happen.
  • It’s a new skill: It may not seem like it, since flinging things around and generally making a mess are new-toddler staples, but the ability to deliberately throw something, letting go of it at the moment they want to, and sending it in the direction they want it to go in, may not have been one of Baby’s tricks for very long, and they may just be eager to show it off.
  • They're angry: It isn’t the most mature way to deal with anger, but Baby probably isn’t that mature of a person yet. They are still figuring out how to express their feelings. If they run into something they isn’t sure how to react to, or they feel overwhelmed by, there’s a good chance that they will take it out on whatever’s closest to hand.
  • They're trying to tell you something: It might seem strange, since Baby is so much more verbal than they used to be, but there are still some things they doesn’t know how to say, and some feelings they doesn’t know how to describe. If throwing things feels like their best way to express whatever that is, they may give it a try.

Throwing things is a pretty normal behavior for toddlers, for any number of reasons, but that doesn’t mean that they should get a free pass to keep throwing. Instead, it means that, while they may not know it, they are counting on you to teach them when it’s okay to throw things (like a ball, outside) and when it isn’t (like their dinner, all over the floor).

How to get them to stop

But when will they throw the habit overboard?

It’s your job to teach Baby about when it’s okay to throw things and when it isn’t, and it’s their job to learn from you, but that doesn’t mean that they will or can learn all at once – it’s going to take some repetition from you. Feeling like you’re repeating yourself isn’t the most fun part of parenting, but it’s an important one, and making sure you stay consistent with how you respond to them is how they are eventually going to learn.

Now that Baby is a little older than they were when they were when they first started pushing your buttons, they are a lot better able to understand the idea of natural consequences, and of cause and effect. This means that one part of teaching Baby about when they should be throwing things and when they shouldn’t may be having them help you clean up any mess their throwing has caused, or not being able to play with a toy they threw for a while.

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