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 her out in public a little more treacherous, and even has the potential to hurt people, if she throws something just the wrong way one day. So why does she do it? And, more importantly, how can you get her 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.

  • She wanted to: And because she hasn’t really developed much impulse control at this point, the fact that she wanted to is all it really takes, whether that desire came from a sudden hatred for whatever she was holding, a desire to make a mess, or just the fact that she was 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 she wants to, and sending it in the direction she wants it to go in, may not have been one of Baby’s tricks for very long, and she may just be eager to show it off.
  • She’s angry: It isn’t the most mature way to deal with anger, but Baby probably isn’t that mature of a person yet. She is still figuring out how to express her feelings. If she runs into something she isn’t sure how to react to, or she feels overwhelmed by, there’s a good chance that she will take it out on whatever’s closest to hand.
  • She’s trying to tell you something: It might seem strange, since Baby is so much more verbal than she used to be, but there are still some things she doesn’t know how to say, and some feelings she doesn’t know how to describe. If throwing things feels like her best way to express whatever that is, she 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 she should get a free pass to keep throwing. Instead, it means that, while she may not know it, she is counting on you to teach her when it’s okay to throw things (like a ball, outside) and when it isn’t (like her dinner, all over the floor).

How to get her to stop

But when will she 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 her job to learn from you, but that doesn’t mean that she 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 her is how she is eventually going to learn.

Now that Baby is a little older than she was when she was when she first started pushing your buttons, she is 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 she should be throwing things and when she shouldn’t may be having her help you clean up any mess her throwing has caused, or not being able to play with a toy she threw for a while.

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