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

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

How to get him to stop

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

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

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