What do you do when you have a 2 year old who starts throwing things? I’m not talking about throwing a soft squishy Nerf ball or a teddy bear – I’m talking throwing his big plastic dump truck or his mini Radio Flyer red wagon. Stuff like that. Hard, heavy stuff that hurts (speaking from experience, here).
Easy. You start a collection.
Joe has been throwing things. He’s not angry when he does it – he just gets so excited or happy that he has to throw something. Anything will do. Usually whatever he’s got in his hand at the moment. And this has led to some banged up heads (mine – thank you, Thomas the Train), his baby brother being knocked over, and a deep gouge in the wood floor. You never get deep gouges with carpet! Oh well.
I’d tried using time-out. No good. I’d tried saying things like, “Now Joe, I know it’s fun to throw stuff, but it hurts Mommy when your toys hit her in the head.” Ha! Reasoning with a 2 year old? Every parent should know that doesn’t work (and it didn’t work, but I still wanted to try it). I’d even resorted to yelling, sad to say.
Then I remembered something that I’d read somewhere about discipline: a lot of the time, children act up because they love the reaction it gets and the attention they receive as a result.
Hmm. That got me to thinking.
You see, Jack has been sick. I’ve been paying a lot of attention to him here lately. If I’m being really honest, I’d say that it’s easy for me to pay more attention to Jack even when he’s not sick. He’s 9 months old. He needs to be nursed. I have to spoonfeed him. He can’t do anything by himself, so I am paying a lot of (necessary) attention to him. There are only so many hours in the day, so… guess who hasn’t been getting as much attention?
Except for when he misbehaves. Then, hoo boy, he gets some attention.
I’m not saying that all of Joe’s bad behavior can be blamed on me. I think that we’re naturally predisposed to misbehave, so Joe was simply doing what came naturally. However, I do think that Jack’s illness + the fact that Joe has to share his mother played a part.
So, the next time he threw something, I reacted by not over-reacting. I said, “Oh, you threw your toy? That’s sad. I guess you don’t want it anymore. I’ll put it in my collection.” Then I put it on the top shelf of the closet in plain sight for Joe, and you could have heard a pin drop. I turned around and Joe was staring at me, bug-eyed, mouth forming a perfect “O”. Then the tantrum began – yelling and crying and “but I need it!”
I used the shrug philosophy – I shrugged, said, “I know, it’s sad. You’ll be alright.” and walked away.
Joe followed, sniffling, but got over it eventually. And forgot about it, too, as evidenced by the other items in my collection. Those toys on the shelf? Those were accumulated over a period of about 3 hours. Yep – lots of throwing going on around here, but you know something? It’s diminished rapidly. My collection has only had another 1 or 2 items added to it in the last few days.
In the meantime, I’ve been emphasizing the stuff that Joe can throw. And paying more attention to him to boot. We’ve been throwing squishy Nerf balls and kicking soccer balls and throwing wet clothes in the dryer (Joe loves that!). We’ve been “throwing” leaves outside. After all, it is fun to throw things – he just needs to figure out that some things are alright to throw, and other things aren’t.
Eventually, we’ll get those toys back down. It’s not like he doesn’t have plenty of other things to play with. And if he forgets and throws something, we’ll start the collection back up again. In the meantime, I’m glad that I no longer have to dodge flying train engines or plastic oranges!
Anyone else out there dealt with this sort of thing? What kind of discipline tips or tricks have you used? One of my favorite parenting books is “Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood” by father-son team Charles Fay and Jim Fay. Are there any books that you recommend?