Thursday, December 16, 2010

Throwing (food, toys, pretty much anything)

Question #1: The Question That Started It All:

Q: Any advice as to how to teach Michael (16 months) to eat the avocado and not fling it around the room?

A: Take it away the first time he throws it. Take him out of his high chair too. Try giving him avocado again another time. It can take 20 tries for a kid to get to like a new food. But he has to learn that throwing is NOT acceptable behavior. If he's throwing food that means he's not hungry and he does not get to sit at the table with you anymore.

Two days later, I received a follow-up question:

Q: Could you perhaps advise us on how to get Michael to stop throwing things out of his Pack 'n' Play?

You have three choices:

1) Attach the toys to the Pack n' Play. (I used a pacifier clip to attach Eliana's blankie to her crib sheet b/c she'd throw it out of her crib when she didn't want to nap, and then COULDN'T nap because
she didn't have a blankie!) Obviously, if you're going to do this, you have to use something very short that will not present a strangling hazard.

2) Put a crib tent over the Pack 'n' Play. Then he can throw as much as he wants, nothing's going to go anywhere.

3) Just don't give the toys back. If he learns that throwing toys results in no toys rather than a game of fetch with Mommy or Daddy, he should get the message pretty quickly.

Options 1 and 2 are "quick fixes" that will solve the immediate issue of your having to run and get the toys for Michael every time he throws them. "Quick fixes" are useful when you're traveling, visiting, busy working, or otherwise unable to drop everything and teach a lesson right then and there. But in general you want to choose the educational route. Option 3 will actually educate Michael and (if you are consistent with it), eventually prevent him from repeating the behavior.

I'm also going to add as an aside:

4) Go outside and play ball with Michael. He clearly loves to throw. Let him get some good throwing in during the day. Teach him that throwing is acceptable, good, clean fun - in the appropriate setting. Balls are for throwing. Toys and food are not. Offer him an outlet for his throwing fixation. If he has the opportunity to spend time throwing in a fun and accepting environment, he may feel less of a need to throw at other times.

Q: But he throws his bottle as well, and we can't not give that back. We would be willing to try that approach with the other toys, but I think giving him back his bottle but not his toys might send mixed signals.

I don't think you should give his bottle back either. Just like I said about his dinner: if he throws it, he doesn't want it. Pick it up and put it away.

You can give him his bottle 5-10 minutes later, but don't give him the instant gratification of getting it back as soon as he throws it. If you wait awhile, he will not associate your giving him a bottle with the fact that he threw it earlier.