Splash. There goes the broccoli. On the floor.
Your toddler looks at you. Monitoring your response. Most of all you want to yell or throw it back on his plate. Or maybe in his face, because this is so frustrating and disrespectful to you.
I get it. I’ve been there, too.
But the first thing I want to say about this is that we need to understand what’s behind the behaviour. Most parents automatically think that their little one is deliberately trying to push their buttons.
But actually, our toddlers are not trying to defy us or to be disrespectful. Instead they’re:
- experimenting with gravity and cause and effect
- trying to get your attention and see what happens to mom’s face when they throw food
- exerting their newly discovered own will
This doesn’t mean that you should just let them do it over and over. You need to set boundaries - if you want the behaviour to stop of course.
These are some ways to handle food throwing:
- Sit with your little one when he eats: giving him some positive attention with your presence will fill his need for attention so he doesn’t need to get your attention by throwing food.
- Put less food on his plate. It can be hard for toddlers to oversee a big plate: they don’t know where to start and throwing the food becomes easier than eating it
- Stay calm, even if you’re not. To toddlers it can be an experience of its own to see mommy explode – regardless if this is pleasant for them or not. And that will only reinforce them doing it again.
- Be consistent and repeat the same clear phrase when your little one tries to throw food: “Food is for eating, not for throwing” or “We keep food on the plate”. And if they still throw it, be consistent in your consequence and maybe say: “Okay, it looks like you’re done eating now” and then remove the plate. Be sure to not make it a negative phrase, like “Do NOT throw food!” because that will only make it more fun. Use positive instructions about what you WANT instead of what you DON’T want.
- Show him what he can do with unwanted foods instead of throwing them, eg. put a bowl on the table to put those foods in.