What Causes Toddlers to Engage in Throwing Behaviours and How Can It Be Prevented

what-causes-toddlers-to-engage-in-throwing-behaviors

Usually when toddlers throw things, it’s just because it’s a new and fun activity for them. Throwing something is a developmental milestone that requires fine motor skills of opening their fingers and letting go of an object. It also needs hand-eye coordination and toddlers just love practising this thrilling skill. Throwing things is considered normal behaviour as long as it does not become a pattern. However, if they are throwing things just for attention, it may at times require discussing it with a professional  just in case there are any underlying issues.

Toddlers are constantly experimenting and learning and when they throw something, they realise it falls down and not up. They don’t understand ‘gravity’ but they definitely observe its effects. Of course, it’s not amusing for parents when they see food splattered on their clean floor or just sterilised milk bottles being thrown in a park, but for your toddler it’s perfectly natural and normal behaviour. They find it fun and a good way to cultivate new skills and reach developmental milestones.

Why Do Toddlers Throw Things

  1. Exploration
  2. If you are wondering why toddlers throw things, it is because they are curious by nature and learn a lot through experimentation. They like to observe what happens when they throw things  — does it fall, bounce, shatter or splash. If you are wondering if it is normal for toddlers to throw things then this is how they make a connection between cause and effect. It helps them to understand their environment and helps  in social development.

  3. Attention Seeking
  4. Just like clinging and whining, throwing things is just another way for toddlers to get attention. If they see that it works, they are most  certainly going to repeat it. If they find their caregiver engrossed in work, a toddler is very likely to do this to gain their attention.

  5. It’s Fun
  6. Toddlers are easily bored and may try different things to keep themselves entertained.  Throwing a toy that they are tired of  becomes a new game and if they find it fun, they are very likely to repeat it.

  7. To Express Emotions
  8. Toddlers can’t always express their emotions through words and so use actions to communicate. Throwing things can communicate anything from anger, sadness, happiness or frustration. The upside is that this behaviour is short lived and they stop throwing things when they learn to communicate in other ways.

  9. Insufficient Comprehension
  10. Sometimes, toddlers do not understand the correct use of objects and may throw them because they don’t know what else to do. It could also be because someone else did it in front of them. If they have seen an elder sibling throw a ball, they will probably throw any round object given to them.

  11. Like the Sound
  12. A toddler might just like the sound a thing makes when it falls. As everything makes a different noise when it falls, it makes throwing things very interesting for them.

Problems Caused by Throwing Things

If throwing things becomes a habit, it may become an attribute of their behavioural pattern. It can lead to a few undesirable traits in traits.

  • It can lead to indiscipline if they are not stopped and corrected at the right time. Your toddler may repeat this behaviour when it is not appropriate. A toddler used to throwing food might do it at a restaurant too.
  • It may lead to a destructive personality if they are not corrected. The toddler may start believing that it is fine to throw things or make a display of negative emotions and continue with this behaviour in later years.
  • It can lead to mishaps or accidents at home especially for the very young and elderly.

How to Stop Toddlers From Throwing Things

Parents have to supervise and take steps to prevent throwing things from becoming a habit and later a character trait. These are a few tips you could try on how to stop a toddler from throwing things.

  1. Explain the Consequences
  2. This is one of the behaviour management techniques that usually has good results. Calmly explain to your toddler in simple language the effect of throwing objects. Explain how objects either break when thrown or do not function properly.

  3. Lay Down Rules and Boundaries
  4. Make it clear that whenever the toddler throws something, it will be taken away for some time. This helps them understand that throwing things is not acceptable behaviour.

  5. Provide Alternatives
  6. Provide options when your toddler has the urge to throw objects or wants to experiment with throwing. Give them objects that are meant to be thrown like a ball. It will also help them to distinguish between things that can be thrown and which should not be thrown.

  7. Use Praise
  8. Always praise them when they behave as expected. If they are playing with a toy that they earlier threw, you should praise them as it encourages the child to repeat good behaviour.

  9. Be a Role Model
  10. Toddlers learn by imitating all your behaviour. If the toddler sees you throwing something out of frustration, they will copy you. You have to set the right examples for your toddler through your actions.

  11. Understand the Child’s Perspective
  12. Sometimes a toddler may actually have a valid reason for throwing things and as a parent it’s essential that you understand why they are doing it. Observe when your toddler usually throws objects. Determine the underlying cause — is it when they are hungry or sleepy and address the issue.

  13. Constructive Expression
  14. When your toddler is in a better mood, teach them appropriate ways to express their emotions. Explain to them that if they feel sad or frustrated, they should use positive communication rather than throwing things.

  15. Don’t React
  16. A toddler reacts better to calm and loving behaviour rather than anger.  Showing anger and forcing them to do something will only lead to temper tantrums and repeating the behaviour more aggressively.

  17. Tidy Up Together
  18. If your toddler makes a mess, clean up together so that they can see and realise the damage. Show them how throwing things can damage them and do not replace anything they throw and break.

  19. Teach Table Manners
  20. If your toddler has a habit of throwing food, you need to teach them good table manners. Teach them to eat slowly without throwing their food. If your toddler throws food when they are full, teach them polite words or gestures to communicate they are full.

Teaching your toddler not to throw things requires a whole lot of patience, consistency and empathy. Appropriate behaviour has to be reinforced all the time through timely interventions mentioned above, by behaviour management techniques and by setting a good example yourself. The bad news is that you can’t really stop your toddler from throwing things as it’s a part of their play, exploration and development at this stage. Unless there’s a risk of your toddler injuring themselves or others, there’s really no need to stop this behaviour or discipline them.

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