Q & A: The Thrower

Question:

Jack has just passed one and a half, will be two in early May. He is starting to throw things around the house for fun and sometimes when he is upset or angry, he throws things. Like once when he wanted to open the door to the house with the key but I had to do it because he couldn’t he cried and then proceeded to pull every single shoe off our shoe rack and throw them to the ground. It seems to give him some satisfaction, but I worry about the aggression.

Last night my partner stopped him pouring water on the carpet, he cried and then walked over to his plate of food and started throwing each piece of broccoli and rice ball against the wall. It really amazes me. What do you think we should do? He often just giggles when I try to speak firmly to him, like it is a game.


Answer:

Oh, yes! I had one of these too!

The most important thing to remember is that kids under 3 have basically no impulse control so everything they do is motivated by curiosity (ie. Testing gravity, cause and effect, sussing out their place in the world/family – some call this boundary pushing).

My little dude LOVED to throw and it was incredibly frustrating at times.. especially when porridge (sooooo hard to clean up) and milk (yes, I cried many times) were involved!

I’ll start with something that is a vital nutrient for parental and child well-being, which is Special Time – I would try and make that a daily practice (it can be as little as 10 minutes although around 20 is ideal) with each parent one-on-one and I tend to tack my roughhousing on to that (more on both in this article). You mentioned aggression and that’s where the roughhousing is really important. We all have aggressive impulses so it’s really great to be able to get them out in a safe and supported environment. This type of rough-play is very fun for kids and fills them with happy hormones that neither parent should miss out on, so I suggest each parent does 5-10 mins one-on-one rough play a day too (you could do 10 ST and 10 roughhousing or 15 ST to 5 rough – which I tend to do).

Special Time and Rough-time don’t have the same rules as normal. This will be hard for him to understand at this stage but I would still say “This is Jack Time so we can do … until the timer goes off!” and then when he is reverting to aggressive play outside of that time you say “We only do that during Jack Time – do you want to do some now?” or “We will do some later.”

You can use the rough time for some throwing activities such as throwing soft toys at you (remember to always be caught by surprise and really ham up your reactions/play the bumbling fool so they get the full power reversal experience); or for throwing things at a target; or off a balcony; or shoes into a bucket/basket. This will give him an outlet for that impulse.

Also, if you can buy some of those ball-pit balls and a few buckets you can keep them in areas around the house so that you can redirect him to that at any time. “I’m sorry, I can’t let you throw your food but if you need some throwing time here… throw these balls back into the bucket!”

In the case of the key, it does seem like he had something to let out at that time. So I think that would be time to set a limit and welcome his tears for some Staylistening (empathically holding space for your child whilst they let their big feelings out). In this case it might mean you have to gently take his hands and say “I won’t allow you to do that…” and then when the tears and/or tantrum come, continue to hold him gently and try to look into his eyes with warmth and empathy and just say “I know it’s hard…” or “I hear you…” and let him let out whatever it is he needs to let out in your loving arms. You can also try what Hand In Hand Parenting refer to as a vigorous snuggle.

None of the above will stop him from doing it (to him it’s a load of fun) but it will hopefully help lessen the instances, give you some tools to redirect it and also just help him to start regulating himself as he gets older and more aware.