Always aim for the chest so you can get maximum splatter, yet minimal harm.
Oh wait, not that kid of tip…how about a tip for when your child is the one throwing food? Yeah, that’s probably what you were hoping for. So your child is one, two, three years old? And has entered a phase in which is is fun and exciting to throw the food from her plate instead of eating it politely?
The #1 tip for this problem is: Don’t serve your child food to throw.
Serve her food to eat only. This means giving her no more food than she can eat in one bite.
If she has a plate full of food, there’s one bite for eating and tons of bites for throwing and playing with while she’s chewing.
Even if you try to narrow that opportunity down by portioning out three bites of food at a time, that still gives her one bite to eat and two bites for throwing while she’s chewing.
Take that opportunity all the way down to zero by serving her one bite of food at a time. That’s one bite for eating and…well, that’s it. You’re eliminating the chance of her throwing her food.
When you get to the point at which you’re serving her another bite of food and she throws it instead of eats it, that’s your cue that she’s all done. You can say, “Oh, you must be all done eating!” Wipe her hands and excuse her to play.
But, you ask, what if she’s still hungry?
She would have eaten the food in front of her.
What if she gets hungry in just a short while because she didn’t eat her meal?
Yes, she may be hungry soon. She can either wait until the regularly planned snack time (at which she is offered the regularly sized snack to eat) or she can wait until the next meal. She’ll make it. And she’ll be hungry and ready to eat, not throw.
The food-throwing phase is just that: a phase. It can be a difficult one because of the careful monitoring of food at each meal and the potential for hunger-induced behavior between meals. But it’s not cause for shaming or scolding a child for what is developmentally normal behavior, nor repeatedly issuing the same instructions of, “Don’t throw food,” nor catering to your child’s pleas for snacks because she literally threw her food away mealtime.
Your child is simply very, very young and driven by sensory experiences. She lacks the neural connections in her brain to control the impulse to play with her food. She will soon develop this and mealtimes will go smoothly. To help with this need for sensory stimulation during this age, you can also plan playtime activities that offer the same kinds of sensations as playing with food. Things such as shaving cream or whipped cream tubs, rice or bean bins, finger painting, or body art offer toddlers the same kinds of tactile sensory experiences without the expectation of appropriate table manners. This free play will help satisfy those sensory needs while she outgrows the instinct to throw food.
(But if you are ever in a food throwing situation yourself, try getting down low and aiming up for a great splatter to the neck and face. And use something light, like whipped cream. Way fun.)
I’ve been quiet on the blog for a couple of weeks! Last week my kids had the entire week off school because of the Thanksgiving holiday. And when they’re home, most thoughts of blogging leave my mind. Instead we spend time, relaxing, playing, hanging out, sleeping in…Occasionally a thought will pop into my head, “Oh, I should write a post about this,” (whatever we’re doing). And then I think, “Nah, I’d rather just be present right now and enjoy this moment with my kids.” So I forgo writing in favor of living!
But I’m getting back in the swing of things this week and catching up on some projects. I have a few non-bloggy things in the works…
My main project right now is a new ebook. Jane Nelsen (author and founder of Positive Discipline) and I are collaborating on creating a resource about screen time and what it takes to raise kids in a digital age. I don’t know about your family, but screen time is an ongoing an issue for ours (we sure like our gadgets here!), and I am excited to be able put together a book of tips and tools for managing media the Positive Discipline way.
I also have an article out in the current issue of Green Child magazine on encouraging a child’s autonomy. Lots of ways kids can help out and build skills and confidence!
I recently wrote a series on toddlerhood for Attachment Parenting International. It started out as a conversation starter on Facebook…I had posted the question, “What do you find to be the hardest thing about transitioning from parenting an infant to parenting a toddler?” and I was overwhelmed with responses! Clearly, there are many challenges. But there were so many that parents shared, I decided to respond to as many as I could. By the time I was done addressing the most common areas of concern, I had a response that was way too long to be just one post, so I broke it into…five! This is the 5-part series I put together based on the many thoughts on the challenges of toddlerhood:
Part 1: Three essential parenting tools to have in your toddler toolbox
Part 2: Setting limits with kindness and firmness
Part 3: How to handle the NO!s and tantrums of toddlerhood with respect, empathy, and acceptance
Part 4: Understanding aggression and how to not take your toddler’s strong emotions personally
Part 5: Understanding needs versus wants
There is a new book soon to be released called Face to Face that I’m very honored to have contributed to! It’s kind of an anthology of articles, research, tips, activities, and essays from parent educators, psychologists, pediatricians, and other parenting professionals (heavy on the Positive Discipline contributors). Face to Face is packed with information on family connection, outside influences, friendship, bullying, and resilience–all coming from the angle of helping kids cultivate strong personal connections while understanding that we live in an a increasingly digital world. An excellent resource for parents, teachers, and all all types of childcare professionals…you are guaranteed to find something that will help you in here!
I have been very excited lately because my own book, Encouraging Words for Kids, has been shipping to schools! Educators and administrators from around the United States have been contacting me saying they’re going to incorporate it into their teacher trainings and staff development programs. I cannot tell you how encouraging this news is! I, of course, love it to hear from parents who are getting a lot of value from this little book, but I’m thrilled that teachers also want to bring the language of encouragement into their schools! So, if you need a great gift for your child’s teacher this holiday season, here’s a perfect fit.
Ah, the time-in. Often recommended in positive parenting, a time-in is an alternative to a time-out–a connective moment instead of an isolating one. Here are some different ways time-ins (also called positive time-outs) are described:
Go to a specially designated spot that feels safe and cozy, and snuggle up. You connect, which may be all your child needs to pull herself together. If you can, you get her giggling, because laughter vents those stored-up anxieties almost as well as tears. ~Laura Markham, How to Transform Your Time Outs to Time Ins
The Positive parenting tool called time IN or positive time out is when a child that is having a difficult moment is kindly invited to sit somewhere, near by a care giver to express their feelings and eventually cool down. ~Ariadne Brill, Time Outs vs. Time Ins
Sometimes just changing the scene and making reconnection a top priority can create a dramatic difference, and the tension is gone as soon as you get to the couch, so you might end up just goofing around and being silly together. ~Lawrence Cohen, author of Playful Parenting, as quoted by Marcy Axness in Time Out From Time Out.
By the way, I’m linking these articles because I think they are great. I just wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the language that’s typically used to describe what a time-in means. I myself have said the same thing:
A positive time-out is a chance to pause, regroup, and collect ourselves (children and parents). Time-outs are effective when they are about feeling better. How to Make Time Outs Positive
All of those descriptions are true; those are what time-ins are about. They sound so lovely! A time-in instead of a time-out sounds peaceful, connecting, calming, even fun.
And that’s what I want to talk about for a minute. Because for us, time-ins were never “fun.” They weren’t ever peaceful. They were chaotic with my son’s emotion. And frustrating for me. And not cuddly in the least.
The way it typically went was:
My son started losing control. He would get angry or frustrated or upset by something going on. It could’ve been a game he was not winning. It could’ve been toys he did not want to pick up. It could’ve been a conflict with another child in the house.
He was never shy about expressing his emotions around other people, so in his anger he would cry. Eventually, as the situation did not change (the conflict was still there, the toys still needing to be picked up, the game still being lost), his tears would escalate into shouts or harsh words, and any of our attempts to calm him were met with kicks, hits, or pushes away. This was an indication that he had some huge feelings that needed to be offloaded–and this was best done in private, without an audience.
Our words for taking a time-out were, “Take a break.” Either I or my husband would let him know it was time to take a break and that we’d go together. Except, because he was so caught up in those HUGE, overwhelming feelings of the moment, no rational thoughts occurred to him. He was 3 or 4 years old then, and it wasn’t like he’d sit there and go, “OK Mom, you’re right. I do need a break. I need to take time for my brain to feel better. Will you please stay with me?” and calmly take my hand as we went for a time-in.
No. One of us would have to carry a writhing child off to a room (with a door) so we could be alone and have a time-in while the flood of emotions passed.
And not just his emotions, ours too. By the time we had been through the escalating conflict (whatever triggered the meltdown), the initial attempts to calm him, the receiving end of any physical lashings, and the struggle to get him to a calm-down place, my husband and I were feeling quite emotional, too.
For me, as I sat with my back against the door and listened to his tearful, stammering shouts of, “I– want– to– go– OUT!” while preventing his attempts to shove me aside and throw open the door so he could run back to the living room and carry on in front of everyone, I was very aware of my own emotions. My own rising level of anger. I could feel my own shouts within me, crouching just below the surface, ready to spring forth at any moment.
I had to put my head down on my knees and take deep breaths.
I had to wait until until he stopped trying to get past me.
I had to repeat, “I’m going to stay here with you.” No other words than that.
I had to wait until his movements calmed.
I had to wait until his sobs slowed.
I had to wait for him to accept my touch.
I had to wait to say, “I love you.”
And I had to wait even longer than thatwhile he truly calmed down and was ready to rejoin our family and friends and find some resolution of the original problem. But I loved the warmth that swelled in my heart when I looked at my son after those moments. His reach, his touch, his hugs and kisses the rest of the evening told me I had given him just what he needed–an outlet, acceptance, unconditional love. Our connection revived.
Positive parenting doesn’t always look as positive as it sounds. It gets messy. It can be tumultuous. It takes a long time. It’s not always as pleasant as the literature makes it sound. But it does require us to stick with kids through all those messy moments. It tells our kids they aren’t too much for us. We can handle the big feelings; we can handle them.