Ack! My toddler is throwing things!
Good evening! Thank you for your patience tonight. What a great question regarding throwing. I know this is a very common challenge for parents of youngsters.
The key to changing any unwanted behaviour is replacing it - instead of "getting rid of" it. The moment we stop trying to control the behaviour and instead target a replacement we become more clear minded!
Here's an example of what I mean: last month I had a family asking the exact same thing. Their 3 year old son was throwing anything and everything. After a brief conversation with the parents we defined his drive as self-motivation. Simply put, he found it FUN.
Once we understood why he was throwing things we were empowered to offer a replacement with a clear message "It's okay to throw when we are outside." We made this message our go-to lesson for the next week. We practiced throwing outside daily and paired it with high praise, while at the same time using a gentle form of response cost for any time he threw indoors. We would remove the item immediately without a word, he would reach for it or ask for it to be returned.
**This was the moment that made all the difference. We allowed for SELF correction every time.**
"Sure you can have the ball back, show me where we throw now." He would take the ball outdoors and begin throwing. "That's it mate, we throw outside."
This may not suit your daughter's specific behaviour but it is a great example how we targeted the replacement instead of focusing on getting rid of throwing. After a week of practice (a few times every day the parents would intentionally practice this activity outdoors) their son caught on and hasn't thrown indoors since.
So let me do a quick summary:
- Find the motivation and choose a specific replacement
- Practice it daily when everyone is happy and calm (so it's not aversive)
- Use silent response cost to send a clear message
- Always allow for self correction and an opportunity for praise
What do you think? After reading this example can you come up with a replacement your family can introduce?
About the author Stephanie Wicker is a child behaviour expert, parenting educator, counsellor and speaker - who has successfully guided families through early childhood for over 15 years. Through her experience with private consultancy, as a preschool teacher and special needs therapist - she has worked across the many facets of early childhood behaviour.
Stephanie's evidence-based programs are grounded in behaviour science and her passion for Relational Frame Theory (RFT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and developmental psychology all play a big role in her programs.
Stephanie’s experience covers early intensive behaviour intervention programs for children with special needs and for families newly diagnosed. She hosts live training events all over Australia, where she shares her practical solutions and language techniques, along with providing private, in-home therapy sessions for those seeking more personalised support.
Through her company, Simply Kids she provides family resources such as digital books and educational activities, designed to keep behaviour simple.
"By helping parents place emphasis on connection, empowerment and encouragement, I believe that all children have the ability to reach their full potential." - Stephanie Wicker
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