Hitting and Throwing Food

by Rachel

My son is 16 months old, and we have recently begun the battle of hitting and throwing food! When he throws food, he knows it's wrong because immediately after he points his little finger and waves it, as if to say, "No, No." Then he says "Woof, Woof" as if he's only doing it to feed our two dogs!

I've tried taking him out of the highchair, taking away his plate, but I feel so bad because he's so young...does he understand this type of discipline yet?

And the same with hitting, what kind of discipline is OK for such a young age?

Answer to Hitting and Throwing Food by: Kristina Miller

You're right to be cautious about "punishments" with a 1-year-old! The fact that your son says, "No," and makes a logical "excuse" that he's feeding the dogs shows that he knows what behaviors you want from him and knows he can get in trouble for throwing food - but it doesn't necessarily mean that he understands right and wrong. At this age, he is just old enough to hold a paper towel and help you wipe up the mess on the floor, or pick up the pieces of food he threw and put them in the garbage. Having him help you clean up immediately when he throws food, whether it's on the floor or at you or whatever, helps him to understand WHY you tell him not to do that. It also makes disobedience less convenient and less fun than obedience, without denying him any dinner! This might be less convenient for you too for awhile - it's certainly easier to clean it up yourself - but it does really help the concept sink in.

Same thing with the hitting - it's SUCH a common phase to go through as a kid, to try hitting stuff to see what happens. Hitting, stepping on, licking, chewing, biting, grabbing, feeling, bouncing, poking - he's exploring intellectually. "What will mommy do if I hit her?" Well, mommy will be sad, and say, "No! That hurts!" and will make him say, "Sorry," and give a hug to make up (or something along those lines). Kids of this age can understand more than they can speak, so you can explain in VERY simple terms that it's wrong to hurt people, and you can even ask him if he'd like mommy to hit him? Of course he'll say, "No!!" and you can say that is the same way mommy feels. You would never hit him, and that is why -because it hurts! Kids of this age don't really have the ability to really understand the feelings of others, but this helps start awaken him to the reasoning behind that concept. If the behavior keeps going too long you may have to up the stakes, but for now, in most cases, this will help do the trick!

Overall, it's best to keep in mind that discipline of young kids is a mindset and a way of acting - it's not just punishment. If you are clear about the rules, if you keep schedules/patterns fairly consistent, if you make "results" (as opposed to "punishments" or "rewards" at this age) logical and consistent, then he will learn how the world works and how to operate efficiently in it. He will learn right and wrong by your example and by your teaching him to notice the effect of his words and actions. Good discipline means you're not "punishing" him by making him help clean up, or apologize for hitting, or give a hug to make up to a family member he hit - you're helping him figure out how things work in this big crazy confusing world, what things are okay to do and what things are not okay to do, and what right and wrong really means. Big concepts for such a new resident of earth!

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