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My wife and I are blessed with fifteen month old twins. They are generally well-behaved, but have recently started to throw food from their highchair trays. We have two dogs who are very pleased with this arrangement, but their mom and I are not. The dogs do help keep our floor visibly clean, but this does not help when we are eating out. Correcting the twins every time they make a movement towards throwing some of their food on the floor is making for tedious mealtimes. What are some ways to encourage our toddlers to not throw their food on the floor?

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Related: parenting.stackexchange.com/q/3777/644 –  Karl Bielefeldt Oct 16 '12 at 16:04
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4 Answers

Take the food away from them. When they complain, ask them if they're going to keep their food to themselves. When they agree, explain that if they do it again then you'll take it away and won't give it back -- they won't get anything more to eat until the next meal.

Depending on how much you've followed through (or not) on things you've said in the past, you may actually need to let them go hungry a time or two. But don't worry... They'll figure it out pretty quick.

With my own kids, when I've given them something and they've said something like, "That's not what I want," I say "Okay" and take it away. It's amazing how quickly they change their mind but I make them beg a little before returning it. They never got so bad as I was forced to eat their ice cream in front of them because they said, "I wanted more!"... Unfortunately. :-D

(Yes... I'm the meanest Daddy in the whole world! :-)

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At least one parent needs to be mean. Usually... daddies. Hehe. Exactly the same here, btw... so +1. –  Tiago Cardoso Oct 18 '12 at 14:45
    
These are not 8 year olds. Do not take food away from babies. They are growing, growing, growing, and every meal is crucial to their development. –  Christine Gordon Oct 31 '12 at 11:46
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@ChristineGordon, they're not babies; they're 15 months old. The can walk and understand. Nobody is suggesting not feeding them for a day; you can always have the next meal early or add an extra snack. Assuming it comes to that, which it likely won't. Besides, they can't be overly hungry or they wouldn't be throwing it on the floor. –  Brian White Oct 31 '12 at 14:05
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You are not alone!

  • Talk to them when it happens. Tell them it is not okay, but avoid punish them with consequences not related to "what is on the table or on the floor" (like now I will not read the book, or now there will be no ice cream... etc. which is too abstract even for a 3-4 year old).

  • Give them smaller portions.

  • If they will not eat the food, that is fine - they will not starve.

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By don't punish them do you mean give them back what they threw, or keep it away but don't punish them in addition to missing the food? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Oct 18 '12 at 19:27
    
@TorbenGundtofte-Bruun Updated the post. –  AD. Oct 18 '12 at 20:13
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This is a fairly common phase, and it happens because food is fun!

We worked through it in a very simple way:

  • Have children in high chairs
  • Have high chairs in middle of kitchen floor with shower curtain spread out across the floor
  • If they drop food or end up with it on their head leave it until the end of the meal (optionally take pictures to amuse the grandparents) - the shower curtain makes it easy to clean up
  • If they throw food that they then want to eat, point out that it is gone now
  • Even if you weren't going to, have a little dessert, but point out that you don't get any if your food is on the floor.

This may sound cruel, but works really quickly if dessert is something they want!

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+1 especially for the part about you shouldn't have thrown it if you wanted it. Small children don't understand the logic in that sentence, but they learn from the reality of the consequence anyway. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Oct 18 '12 at 19:25
    
I think that dessert as an incentive for anything is not a good idea. I grant that it works, but it adds an exterior incentive to something that needs to come from internal motivation. –  Carmi Oct 30 '12 at 9:14
    
At that age they do not have internal motivation @Carmi - you need to first encourage the behaviour, then as they get older reward self-motivation. –  Rory Alsop Oct 30 '12 at 9:25
    
@Rory Alsop: Of course they have internal motivation, the strongest there is. They're hungry. –  Carmi Nov 1 '12 at 13:49
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This seems pretty normal for 15 month olds, though that doesn't make it any less annoying! And you're in it for double with twins! They are certainly going to egg each other on!

I would think about things that you can do to make life easier for yourself as it is not developmentally appropriate to try to reason with them at this stage. And I would never take food away from a growing baby.

I agree with everything the above poster suggested. Particularly the sense of humor! But, punishments do little to actually teach new skills and just creates disharmony in the long-run. Instead I work with kids to develop and practice the skills they need for success. So as the previous other stated:

  • Have children in high chairs

  • Have high chairs in middle of kitchen floor with shower curtain spread out across the floor

  • If they drop food or end up with it on their head leave it until the end of the meal (optionally take pictures to amuse the grandparents) - the shower curtain makes it easy to clean up

  • If they throw food that they then want to eat, point out that it is gone now

And, it is tedious, but keep up with the "uh-ohs, food is for eating, not throwing." Talk about what big kids they are, you bet they can eat up all their dinner, etc.

And, you could also consider feeding them and then having dinner with your wife so that you aren't getting frustrated by them at your mealtime and can be in a better headspace while you get through this stage. They can have toys or something on their highchairs while you are eating.

I would also recommend reading any books in the Positive Discipline series, you can find ones for preschoolers, toddlers, babies, etc

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I wish I could give you +1 more for the NOT TAKING FOOD AWAY!! I mean WOW! –  balanced mama Oct 29 '12 at 22:34
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