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The girl is 20 months old, and it is not her fault that she loves her game of picking things from the room and throwing them out of balcony and watching them fall.

She has been told in plain English not to do this, and she does understand that perfectly.
But, she still does this on purpose - I know this because she looks at me before the act, smiles, and continues her deed. Then she comes over to me and points out to the thing fallen on the ground.

I talk to her loudly and tell her to say sorry. She complies, and then repeats the deed again.

Timeouts don't work - I have tried to make her sit and hold her and count till 150. It doesn't seem to bother her much as she sits calmly. Definitely it will bother her if I count till 250 but that requires too much effort on my part. It is tiring for me.

Last time I grabbed her and put in another room, alone, and closed the door for some time. She wailed for some time, and I didn't know if that was the correct move from my side.

Anyways, she repeated the deed again sometime later in the day.

It is tiresome for me to keep on going down to the ground floor to pick up things repeatedly. The door of balcony cannot be closed since the child stares down on the street from there and self soothes.

How to punish the toddler for "deliberately" throwing things out of balcony?

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    Probably punishments won't work. – bjb568 Feb 19 '15 at 1:05
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    I'd ignore it. Everything thrown over the balcony would be put in a bag and stashed in a closet. My kids did similar things for a while but I refused to acknowledge the acts and just got rid of everything they threw. Sometimes they would ask what I was doing when I picked up the toys and I said I'm throwing them away. That's what you want, right? It wasn't long before they switched to another hellish game to taunt me with, but the throwing has subsided... for the most part. Now what to do with these bags of toys in the closet? – Kai Qing Feb 19 '15 at 1:21
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    I created an account to comment this. My first thought on reading the title: 'Throw the child', my second thought was: 'I am a horrible person'. – JamesENL Feb 19 '15 at 7:29
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    This is a pretty interesting question because I have a balcony and an 11 month old. He has not thrown things from the balcony but I suppose he will want to in time. It is not OK b/c there are people down below who don't want things thrown at them. But I suppose from a safety point of view he should not have unsupervised access to the balcony until well after he grows past that. – emory Feb 19 '15 at 18:10
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    @emory I assumed from the question that 'balcony' does not mean 'outdoor balcony' but an area of, say the second floor which overlooks the stairs and first floor but has a guard rail (and in at least one home we looked at while house shopping a few years ago, was a balcony by any definition). While a toddler shouldn't be unsupervised anywhere, in that location (Assuming the stairs are protected safely) you might allow less supervision then one would for an outdoors balcony. – Joe Feb 19 '15 at 18:56
2

Stopping a toddler from doing something is a real challenge, so a better solution where possible is to look at it from a child-proofing perspective.

Can you put a net around the balcony? You don't provide much information about it, but I would guess that the kind of anti-bird netting used to stop pigeons from roosting would be effective for this job. If the balcony has railings then you can also put it around the railings too. This will also have the added advantage of making it impossible for the child to climb over and fall (but make sure you attach the net well, lest she play with leaning on it).

44

Between 1.5-3 years of age, kids learn to (and really enjoy) testing gravity and throwing things. It involves fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination. It's actually pretty fascinating for them; they learn what bounces and what splats, what rolls and what doesn't. They also get your attention and illicit a reaction out of you by seeing you pick it up. Doing these things gives a toddler a sense of control and autonomy at a time when they really have very little. This is all quite natural. She's not being bad. She's being normal.

Of course, for you it's annoying to constantly pick things up. But is she really doing something so wrong that she deserves punishment? Roni Leiderman, a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology, believes it's futile to try to stop a toddler from doing this and that you shouldn't discipline a child for it. Instead, limit what she throws and where she throws it. (If you dislike her throwing things off the balcony, why does she have access to it? Maybe she should only have toys she can't throw when you're all on the balcony.)

Give her plenty of things that she is allowed to throw, and time to do it. Foam balls are safe; small stuffed toys and other things - rolled up socks, things that make noise when they hit, etc. Throwing games are even more fun if you play with her.

When you're tired of the game, redirect her attention to something else.

The message you want to convey is that throwing things is fine as long as she throws the right things in the right place at the right time. "When she throws something inappropriate, like a shoe, calmly take it away from her and say, 'Shoes aren't for throwing, but balls are.' Then give her a ball to play with," says Leiderman.

Clean up together. Don't ask your toddler to pick up everything she throws. "That's an overwhelming task for a child this age," says Leiderman. Instead, try getting down on your hands and knees together and enlisting her help by saying, "Let's see how fast we can pick up the blocks together," or "Can you help me find all the yellow pieces?" ...[T]ake a tour of your house together and toss socks in the hamper, tissues in the wastebasket, and toys in the toy chest...

She will get over this phase soon enough (as she learns that a lot of things are more fun than dropping toys).

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    I like this answer (+1), but I would add that this is also the phase where children learn social behavior. So mum said "no" – what will happen if I disobey? See this answer for how to deal with a situation when a toddler doesn't do what you want: Make offers, rather than just declaring things as verboten. – sbi Feb 19 '15 at 22:42
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    @sbi - I do agree that discipline (but not punishment) needs to start sooner rather than later. The question is whether this is the right time and the right behavior to pick for discipline. I think I'm somewhere in the middle on this (maybe a bit on the permissive side, actually); I think a toddler needs to learn the meaning of "no" and to obey it, but I would reserve it at this stage for things that might hurt the child, like leaving the dog alone when she was in her "safe spot". But you certainly have made a good point. – anongoodnurse Feb 19 '15 at 23:37
  • IME there is no way to teach a toddler the meaning of "no" except with important things, which might hurt the child. If you say "no", but the child still touches <something mildly hot>, and it hurts, then the child learns that there's a reason to stop doing things when it's told "no". It will then learn to obey a "no" even if things are not hot, without even trying what happens if it disobeys. – sbi Feb 20 '15 at 7:40
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    I always saw my task as a parent to prevent my children from getting serious injuries, not to prevent minor hurts. ("A scratched knee is fine, a broken leg is not.") In fact, I deliberately let them disobey what I told them and run into situations that allowed them to hurt themselves in small, non-permanent ways. Most people who met my children found the results staggering. (Like calmly telling a 18 months old "hot" when she wants to touch a hot cup on the table, and she calmly withdraws her hand, rather than excitedly shouting "NO, DON'T TOUCH THIS! IT'S HOT!" and startling the child.) – sbi Feb 20 '15 at 7:41
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An alternative to the right/wrong paradigm which requires blame and punishment is to consider that she is meeting needs by acting in the way she does. The most obvious need that comes to mind, that I have seen in my children, is the need for exploration and curiosity. Children are exploring gravity when they throw things, and they demand that the items be picked up so they can carry on exploring. They are experimenting with their bodies, amount of force etc. Of course there may be other things going on. Sounds like her need for fun is being met by getting you to go retrieve items for her, as well as autonomy in that she is realizing her independence. This does not mean it is fun for you, as it sounds. So I am guessing you have a need for ease and co-operation. If you can focus on the needs rather than the strategy to get those needs met, then you will probably think of other ways to meet everyone's needs. Can you devise a game inside that involves lots of throwing? Can you find other ways to connect with her, and give her choice and autonomy, that are fun for both of you? Good luck.

5

I'm in my 30's and if it weren't for not having a balcony, cleanup time, a limited supply of things to drop, other things I enjoy doing more, responsibilities, and potential hazards I would probably go drop something off a balcony just to watch it fall right now.

A toddler doesn't have any of those reasons. It's fun. It's the same reason I bought my toddler some kitchen funnels for the tub, it's fun to watch the water fall.

That smile you see is the "watch this, you're going to pay attention to me" smile. It's not a bad thing, it just means the both of you should go do something else together. The more powerful the emotional response you have to it positive or negative, the more the toddler is interested in repeating the behavior.

Redirect and join the fun.

That can be hard to do, sometimes kids don't want to stop whatever they are doing. Fortunately when my 18mo gets into something he shouldn't have I ask him to help me put it away and most of the time that works great. I find asking him if he wants to do a few different things helps me find something he wants to do. I did this at first so I could have a moment to think of things to do. He's caught on to this and while he is preverbal he will say K over and over when I get to whatever thing he wants to do. I usually give him three choices and if none of them are interesting I either pick or I ask if he wants to eat or drink.

4

Our daughter was throwing things out of her stroller on purpose while out on walks, which is a similar problem since it can be quite dangerous if it means turning back in a crosswalk etc., although less dangerous than throwing them over a balcony (assuming your balcony is high up, and that there are people walking below). I agree with the other posted responses that from our experience there is little that punishment can accomplish since part of the fun for her is getting a reaction out of you.

Our solution: tie the toy on a shoelace, tie the other end of the shoelace to the edge of the precipice (balcony railing, stroller, other locations you don't want to see things falling) and don't give her toys in that specific location unless they are attached this way.

Of course, let her experiment with gravity at other times/locations where it's less of an annoyance to pick them up for her...from her high chair, changing table, etc, she can hurl things to the ground to her heart's content.

4

Your reasoning for not closing the door seems a little strange. Is there no other way the child can self-sooth?

I don't think a child that young should have unrestricted access to a balcony. Primarily because it's very dangerous. Even if the child cannot squeeze through any gaps, she could potentially drag a chair to the edge and climb over. Don't ever assume a toddler would know this is a bad idea, because they don't. At that age the child has very minimal understanding about her physical capabilities, and may not perceive the action of stepping off a balcony as being any different to stepping off a step.

Back to the topic though. What the child is doing is perfectly normal behavior, and she shouldn't be punished for it. What you could try though, is to simply turn her around every time she approaches the edge and say "no" in a stern (not loud) voice. If you keep doing this over and over (it can take a long time) the child may get bored with the game and move on to something else. The key is to not change your tone or behavior at all each time. Toddlers to this kind of thing in order to observe your reaction. The more angrily you respond, the more stimulation the child is receiving from her behavior. If you respond in a boring, monotonous way, the child will hopefully lose interest. We did this with our child to keep him away from power sockets and it worked reasonably well. After a while we didn't have to physically block access to the sockets because he simply decided they were uninteresting and didn't bother.

3

There are two possibilities here: One as suggested by user anongoodnurse is that she is learning about gravity and how things fall, and her fascination with this greatly outweighs your ability to express your frustration to her - this is becuase she is 20 months old, and doesn't grasp the concept that these are things that are important to you, and the difficult situation she's throwing you into.

The other possibility, and this is a very strong possiblity, is that she has learned that throwing things out the balcony gets you to pay attention to her, and so she keeps doing it because you keep giving her the attention she craves. Children crave attention, even negative attention, especially at a very young age.

Your solution to this problem is the same for either case though. First - prevent the child from throwing things out the window. Put up a barrier (a playpen wall if you have one, or cardboard if you don't) and keep the balcony door closed (and locked if you can) so that they cannot do this. Second - give them a better way of getting attention. Ignoring this problem won't make it go away; she needs to understand that what she's doing is wrong after all. But giving her a better outlet to find attention from you is a good way of keeping her distracted from trying to do this again.

If she truly is curious about gravity as has been suggested, try making a safe game out of it indoors, of tossing things over a barrier (over a couch arm for example) with soft objects that wont' cause damage if thrown too hard, in an area where you won't knock things over. She will eventually grow out of this phase, and by showing her there are better ways to express her desire to test new things, you'll teach her that there are better ways to get attention than the problematic ways she's currently doing.

1

I agree that she is learning and that her actions are a result of curiosity - but throwing things off the balcony needs to stop. Besides being unkind to you, she will also eventually throw something valuable down or something dangerous. If she throws a glass down and it breaks, people could cut themselves. She may even accidentally hit someone on the head.

She needs to learn that there are consequences to what she is doing. Have you tried making her walk with you and then making her carry the item back up? It will probably be fun the first few times but she will eventually get as tired as you from walking up and down, up and down.

Remember also that if she is apologising and then repeating the behaviour she is learning to be insincere. I don't think that you did the wrong thing by closing her in the room - she does need to be punished if you have made a rule and she breaks it. If you don't enforce the rules you make while she is young she will become unpleasant to be around and will have a problem following rules when she is older.

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    A child should not be shut in a room alone as punishment. This is unnecessarily cruel and it's also ineffective. It's fine to take them away to another room (to divert them from their current behavior), as long as a parent or guardian is in there with them. They may still cry and make a fuss, but in this case its because of frustration and annoyance at having their game stopped. Not out of fear. Teaching a child to fear punishment is an ineffective education tool, as it means they will simply learn new ways to avoid being caught. – user3326185 Feb 20 '15 at 2:00

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