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My two-year-old has discovered a new trick. A few days ago he realized that if he sticks his finger down his throat, he can make himself vomit. For some reason this is fascinating to him and now he wants to do it all the time.

For one thing, it can't be healthy to vomit so often, for his throat lining or nutritionally. Also I'm spending a lot of time cleaning up vomit, which is obviously unpleasant but has also been interfering with other things, for example making me late for work. How can I get him to stop?

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    Welcome to Parenting SE! While you wait for answers, I suggest you take the tour and browse our help center to learn more about the site. And remember the mantra of all parents whise kids found a new trick: This too shall pass...
    – Stephie
    Jul 7 '16 at 16:40
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You're right that inducing vomiting often is not healthy; I wouldn't worry much about nutrition, but the lining of the esophagus and throat weren't meant to be often subjected to the acidic contents of the stomach; also, there are occasionally consequences elsewhere.

However, some things to consider:

This will pass; it's a new superpower he's discovered and he's exercising it with glee. It makes him feel a sense of control over his body, and for this reason I would encourage you to try not to make a big deal out of stopping him; doing so may make him want to do it even more.

Kids usually don't make themselves vomit forcefully (think bulemics); a mouthful of vomit is usually entertaining enough. More than that and it becomes unpleasant. If your son trucks through a forceful vomiting experience happily, I'd be very impressed.

If he is just doing this at mealtimes, the vomit he passes while eating will not be very acidic (not enough time for a real pH change) so I wouldn't worry too much about significant damage from that. Try a variety of distractions (toys, games, other) to see if you can get him interested in something better for him.

If he is doing this between meals, that's more worrisome. It's impossible to keep a toddler distracted all day, and if he's amusing himself this way - or worse yet, doing this for attention - it will be hard for you to get him to stop. Focusing on making him clean it up thoroughly every time (even though that means a lot more work for you) might be enough to detract from it's entertainment value. If you think this might be done to attract attention, focus only on the clean-up. If he's bored, try to make his environment more engaging.

You can try applying something bitter on his fingers so the taste repels him. This might help him to appreciate washing his hands before eating as well. (Make sure the substance you use won't affect the eyes or nose.)

If this behavior continues for more than a few weeks, I would consult his pediatrician. At this point it might be better to switch to a consequence/reward system.

I don't envy you, but this behavior is not uncommon and is usually short lived.

I wish I could thing of something to feed him that is positively vile coming back up, but it would probably be vile going down as well. Sorry.

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  • I'm not sure that a 2-year-old can make the connection between vomiting and having to clean it up. i.e. He won't understand that the cleanup is a consequence of the vomiting, which means it won't be an incentive to stop. Jul 12 '16 at 20:54
  • @GentlePurpleRain - I very much respect your opinion, but in thi case I disagree. If a 2 year old can understand a time out, I think they can understand the relationship between vomiting and cleaning it up if it's done immediately and consistently after every episode. But I may be wrong. Jul 12 '16 at 23:34

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