My 3 year old son has been throwing things when he gets mad at people. He basically needs a way to express his anger... How do I handle this? How do I discipline him?

  • From another suggestion on site -- try giving him a punching bag. They pop back up and allow for a fun way to blow off some steam. (Thanks to @TSar for this idea.)
    – WRX
    May 10, 2017 at 14:27

4 Answers 4


If I recall correctly, we used a combination of allowing a pillow in the bedroom to be thrown and time-out.. Sometimes, especially with younger ones, a physical outlet is needed, hence the pillow-rule. (Remember to remove wall hanging, lamps, and other objects which could be damaged or broken even with a pillow.

When out in public, we would return to our vehicle or go to a more private area to let them calm down while having to sit or stay inside a specified area - a virtual time-out, so to speak.

On occasion, we would simply cut our planned activities short and return home if they were really intractable.

If they calmed down, we talked it out. We found it was critical to allow them to express themselves, even if what they were saying was not necessarily factually correct. It is more important to address the source of anger, than it is to correct inaccuracies, at that point. Maintaining a calm pleasant tone, facial expression, and body language was also very important tools in assisting a youngling in coming down from an angry place.

  1. Calm your self down (sometimes parents get mad when a child throws a toy at them)
  2. Ask him why he did that (kids like to be heard)
  3. If he says "I'm mad", ask him what made him mad
  4. (This one might break your heart) If he says "you", ask him what you did to make him mad.
  5. If it's not you then explain to him why it's not right to throw toys at people
  6. Remind him why it's not right to throw toys at people (sometimes kids just need a little reminder)

It can take a fair amount of effort on the parent's part -- but it is worth it!

You might not need to do all these things, but I want to give you as many ideas as I can think of, so here goes:

  1. Read books together that model getting angry without being destructive, e.g. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/386421.I_Was_So_Mad

  2. Model, in your day-to-day life, getting angry without being destructive. You are allowed to set some of these up and you may ham it up if you like.

  3. Tell a little anecdote about your day over dinner, in front of your 3yo, about an incident you had where you were angry, and casually mention what you did with your anger, for example, "and then I walked away," or "and then I went to the park and kicked the soccer ball all around the park as hard as I could, thinking about that gosh darn grocery clerk, and how stupid she was!"

  4. Provide lots of opportunities for that kind of physical venting; you may even model for your child, as you are kicking the ball, "Take that, stupid brother! That'll teach you not to take my special toy!"

  5. Try to anticipate the throw before it happens. If you have to, wrap your arms around your child from the back. Afterwards, tell him how proud you are of him for controlling himself.

  6. Whenever he manages to control himself without you having intervened, that is really cause for praise!

  7. Don't forget to brag about his great self-control to other people, but in his hearing, after he has a success. (I got this idea from Faber and Mazlish, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/769016.How_to_Talk_So_Kids_Will_Listen_Listen_So_Kids_Will_Talk?ac=1&from_search=true

  8. I don't recommend allowing the child to throw ANYTHING when angry. He needs to imprint a different set of body movements onto the feeling of anger. Some possible alternatives: lie on the bed and kick and pound your fists. Whack a pillow on the bed. You may model these to show your child what it looks like. But I would not do this when you are actually feeling angry, because that could be frightening for your child.

  9. When a mishap occurs, and your child throws something, here's how you can react:

    If something or someone got hurt, model the apology.

    If nothing was damaged, and no one got hurt, explain, "It's not good to throw things in the house, because someone might get hurt!" It can be helpful to bring out the child's favorite stuffed animal at this point, to trigger warm, protective feelings.

  10. Jot down in a simple diary (notebook or whatever) some basic facts about each incident, for example, time of day, whether child was hungry, location, anything else that might help you discover patterns, to make anticipation and prevention easier.

Okey doke, that's what I could think of. You probably won't need to do all of those!

  • 1
    Most of these sound positive, but I'd remove the name calling - the "stupid" - as that will teach your child to use insults. They are unnecessary.
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 15, 2016 at 12:41
  • @RoryAlsop - Just curious -- may I ask the ages and genders of your children? You don't have to say if you don't want to. Nov 15, 2016 at 18:19
  • My son got in trouble with a camp counselor once for saying " What the heck?!" I asked her about it the next day, thinking she might have misheard him. Well, she hadn't. So I explained to my son that When in Rome, etc., and we brainstormed some euphemisms for the euphemism. We ended up with "What the piano?!" // In short, I can think of much worse utterances, and behaviors, than referring to someone as stupid, or play-acting calling someone stupid. Bill Clinton said it to himself, famously. But I promise not to call the annoying cashier I'm mad at "stupid" when I'm at your house. Nov 15, 2016 at 18:22
  • Boys and girls. Eldest 16. Youngest 10. Not sure how that's relevant in any way.
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 15, 2016 at 19:09
  • @RoryAlsop - I have two boys, 21 and 13. The younger one gets exposed to so much bad language at school and from the older brother.... I do see a gender difference when it comes to bad language. Nov 16, 2016 at 3:46

In my classroom a thrown toy went into the cupboard. My reasoning works in a classroom, as the toys were not personal to the student.

I think I'd say "We do not throw things." Then show the child that the toy is away until a set period of time. You decide how long. The younger the child, the less time. The harder the item -- the longer time. You could put pictures (could be hand-drawn) of the toys in the cupboard. Then when the child wants the truck, you can show them it is in the cupboard until the set time. To keep things positive, the child could help draw the pic of the toys that are out of bounds. Oh and if they break the item, they don't get it back. Natural consequences.

  • The OP only mentions things, not toys specifically. What do you suggest if the item they threw is of no interest to them (e. g. when they just reach out for the next random, throwable item) and they wouldn't want it back? Apr 28, 2018 at 17:58

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