My 2-year-old was throwing a fit tonight. I got home from work and my father said my daughter would not put her toys away. My daughter told me she wanted to throw all her toys in the garbage. I don't understand this considering she plays with them daily. Why am I taking such offense to her request?


Children say hurtful things. Sometimes they know they are doing it and sometimes they don't. Since they are so young and have limited vocabulary and ways to express themselves, they often grasp onto the only words and actions they know to convey their frustrations.

Maybe your daughter was frustrated that she didn't have control of the situation. Rather than being able to deal with that frustration of having to put her toys away, in that moment only, she considered it better to not have any toys at all that way she didn't have to deal with that frustration. This is just a guess as to why she may have said what she said.

Why are you taking offense to it?

Truly, only you can answer that but I imagine it is probably due to the fact you are the provider for her. You provided her those toys and now, in one act of frustration, she made it seem like she didn't need what you provided for her anymore. On top of that, the items she was willing to throw away were things that you two probably bought together while having a good time or things you bought for her because you thought she would enjoy it.

Food, clothes, and other necessities are provided in the good times and the bad times. Those are things that are expected. It's normal for your kids not to want to eat their broccoli or wear their big uncomfortable sweatshirt. We make them do it because it helps them at their basic needs level.

Toys however are of a personal nature. We bond over our children's toys. We make good memories when we play with them. Perhaps deep down that kind of stung a little bit.

My advice is to get used to it and learn through it every time it happens. Teach her how to apologize if she's really sorry. Tell her how much it hurt you. In the end, just realize that she's only two and there are many more years for the both of you to say potentially much more hurtful things to each other. Learn to apologize and teach her how to. Teach her to be mindful of the words she says and teach her how to express herself better when she's frustrated.

  • A follow up question - Does it work to calmly ask the child if she meant it? Does it make her reflect on her words?
    – learner101
    Oct 31 '17 at 7:07
  • 3
    @learner101 At 2 years old? I doubt it. Maybe older at around 4 or so. I can only answer from experience but actions speak louder than words when it comes to teaching little ones how to express themselves.
    – SomeShinyObject
    Oct 31 '17 at 7:09
  • Great great answer Oct 31 '17 at 19:51

I just want to add to @SomeShinyObject's excellent answer. But first, I'll actually answer the question.

Why am I taking such offense to her request?

Because you love her, and what she feels matters to you. It's human and it's normal. You did something loving and she's "throwing it away". That will hurt at any age. It helps to know, as SomeShinyObject stated, that people (not just kids) sometimes say painful things in the heat of the moment or just when they don't know how to express it differently.*

What I want to add is that this is a great opportunity and time to start teaching her "feeling words" (aka. giving her an emotional vocabulary). The first step in managing one's feelings is being able to name them. So, instead of lashing out in frustration, someday she can respond with emotional intelligence.

Child examples:

Frustration: I hate you!
Emotional intelligence: I feel this is so unfair! I'm hurt that you think I deserve this punishment/consequence.

Your precious daughter will, one day, say she hates you. Almost all kids say it at one time or another. Part of your job is to give her the tools she needs to recognize the steps she goes through before that pops out of her mouth.

Some people never learn this. Let's take an adult example:

Frustration: (Yelling out the window) You a******!
Emotional intelligence: (Thoughts) Wow, that was rude, to cut me off like that. A complete stranger just made me feel unvalued and disrespected, like I don't matter at all. Well, he doesn't know me. Maybe he didn't see me. maybe he's in a rush, and it's not about me at all.

Though that seems a stretch, this is exactly the kind of teaching that goes on in anger management courses, and you'd be amazed at the change in folks that take the teaching to heart. Someone can go from road rage to "it's not about me personally" in less than a few seconds.

*Two stories. First: One time, I was tying my 4 year old's shoelaces, and they looked up at me and said, "Mommy, you're just like an angel to me..." and I beamed inside until they added, "except when you're like an angel-witch."
Second: After a day devoted to the kids (amusement park, ice cream, etc.) same child, same age had a $10 bill in their pocket and wanted to go to the toy store. There was a bookstore on the way that we, the adults, liked, so we stopped. But someone was tired at the end of this long day, and had money burning a hole in their pocket. "This is the worst day I've ever had!" they exclaimed. I picked them up and sat them on an empty counter. "Do you mean that you've been waiting to go to the toy store all day and you're frustrated that it's taken so long, or do you mean you really had a bad day today?" I asked. They thought about it a minute and said, "I mean I'm frustrated because I want to go to the toy store." Honestly, I was a bit hurt when he blurted that out, because I hate amusement parks, and the entire day really was centered around the kids. But knowing the child was tired, only had so many words and only so much impulse control really helped.


Children are not rational, mature thinkers. They just aren't there yet. (And it isn't always a negative or destructive impulse -- an enthusiastic child with a bag of Halloween candy, for example, will firmly believe in their ability to eat the entire thing in one night with no ill effects.)

There are a lot of impulsive things my children will say (and my oldest is going on fourteen, so it lasts a while!) that are hurtful to me as a parent. It does hurt a bit when they say something that's clearly irrational and, as in this case, potentially hurtful to them in the long run. As SomeShinyObject put it, "in that moment only, she considered it better to not have any toys at all" -- it was not a well thought out idea!

If you just agreed that all her toys should be thrown away, she would doubtless regret that in the future. And my kids have offered similarly self-destructive ideas over the years -- I wish I lived with a foster family!, or I hate my bed and want to sleep on the floor!, or I'm never going to eat food again!, or also I hate all these toys and want to throw them away!

I think these irrational, angry, or absurd proposals hurt me for a few reasons:

  1. This is clearly a cry of frustration and pain that is exceeding their ability to comprehend, deal with, and control. I don't enjoy seeing my child hurting, so I feel some hurt in sympathy.
  2. I've tried as a parent to raise moderately sensible children, and when they propose a "solution" that is so obviously not a good idea, I feel like I've failed at teaching them how to handle life.
  3. I'm not making unreasonable requests, so to be met with an over-the-top reaction is an unpleasant surprise. (Seriously, you're saying you hate sleeping in a bed because I asked you to change a pillowcase? Seriously? Just change your pillowcase, kid, come on.)

A 2 year old needs 2 year old sized problems to solve. Sometimes my kids will drag every single toy they own out. To put them all away would seem to be an insurmountable task - and certainly one they would fight me on if I insisted they do it all by themselves.

Maybe your father and daughter argued over putting the toys away. Maybe she got in trouble when they weren't put up, or it wasn't done "right." Maybe there's just something else she wants to do right now and cleaning is definitely not one of those things. When faced with a difficult task some of us prefer to just eliminate the problem -- hence "I want to throw the toys away!"

I'd proceed in this situation by sitting down and helping her clean them up. You do some and have her pick some up. It can even be turned into a game. Either way, doing tasks we don't want to do are always easier with a friend.

All of my kids have "rebelled" at the thought of cleaning up regardless of age - from 2 on up to 16. However when I am right there with them helping out everyone's attitude improves radically.


Keep the following in mind and you'll avoid much trouble: The main function of chores is for the child's discipline, not for the benefit of having the job done. The cleaned room is a side benefit. The main object is training the child to be responsible.

When you delegate a job to a child be ready to fill in for him/her. It actually makes it much easier for the child when they sense your readiness to join. Calling out from a flattened recliner to go clean their room amplifies the feelings of unfairness, and they pick up the laziness as well.

Back to this case, a child doesn't have much at their disposal with which to fight back. The adults can confiscate toys, dock her from trips or countless other methods of control. The child has a very small arsenal: crying, tantrums, and fake but brilliant insults. This outlandish outcry is merely a way of fighting back.

The best reaction to this situation is to cuddle your daughter and verbalize her feelings. You can say, 'Oh, you're upset to have to put away the toys so soon?' This shows her that you understand her, which does away with the need for any further outbursts.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.