My two year old son (only child) lately has developed a habit of attempting to throw/break things when frustrated. In most cases, it's something that belongs to us (the parents) -- like a candle holder, table-top sewing machine, cups, bowls, etc.

I think he usually does it after hearing "no" or not having things go his way (bedtime, not getting candy, needing to clean up a mess he made, etc). I realize that in some way, it's a natural reaction and that he's trying to express his frustration and I want him to feel like he can express things in a healthy manner... but these physical acts/behavior can't continue because:

  • Some of the items can be fragile (and yes, we try to keep really important stuff out of reach).
  • We don't want him to accidentally injure himself or others.

Over the past few weeks we've tried a variety of techniques including:

  • Attempting to calm him down by listening to him, expressing sincere empathy, showing physical affection (hugs), letting him know that we understand that he's frustrated...
  • Trying to anticipate frustration and present alternatives (notifying him about bedtime in advance, offering a more healthy snack if he's hungry, etc)
  • Putting him timeout

None of these things seem to help and this pattern has been going on for awhile. Are there any other ideas/suggestions?

  • 2
    This might be helpful (1-2-3 Magic is often mentioned, also giving them an emotional vocabulary). There are several answers by anongoodnurse about that. Sep 21, 2018 at 2:14
  • Something else that might help: having a pillow (or similar soft object) that is just his that he can punch or otherwise take that frustration out on vs. grabbing your lamp. This may take some time to teach him, but might help direct his emotions.
    – user20343
    Sep 21, 2018 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


In the "old days" issues like this would be resolved by a quick smack on the rump. In the old days. I'm guessing you don't spank him though - that's okay. Perhaps the best thing is to be near him when he finds out he isn't going to get his way. Being close by might give you the opportunity to prevent him from grabbing something to break/throw, or at least get you close enough to remove it from his hands before he can damage it. A firm "NO" and an additional comment ("that isn't going to work, it's still bedtime") will help him learn that the behavior isn't effective.

For bedtime: change his routine, but make it a routine... sitting on his bed and reading, or bath, then jammies, then a story, then tucked in. If your schedule allows for it, always at the same time each night.

For candy: define when candy is "okay" (after dinner, only on the weekend, etc.) and make that the reason he can't have it right then. So you aren't saying he can't have candy (ever), you are saying "we only eat candy on Saturday morning". Of course, then you have to let him have candy on Saturday morning.

For punishment: if he failed to do something he was expected to do, then you need to consider what type of punishment "fits the crime". Taking away a priviledge won't make any sense to a 2yo, but not getting to play with his favorite toy might. So, if he won't eat his dinner, then his favorite toy is going to be on top of the refridgerator (for a half hour) and he gets some extra time at the table to eat before the toy comes down. I'm not saying he's going to eat all of his dinner, nor that you should try to force him to do that. It was just an example.

The only other thing I can think of is for you. Think about his interactions during the day. Is there a new kid in daycare, at the playground, or in your neighborhood? There's always a possibility that the behavior is linked to something or someone new in his environment and (at 2) he just doesn't know how to deal with it.

As always, best wishes. Let us know how it goes - el

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