I have a 23 month old toddler who loves to hurl anything that he gets his hands on - either at things or other folks around the house. If not that, he'll treat it as a hammer and go around "hitting" other things or humans or animals (dog). We've gotten rid of all furniture with glass but there are a few things that just don't get made without it. Hammering them could be dangerous even if the glass is tough.

He's seriously injured his mom on more than one occasion. At times he would abruptly slam the doors on our faces/legs. Purely for fun. (These are closet doors without hydraulic hinges.) If our phones are close by and if he gets them someone is going to get seriously hurt when he hurls it (not if).

We've tried being stern and saying "no" and taking the the things away and putting them higher up so he cannot reach them. At times we've gotten a little more angry. I wouldn't lie but in extreme cases he's gotten a spank or two on his leg/back as an unfortunate reflexive action.

If nothing, he'll start scratching/pinching/jumping-on/biting the folks around. We always brush him off and say "no" and also provide him an alternate. But it's hard to know what to do when we're simply sitting and watching TV (for 30 mins the whole day) and he's going to make the act of sitting a nightmare (with or without TV).

It's getting really difficult to constantly keep everything away from him and/or explain that we get hurt. Nothing seems to work to deter him - we've tried everything from polite/assertive conversations to being angry or ignoring him. He just makes such funny faces and/or beady eyes that makes it really difficult to hold a scorn when looking him in the eye.

What are some strategies we can adopt to help control such "playfully hurtful/violent" behavior?

  • Not a full answer, but could you put him in time out by sticking him in a play yard where he can't get his hands on anything dangerous whenever he starts throwing / biting / hammering? That might not be a bad way of providing consistent punishment / natural consequences for being violent.
    – Becuzz
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 0:40
  • He can mostly climb over everything. But we have a baby gate in a place where he can see us and we do put him in that area. Sorta starts having fun after a while 🤷‍♂️
    – PhD
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 5:17

1 Answer 1


I think it's key to keep in mind, as you've identified, that this is about playfully violent behaviour. As such, I think it must always be stopped, because you don't need to tolerate getting hurt, but any amount of scolding, or angry tone of voice, will be uncalled for. Your child is not intent on hurting anyone or anything, and is - I think - not old enough to understand why you'd be angry with him for playing. A simple firm but loving "no" will do just as well. It may not work, but as you've seen, neither does a harsher treatment. It's never a good idea to be unnecessarily harsh on our children, which is the case here if it too doesn't work.

Recognize that your child is filling a need of some kind with their behaviour. We often think it's a need for attention, which may well be the case, but consider that there may be a real need for throwing things and exploring how they sound when they break. Find a non-hurtful way to fulfill this need. If he bites, always have a biting toy ready, and if he starts throwing things, go outside and show him things it's OK for him to throw or break. Join him in that play for a while.

As a very general advice, kids do more of what they get attention for, even if it's negative attention, so try to praise desired behaviour more than you scold undesired behaviour.

Also, it's difficult to understand negative instructions. Think of it as following a GPS navigation to a new place, and the voice keeps saying "don't turn right here", "you should've taken that exit". Similarly, don't say "don't throw the legos", say "the legs are for building with".

I've read most children grow out this by three years of age, so you're a good part of the way there. I would stick to refrain from punishing now, and only seek to do something radically different if this doesn't stop when the child is old enough to better understand the negative consequences of their behaviour.

  • 5
    +1. Love the GPS analogy. And I second the advice about letting him throw in a safe environment. I knew of a 3 year old who always ran around in top speed, inside the house and nothing they did stopped him. Until they took him outdoors where he could run around to his hearts content. This drastically reduced running indoors, and whats more, he'd even ask to be taken outdoors when he felt like running around
    – learner101
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 13:45

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