Sunday, January 29, 2012

DO NOT throw things

I try to refrain from giving unsolicited parenting advice, but every once in a while the child psychologist in me gets the better of me. One such incident occurred the other day when I heard my friend yell out to her 13 month old (let’s call him Kevin) to not throw things. She was probably trying to nip in the bud, the ‘throwing’ behavior or what she believed to be destructive behavior.  I gently suggested to her why don’t you sit back and watch him for a few minutes. She gave in to my suggestion, quelled her disciplining instincts, and sat back to watch. Kevin picked up a rattle from the toy chest and flung it to the floor. My friend forced a smile. Kevin repeated this a few times. He would pick up a toy from his toy chest, examine it for a minute, throw it, track the fall, and watch it fall. After watching this for a few minutes, my friend started seeing what I had hoped for her to. She noticed that Kevin’s behavior was goal-directed. He was not randomly throwing toys but rather throwing toys to produce the desired sound. Then Kevin picked up a toy and threw it in my friend’s direction and my friend instinctively caught it. This seemed to surprise Kevin as it did not fit into his ‘throwing’ scheme; his throw had not produced a sound this time. But he quickly accommodated this new pattern and alternated between throwing a toy for his mom to catch and throwing a toy on the floor. Kevin had just expanded his scheme and his mother had enjoyed being a part of it.

We need to remind parents that their children’s development is a magical thing and it happens every day. Sometimes parent wait with anticipation for major milestones such as sitting and walking, but miss the little steps of progress children take every day.  Next time you see an infant throw something, sit back and enjoy the magic of development.

By Aesha John

I used to be one of those moms that thought throwing things was annoying. I realize now these things are part of the positivie development of a child. I have two grandkids, ages 3 and 1. I love to observe their actions and be able to realize what part of development they are going through. Child development is truly amazing.
Susan Davis


  1. I think this is a great piece of information. I do have a few questions and comments. I would begin with saying that the information provided will make me think a little more about the exploration of my next child. I am myself one of those "don't throw that" parents. Not in a scolding way, I just would discourage it as unacceptable. I see now the benefits of the discovering that happens through means in which we normally don't think about. My question is how can my young child who is in the stage of throwing things not throw things at the store or at my mother in laws house? I understand the reasoning behind the task is so that the child can assimilate or accommodate the action into a scheme. How can we accomplish that without getting kicked out of the grocery store or scolded by my loving mother in law?

  2. Samantha, thank you for your comments and question. I think it is important (admittedly challenging too) to differentiate between 'destructive throwing' and 'planful throwing' behaviors. However, throwing behavior during infancy is rarely destructive and more often than not exploratory. Also, toddlers and young children are receptive to limit setting and can grasp farely well the appropriate setting for specific behaviors. In my view, it is better to negatively reinforce a behavior in certain setting, but allow it in a different setting rather than to discourage it completely and stifle development.