What to do when your child throws their toys

by | Feb 5, 2018 | Sleep Consultant

What to do when your child throws their toys

What do you do when your child throws their toys out of the cot? Once your child hits this certain developmental stage, you’ll know it. In this blog I’m talking about the age old game of throwing the toy out of the cot. I’m pretty sure most, if not all, children play a similar game at some stage. And it can become one of the most common stall tactics to delay bedtime if it’s not dealt with appropriately.

Throw it out… pick it up… throw it out

You know the game I’m talking about, right? Your little one gets settled into their cot, you say good night, then they throw their favourite soft toy, comforter or blanket out of the cot. Mum or Dad goes and picks it up and puts it back in the cot. Then, low and behold, it happens again! It’s actually pretty adorable the first time. However, it’s a lot less adorable when they start throwing that toy out of the cot every bedtime, and then start crying because their precious snuggle bunny is on the floor. So you have to go back in and give it back to them.

I’m pretty sure your baby could happily play this game for hours, but it quickly becomes repetitive and irritating for most parents. How often has it happened to you? Does your child throw it 5, 10, or 25 times before they give up and stop? How long before you start thinking (as most parents do) of taking that toy away for good (or at least for tonight).

Children can get very attached to their comfort toy. In fact I often recommend using one from 6 months plus because it can be a great comfort to sleep with. And if this is your child, and you’ve played this game, you’ll know it can be pretty tough to follow through on taking the toy away for good, simply because you know how important it is to them. They’re in there crying their eyes out for it and it’s fair to say you will most likely back down.  Some of you may have nerves of steel, but I know most parents will not be able to take it away. And when you play this game, say you’ll take it away, and then that doesn’t happen, chances are you’ve then done two things that won’t help you in the long one.

The pitfalls of playing the game and backing down

The first pitfall is that you’ve taught your child that crying for something solves the problem. They cry, you come back and solve the problem of the toy on the floor. You’ve taught them to cry for what they want, because it works.

The second, most important pitfall for backing down is that is shows them that you don’t mean what you say. You lose credibility, and credibility is so important in all things parenting. Your child needs to know that when you say something, you mean it and you’re going to follow through on it.

So how do you avoid the pitfalls, and put a quick end to this game without causing your child distress or unnecessary fussing, without removing the toy for good?

The strategy

The trick to avoiding the pitfalls is simple.  All you do when that toy hurtles out of the cot is: WAIT.

Just give it a few minutes. No you don’t need to rush in there the minute they start crying. Instead go in at your leisure; delay your response. When you do go in, pick up the toy, pop it back into the cot and turn around and leave. That’s it.

Don’t make eye contact with your child. Don’t say anything. Just quietly pick up the toy, put it back, leave the room and wait.

If she does it again, then as before, you will wait a few minutes before you return. You’ll pick up the toy, pop it back into the cot, and leave the room.

Why does this work?

Why does this work? It’s boring! It’s such a boring game for your child he’ll lose interest much faster than before. For the simple reason he’s not getting any attention from you. There’s no eye contact. No tickles or hugs.  He’s not even getting told off. He gets nothing but his toy back.

Most children engage in this behaviour because it gets them attention.  So when you go in, become boring, return the toy and leave, the game playing stops very quickly.

For some children, it might take a couple of nights, but it won’t be long before they realise it’s not worth it, and it makes more sense to hold onto their toy.

Let me know how you get on!

Are you a seasoned parent who has played this game? How long did it last and what did you do about it? I’d love to hear your story.

Kim

xx

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