Sunday, April 10, 2011

I do what I want!

Please tell me...How do you get a 16 month old to understand that NO does not in fact mean DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN?

I have been fortunately blessed with a very good natured, mild-mannered child (she takes after her father). She is crazy well behaved (yes I know this will change any day now) but there are certain things she just loves to do that she is not supposed to do, and no matter how many times I tell her no, she continues to do them.

What? What did I do? You can't be made at this face! 
There are a few of these instances that surround meal time. She insists on feeding our dog no matter what time of day and what she is eating. It was cute at first (my husband still loves it, as does the pooch) but now it drives me insane, because she is throwing food on the floor that the pooch won't eat most of the time (our dog is a food snob - fine meats and cheese, please, woof). I am constantly telling her "No M. Do not throw that on the floor. Keep it on your tray." and actually grabbing her hand when she is mid-drop to stop her. She looks at me with this sheepish grin on her face and her big blue eyes that make me melt...and then sticks her arm over the side and drops the morsel on the ground. It is like she knows it drives me crazy!!

The second instance is when she decides to swipe her tray with her hands and again make all her food hit the ground. I thought at first this was a sign of her being done, but no, I have come to find out she just likes to do it...especially when the food is extra messy and hard for me to clean up. I will put pieces of fish on her tray, and some vegg, and she will go crazy and swipe her hands back and forth on the tray making her food fly everywhere. The pooch loves this, I do not. Again I grab her hands and say "Do Not Do That M" but she looks at me with that snaggly tooth smile and my anger immediately subsides...until five minutes later when I have fish in my hair.

Another thing she constantly does is fall back from a seated position - mostly in the bath tub. She thinks this is extra hilarious, but it boils my blood. No matter how many times I tell her not to do it, she continues to do it. Little does she know that if I wasn't there to grab her she would seriously hurt herself. I hold the back of her head and force her to sit up, but she continues to push against my hand laughing hysterically. At that point I just take her out of the bath because I can't deal with it anymore. I think this is something she does in her crib (where she still wears her helmet and can land safely on her mattress) and doesn't realize that she could actually hurt herself doing this in the tub.

There are other things I tell her not to do (put the dogs leash in her mouth, drop her sippy cup on the floor no matter where she is) but she either doesn't understand what No means, or does and loves to drive me crazy. I am hoping for the former, but I suspect it is the latter.

Any advice Mamas? How do you get your toddler to understand that NO means NO and not do it again and again until your Mama is driven to drink multiple glasses of wine???


  1. We had pasta actually fly to the wall today...after some very strong mama no's. However, they didn't work so well. I think it is just their way of pushing our buttons since we must push theirs sometimes ...

  2. We're in the same boat! Ava does both throwing food on the floor and the wiping clear of the tray, and - until we figure out a better solution - we take that to mean that mealtime is over, and tell her a firm no and get her out. She seems to only do it when she's not hungry anymore. Maybe that's just her signal that she's done?

  3. The food thing is challenging, but you're doing all the right things. Just don't think that she's not noticing your serious. Being consistent is all you can do and eventually they'll get it. I got so frustrated one time that I smacked P's hand, but he laughed anyway. Eventually she'll understand that you mean business. The only thing that worked is removing him from the situation after the first warning, and he deliberately did it again. For instance, after the second time he throws food, the tray is removed and meal time is done. Sounds harsh, but when they understand that their actions result in a strict consequence, they eventually catch on. Good luck! We're going through trials here too!

  4. Just read somewhere that when they start throwing like mad people to put a bowl on their tray and have them put their food in the bowl. Apparently it gives them the power they want to say ALL DONE without throwing it all over. Still need to try. In the meantime I am thankful for our dog :)

  5. While I'm quite sure my almost 15 month old fully understands everything I say, I've come to the conclusion that he simply does not grasp the concept of 'No'. We had a similar episode yesterday of both the food throwing and self injury - he was digging his fingernails into his cheeks as he was eating. He's teething so I understand why he was doing this, but I'd prefer he not maim his face while it's covered in yogurt and saliva. I kept telling him 'No' and pushing his hand away from his mouth. Each time I would get more stern and he would laugh harder.

    Then today, as he was trying to push a toy car through our window screen I again gave a firm 'No' and he immediately dropped the car and went to dig at his cheek with his fingers! So now I guess I taught him 'No' means whatever it is he is doing when I repetitively say 'No'. Same goes for 'Stop!' and 'Stop it!'.

    Today for lunch I tried a different approach to the food throwing and face scratching that seemed to work! Other than my own son, I have zero child behavior experience, but I have worked with animals (cats& dogs). When you want dogs to do something (or not to do something) the most effective methods are 1)distraction and 2) positive reinforcement. So as soon as my son started to throw food I pointed out food on his tray to try, he tried some, then would throw it, so I gave him a little of something else. This continued until he had a mixture of carrots, cherrios, strawberries, cheese, and frozen corn on his plate - the pasta & spinach we started with were on the floor. When he tossed the sippy I wouldn't give it back to him until he actually seemed thirsty - & after eating some more food. When he went to dig at his face I immediately asked him 'to reach to the sky' (his newest trick) which he happily showed off by raising both his arms and I praised him for it. Then we started giving each other double high fives while he had his hands in the air which cracked him up even more than me pulling his hand away from his mouth while saying 'No' the day prior.

    For dinner tonight I tried the same method of just giving him a little bit at a time of different things and hardly anything ended up on the floor!! And what was on the floor was from food that missed his mouth and not food that was deliberately tossed. I really wish I figured out that my son works this way sooner. It made my day.

  6. Ah, toddlers!!! It is true that they understand the concept of "no," but they are not yet able to control strong impulses. Just keep setting limits/distracting/giving choices and when they are developmentally ready, they'll be able to hold back from the strong impulse to throw/swipe/run/etc!

  7. Oh, I have to add, read The Emotional Life of the Toddler by Lieberman if you want a deeper understanding of how the mysterious toddler mind works :)