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Discipline for 1.5yo at meal times?

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Katie (1.5yo) has been an absolute disaster at meals lately. She will take a few bites of her food and then start throwing food across the table. As soon as she starts the boys will start laughing, which I know only encourages her. I always take her plate away and try to feed her myself. She will refuse to eat and start screaming because she wants her plate back. For the past two days she has needed extra milk to make up for the food she isn't eating.:glare:


She has also started drinking from her sippy and then spitting the water out. She does this both at the table and when she has her sippy around the house. She is all of a sudden happy to sit down with a sippy of water and spit the whole thing out onto herself. :confused:


The boys never did anything like this when they were younger and I have no idea how to handle it. I really want to put a stop to it before it gets anymore out of control. DH and I have gotten to the point where we are dreading dinner time. She spends the entire time either acting up or screaming.


My problem is that I have no idea what is appropriate discipline for an 18 month old. My boys were nothing like Katie when they were younger, so I have no experience with anything like this. She is the sweetest, most lovely little girl ever. But she is also so NAUGHTY!


Does anyone have any advise for me?

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Sounds like very normal 18 month old behavior to me. I'm just surprised that your boys never did any of that! You've been lucky. :001_smile:


We always take away whatever food/drink is being played with. Ignore the screaming, and don't give her back her plate or drink until she is calm. Then try again with a small amount of food. If she begins throwing it again, just get her down because she's not eating anyway and you can minimize the mess.


Eventually, she will get through this phase. In the meantime, try not to let it bother you too much. It's very typical for a one year old to throw food and spit out liquids.

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Ah...yes. I remember this phase. What a mess.


My younger was a food thrower. Such a charming behavior. :glare:


It helped to only give him only a very small amount of food at a time. I'd put 2 toast squares on his high-chair tray. Then 4 cheerios. Then 1 slice of cooked carrot, or one cube of cheese, or whatever.


It didn't stop the throwing, but it limited the mess.


I remember his brother laughing at the food-throwing. Little stinkers. ;)

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Sounds like being a babe to me. She will outgrow it. I am not sure that's what you want to hear...


Babies really mostly drink (although some east with gusto) and pick at food. I wouldn't be expecting her to sit at a table to eat a full meal...a couple of bites.


As older kids, they love to sit at the table to eat (oy!) and have very good manners. You can take them anywhere. What is going on at 1 is not exactly what they will be doing later on. :lol: Try not to sweat it or project the same child throwing food or drinking from a sippy cup at age 12 or 18. It just will not be so.

Edited by LibraryLover
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My son (first child) just turned 19 months old. He went through this stage from 15 to 17 months. It was TERRRRRRIIIBLE with a capital T. Throwing food on the floor, tossing forks, screaming if he didn't immediately get his way, tantrums at the table, etc. We've been eating in restaurants 1-2 times per week from pretty much the day he was born, so we were especially frustrated with sudden "wild" behavior in public.


We did try popping his hand a few times but that never worked - it just didn't seem to get the message across plus it would kinda ruin the dinner for my husband and I as it made us feel bad (especially since we could tell he truly didn't understand what he had done wrong).


We went through this for over a month before we found something that worked! What we found that worked best for him was, when he would throw ANYTHING we would sternly say NO. Then we'd pick it up, put it back on his plate and then say "NO. Do not throw. You give to MOMMY / DADDY if you are done." then we'd model the behavior of giving it to us - and end with THANK YOU! Good boy. We didnt yell and tried our best not to show emotion other than that we disapproved of his behavior. Then we would go about our meal as if nothing had happened. We did this many MANY times. After 3 times in one meal we'd always say, "Ok, youre done. Playing with your food is not acceptable, so you are done." Then (at home) we would remove his plate, remove him from his chair, and put him on the floor. We would ignore his crying but we would always put him back in his chair to finish dinner if he asked. We would repeat the entire scenario over and over if needed (and sometimes it was!). We never force fed him ourselves and we never refused to let him finish his meal if he asked to get back in his chair. Our only focus was on redirecting his inappropriate behavior by modeling correct behavior (giving it to us instead of throwing).


By 18 months months, he had become really well mannered once more. When he is finished with a piece of food, he'll place it on his tray or hand it to one of us. When he's finished with his fork, he'll lay it down or hand it to one of us...then he gives us his plate, takes off his bib, touches his booster chair tray and says "Down? Down?". We respond with "Thank you!" after each item is given to us then a "Yes you may get down"....then lots of praise. We have always tried to praise correct mannered behavior no matter how young he was.


A big thing that helped us was consistency - my husband & I always used the same exact phrase when correcting and same method of correcting ("No. Do not throw. You give it to mommy / daddy if you are done."). It only took a a week of this before we noticed he fully understood us. Afterwards it took about 2 more weeks before he stopped "testing" us. Then the rude behavior stopped.


Just because a child is young doesn't mean they're too young to learn table manners! :) I think one of your main focuses too should be on getting your boys on board with not laughing at her. I always noticed my son acted up a LOT more when he thought he had an audience (my dad, his beloved PaPa, couldn't help but laugh at him when we were together...which would always cause a lot more throwing).


I'm surprised your sons skipped the throwing-at-mealtime stage! :-P It gives me hope that perhaps my future children won't go through such a phase like we went through with our son! haha :)




P.S. My son has always been expected to sit at a table for a full meal. Not always at home, especially when he learned to ask "Down?" when he was done, but he is expected to sit through a full restaurant meal and has done so very well (except for those two months that he was in the throwing stage) his whole life. I think those situations boils down to expectations of the parents. Family meal time is extremely important to us so we're willing to go through whatever it takes to teach correct manners.

Edited by Coleroo
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There is no appropriate discipline for an 18-month-old. The only thing you can really do is keep her from temptation, but that's a losing battle. One of my kids was like that -- flying food, mashed carrots all over the walls, and of course I was always wearing something down my shirt. The good news is that she'll grow out of that. She sounds like she's just having a good time with her food. :tongue_smilie:

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Babies this age (my youngest of five is 16 mos so I'm right there with you) appetites tend to taper off as their growth starts to slow a bit relative to their earlier babyhood. They also learn through experimentation. She's finding out that being the class clown gets laughter from her brothers but also she's learning what happens when she throws things or drops them or spits them. She has to preform these experiments a million times to make sure her results aren't a fluke.:D


Take the food away when she starts the games and discipline the *older* children not to laugh at her antics. And, as someone said, feed her alone before everyone else eats and let her play during the normal meal time.


My philosophy of discipline until they start getting some sense of reason (around 3ish) is just keep them from destroying the house or killing themselves. If you've done that, you've done well.


I wanted to add, all of my older children ages 4, 6, 10, and 13 have beautiful table manners and are well disciplined. I tagged this on to let you know that accepting life now as it is without trying to "discipline the behavior out" won't cause any long term problems. Sometimes maturity really is the only answer.

Edited by KJB
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I agree with not giving her a plateful of food, just one or two bites at a time that she can feed herself. Giving her some sign language can help, too--teach her all done and more, so she can express herself a little. I wouldn't exclude her from the table, even tho it's way easier! lol


Yep, she's experimenting and getting the reaction that is encouraging her from her brothers. It's hard to discipline them, when it IS funny! I like what Coleroo said about giving her a good example and a strong NO, still in a pleasant but firm voice, with lots of praise when she does it right.


I also wouldn't allow a sippy to be carried around at this point. Ymmv, of course.

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I agree with the others who said to tackle it dealing first with the older boys' behavior. This will be true many times in raising your little girl, I would imagine. Older siblings need to understand their the younger children in the family will take many (okay most!) cues from them and not just what the parents say/teach.


Also, I think feeding her before the family eats is a great idea, too.

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All of my kids have gone through this stage, and my 19mo is in the middle of it. When she starts misbehaving at the dinner table, we take her food away and put her in the living room. She is then free to roam underfoot while we finish the meal. She most likely will need a snack shortly afterwards, but we stop the misbehavior and give her a logical consequence.


In our house, toddler get to eat when they are hungry (as long as they behave). Dismissing her from the dinner table won't impact her overall consumption b/c she gets a snack when she's hungry again.

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Feed her first while dinner is cooking....far away from her audience. Let her toddle around underfoot during dinner. Table manners can come later.




I wholeheartedly agree with this. I don't think this is "nautiness", but simply normal development. She isn't trying to be bad, but she can't resist the positive reaction she is getting. The best discipline at this age is prevention and redirection. Make it easy for her to behave until she develops the self-control to be able to handle more temptation.


Remove the temptation by removing the audience. Also, give her only a few bites of food at a time.

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Thank you all for your responses.


The boys would throw food every once in a while when they were younger, but nothing like this. It is every meal and snack, every day! They were also all still nursing at her age and Katie weaned herself a while ago. I think part of the reason I was getting frustrated was that I don't want to see her food consumption go down and her milk consumption go up.


I will definitely start giving her less food at a time. I can't feed her dinner early because she eats the same food we do for dinner. I will also have another talk with the boys about not encouraging her. I think I will also try feeding her again after dinner. This way she will have another chance to get some food in her before her bedtime bottle.


I guess I just need to relax and let this phase pass. I was just getting frustrated because she suddenly does it ALL THE TIME! But now that I know it is so common, I will just try some of your suggestions and wait it out. Besides, today is my birthday so DH is in charge of the kitchen! :tongue_smilie:

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We always take away whatever food/drink is being played with. Ignore the screaming, and don't give her back her plate or drink until she is calm. Then try again with a small amount of food. If she begins throwing it again, just get her down because she's not eating anyway and you can minimize the mess.


This and


I would tell boys who laugh/encourage to leave the table if they can't control themselves. I found if that didn't cure their giggles, being the one to clean it up did.


And I would NOT give more milk. Just water is fine. And it will also not be counter productive by filling her up between meals - making it more likely she will eat more.


It's normal.

Mildly annoying.

But if dealt with simply and matter of factly, it will pass fairly quickly.


It's not naughty. It's just another fasinating discovery.


Same goes for the sippy cup. Altho I'd just put a small amount of water in it and then not care if she spits it out. Water doesn't stain and 1/3 of a sippy cup just gets her wet without much of a puddle. It's a phase that ends fairly quickly and fussing over a qtr cup of spill water just isn't important to me.

Edited by Martha
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