The I was reading one your articles about emotional self control. My 3-year-old daughter is constantly throwing her food on the floor. As you can imagine it makes us very angry.
We have yelled at her and given her time-outs {which of course neither has worked}! Do you have any suggestions on how we should handle this?
Michael answers:
Never yell unless they are about to step in front of a moving vehicle. Yellers are never trainers; they are competitors, the other side of the street fight. Parents are cool, confident, poised, always in control. Kids yell at each other if they are not trained. But then if a parent is not trained….Never give time-outs. Time-outs are what you do for fruit when you want it to ferment. Time-outs are statements that you are not in control and so have to call a truce, hoping the other side will deal with the problem before you are both in the same room again. No, I can not imagine that her throwing food on the floor makes you angry. You had to tell me that, for getting angry at a child for doing what she is trained to do should never make anyone angry. I suspect very much that you are often angry over many things, not just the child’s behavior. Anger is a personal issue that must be resolved with God’s help. It is not caused by someone else, especially not a small child. Now that I have scolded you, I will tell you how to train the child not to throw food on the floor. This is profound. Don’t pick it up and don’t give her any more food. And don’t show any emotion what so ever. Just grin, for you know that you are going to win. When she discovers that this is not a game with two players, that all she is doing is depriving herself of food, she will hang on to every morsel. If she comes to the table hungry and you put before her only what she can and will eat, she will not throw it away. Her selfish instincts will lead her to be protective of her food. Now, if you are prone to feed her sweets or greasy snacks between meals and after meals then I can understand perfectly well why she throws broccoli and spinach on the floor. Smart kid. She is entertained and empowered when you get mad and scream. It’s fine with her as long as she gets the sweets later. But if you limit her food to healthy fare that she only eats at meals, it would not be in her interest to leave the table hungry and have to wait until the next meal.