The Eyeglasses-Grabbing Toddler
I’m curious what our tone and facial expressions need to be when you say “hands are not for hitting it hurts.” Do you hold their hands together gently and look them in the eye?
He’s been throwing food for about 2 months now and we look the other way and pay it no attention and don’t pick up the food and cup. It’s gotten way better but now he’ll aggressively try and take my husbands and I’s glasses off and chuck them across the room.
I need your help! Thank you and I look forward to hearing what your advice is!
This sounds very clearly like deliberate, attention-seeking behavior! So do not reward it with even the slightest bit of attention! Like a fire being starved of oxygen, starve his LOOK AT ME WHILE I REMOVE YOUR ABILITY TO CLEARLY LOOK AT MEEEEEEEEEEE antics with the opposite of what he wants.
How to respond to your toddler grabbing and throwing your eyeglasses
1. Of course, you have to at least get up and retrieve your glasses, which might feel like you’re playing along with his maddening game of fetch. But yeah, you have to at least get up and retrieve your glasses!
2. I would respond with a flat but firm, “No thank you, we do not do that” (or some variation).
3. If you’re holding him or he’s on your lap, put him immediately down.
4. Walk away, get your glasses, and then look at something — anything — other than him for a minute or two.
5. Once they’re back on your face, look at him and either: A) say something like, “I need my glasses to see. Now I can see you!”, or B) redirect him completely to a different activity — one that preferably will allow you to give him some genuine positive attention. Or both, depending on whether you think thing A would be perceived as part of the “game” or be a helpful repetition to teach him WHY he shouldn’t do that anymore (a la “hands are not for hitting, hitting hurts“).
Try “I need my glasses to see, I need my glasses to see YOU”
I’m guessing that at least some of the time, he’s grabbing and throwing your glasses when your eyes and attention are on something that Is Not Him. So his toddler brain is like, AHA! If I grab the thing that’s right in front of their eyes, they will look at me instead! But since he’s actually taking away your ability to look at anything, it might help — in this particular case — if your go-to STOP DOING THAT, CHILD phrase of repetition reminds him that by taking your glasses, he’s actually taking away the thing he wants! “I need my glasses to see, I need my glasses to see YOU.”
Repeat, repeat, repeat
And when I say “phrase of repetition,” you know I mean “phrase you will repeat and repeat and repeat until you feel like a broken record.” Because this flavor of behavior — alllllll the negative attention-seeking behaviors, like hitting, throwing food/toys, hair pulling, etc. — will not vanish the first or third or maybe even 10th time you try to correct it. It’s a slow burn, and a slow lesson for toddlers to learn that the behavior isn’t consistently achieving the desired result. In part because we parents are human beings, and it’s hard for US to consistently respond to these behaviors with a completely flat affect and zero reaction. Hitting DOES hurt! I don’t LIKE getting whacked in the face with a hard plastic toy! Glasses are expensive and fragile and I NEED MY GLASSES TO SEEEEEEEEE.
Focus on Positive Attention
So, you know. Do your best. Focus your attention on finding and retrieving your glasses. Take a moment to pull yourself together and mask your (understandable) annoyance at him. Go clean the lenses for a minute or two, inspect them for damage, etc. (Similar to what you’d ideally do if your son hit another child — focus your immediate attention on the other child, not his behavior.) When you’re ready, give him some positive attention in a completely different context, like correctly identifying a picture in a word book, completing a puzzle, or even just sitting nicely on your lap without grabbing those tempting, shiny glasses.
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