Skip to main navigation Skip to content
Please enter a search term

Dealing with big behaviours

Dealing with big behaviours

We have a very strong willed wild loving funny clever beautiful red headed 2.5year old daughter who has taken a great interest in swiping her full plate of dinner off her tray at dinner time if she doesn’t get her own way (tv turned off, not her certain fork, her sock is on the wrong foot etc). My husband and I don’t know how to deal with this correctly. We have tried lots of things - help cleaning, ignoring it etc but nothing works. We are lost. Any advice would be lovely.

Well, that does sound like a 'mess' if you'll pardon my pun. I'd like to compliment you on maintaining a sense of humour, or at least good grace, in the face of this issue.

This kind of behaviour is about learning the limits of her power, which is not a lesson that is easy to learn. It's connected to finding out she's separate from you and it's about figuring out what it means to be a separate human being with separate desires, needs and wants. 

There are many ways to handle the temper tantrum that leads her to throw her food, but I approach it gently, from an understanding of why it's happening.

You can say, "flicking/chucking/swiping [choose your preferred verb] the food off your tray is inappropriate/messy/gross [again, choose the adjective you like best], I'm not going to let you do that". And, take the food away for now. If she cries and rages, that's fine, she's expressing her feelings. The sock, the fork, the tv are all reactions to her not getting her way and you'll allow her the space to process those feelings by taking her temper-object away: the tray of food.

She's learning that the world doesn't bend to her every whim which is quite a depressing lesson to learn. Let her rage, let her cry, let her be angry, that's all perfectly normal and healthy and it lets her process her feelings of powerlessness and being out of control.

When she's calmed down, you can ask her if she'd like her dinner again. If she says yes, great. If not, maybe offer her an apple or some other veg or fruit.

Good luck!

Dr Rebecca English

Dr Rebecca English

Lecturer, Faculty of Education (QUT)

See more

Other questions about this topic

Is time-out okay for kids?

I’ve always understood that time-out was a reasonable way to deal with behaviour issues. Now I’m seeing some articles suggesting that time-out has had its day. Is time-out OK and if not, what’s the alternative?

Learning to follow directions

I have a 3.5-year-old who won’t listen to anything. We both just end up getting upset. I'm concerned that she will face problems in preschool if she won’t start following directions.

Help! My child is biting other children

I’m so embarrassed but my child care provider called me in to say my two-year-old has been biting other children. I hate to think what the other parents must be thinking. What do I do?

Preparing a toddler for a new baby

My toddler isn’t happy about the arrival of our second child. How do I prepare my child for the birth a new baby?

4-yr-old throwing tantrums

I have a four year old daughter, and the tantrums are worse now than they were in the ‘terrible twos’. She seems to fluctuate from happiness to meltdown so quickly and sometimes it seems that no amount of effort from us helps. Is this normal? I thought she’d be growing out of this by now.