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Smaller portions can end food throwing behaviors

Avoiding a dinnertime mess can be as simple as giving children smaller portions.
Avoiding a dinnertime mess can be as simple as giving children smaller portions.
Matthew Cross

Parents see a mound of peas on a plate. Toddlers see a pile of tiny grenades that must be scattered around the dining room immediately.

Nowhere does the reality of at-home fatherhood rear its ugly head more that at the dinner table. And while food-throwing is a big problem in most households, it isn’t a topic that is typically covered in most parenting books and magazines.

So here’s a tip from an at-home dad who considers throwing food the eighth deadly sin: Give your child smaller portions.

My boys love peas. Between them, they can crush an entire can in one meal. But if I give them both a heaping helping, I spend the rest of my day cleaning peas out of the floor vent, the booster seats, and their pants. (I really don’t want to know the psychology of why my kids put peas in their pants, but they do.)

Sometimes food throwing is a simple matter of the child getting overwhelmed by too much food on his plate. It’s the same concept as having too many people in a room or too much noise around them. They get over-stimulated, and they lash out. With too much food, they throw it instead of throwing a tantrum.

I rarely have a problem when I give them one or two types of food on a plate in small portions, and then just reload their plate if they want more. Yes, this requires a bit more diligence during feeding times. But it saves my aching knees from crawling around on the linoleum, and it preserves my frustration threshold.

Anything at-home parents can do to sidestep stress in the house deserves our attention, but sometimes the food throwing is a boundary issue and cannot be avoided. The child wants to see what he can get away with, so he decides to conduct his own experiment on daddy’s patience.

These boundary tests are part of learning his environment and feeling his way through the world. But that doesn’t mean his actions should go unpunished.

How you punish food-throwing behaviors is every parent’s prerogative, but I can say that the whole “starving kids in China” routine is tired.


  • Lisa L 5 years ago

    My daughter Esme (22M) randomly loses it during dinner and uses a windshield wiper motion to clear the space in front of her. She has found this more effective than dropping each item individually and sends things flying farther. The cats especially enjoy this because sometimes it sends salmon flying into the living room where they are lounging and secretly laughing at me.

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