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Twins/Toddler Tuesday

The Day We Threw His Toys Away

Lately my son has been going (what I hope) is a phase where he is violent and yesterday I literally reached the end of my rope, but I think I finally got through to him.

I love my son, but lately I he has been testing his boundaries because he has started talking back to me, yelling, throwing things, and worst of all, hitting (including punching, kicking etc.).  If he were only doing it to me, I would probably be more understanding, but when I see attack the two babies or the dogs I go ballistic.  The girls are only 12 months old and it is my job to protect them and take care of them.  I carry around the episode of CSI Las Vegas in my head whether the three-year old accidentally kills his baby brother by smothering him with a pillow.  I know that even when he doesn’t mean to hurt them he still can.

Yesterday he meant to hurt them.  He walked up to his baby sister and punched her three times in the face before I could break it up.  Then, here I was trying to comfort a very upset baby with tears streaming down her face, her sister getting upset because I don’t have her in my lap as well, and him running around the room knowing he did something wrong and seeing I had my hands full.

Discipline is hard when you are outnumbered by your children.  In the past we have sent him to the corner for a time out, sent him to his room, and taken away cartoons, but lately nothing seems to work any more.  I admit part of the problem is me because I come home from work, usually hungry and tired, to my house which is now a chaotic mess from the kids running around all day (my husband watches them until he goes to work and then my parents cover off the couple of hours until I get home).  It’s dark and cold and we can’t go outside and they have energy to burn, I get it.  I hated being cooped up too, the nights seem twice as long.  It’s really hard for me to enforce things because the babies are still so young and between the two of them they are more than enough to keep me busy.

playing in the tent

playing in the tent

But yesterday I was really trying.  I had a coffee, put on a movie for him, and got on the floor and built his cars tent with him so we could have a slumber party, but still he was being just plain awful.

By 7:00pm I was so frustrated and upset I sent him to the basement for a time out and called daddy.  He said it had been a tough day and suggested we start “throwing away” his toys.

To be honest, I didn’t think it would work.  He has hundreds of dollars worth of toys he never plays with, instead always taking things that aren’t toys (like pieces of the vacuum cleaner) and starting an argument. (My kid is very smart, and believe me, even though he is only three he knows exactly how to push mommy’s buttons).

I remember when I was a child my mother told me that if I didn’t clean my room she would throw out all my toys and I laughed until one day she did.  She put them all in a garbage bag, and I still called her bluff.  It wasn’t until garbage day, when I ran outside dragging my grandmother, tears streaming down my face because the garbage bag of toys was right there on the curb heaped with the other garbage bags that I knew she was serious.  Nana had to go through a few bags of actual garbage to find my precious Cabbage Patch kids, and from then on, I knew what my mom was capable of.

So I went for it.  I explained to Sawyer, yet again, that we treat others the way we would want to be treated which means no hitting (kicking, punching, etc.).  I told him that every time he hurt someone, whether it was me, his sisters or the dogs I would take a toy and put it in the garbage. He told me he didn’t care because he had more toys.  I said eventually those would be gone too.  “I’ll just play with the baby toys” he bragged.  I told him he wouldn’t because those toys belonged to his sisters.

It wasn’t long before he started pretending to kick his sister.  I warned him again, “remember the rule, if you kick her you will lose a toy”.  He looked at me and went right on to kick her (not hard).  So I went and got out a big garbage bag from under the sink and he started freaking out.  I picked up Annie (or Clarabelle, they look both the same) and put her in the bag.  He lost it!  He started crying and screaming and shaking.  He came over and hugged me and I held him while he cried and told him that I was sorry but he had a choice and he chose to kick and so he has lost one of his toys.  He got so upset, he peed his pants.

I took him upstairs to change and put the girls to bed while he was getting his pyjamas.  And you know what?  After weeks of this escalating behaviour he was suddenly my sweet little boy again.  He put on his socks all by himself for the first time and we both relished in the moment.  Then as he ran around naked I jokingly told him that when he grew up I would tell his girlfriend all about it (expecting him not to understand).  Standing there naked he raised his hand and smacked it across his forehead with a sigh.  “No mommy,” he said, “you can’t tell her that.  She will laugh at me”.  At which point I just broke out into laughter.

Today I am working a 13 hour shift so I won’t see him, but tomorrow I am off so we will see how it goes.  I am worried that eventually he will become “immune” to this punishment as well, but I am hoping he won’t because the girl’s safety (and my sanity depends on it).

Oh, and as for the toys, of course we are not really going to throw them away.  We are just going to hide them for a while.  I suggested to hubs that maybe down the line we could start offering some of them back as a reward for good behaviour, once he gets out of the habit of hitting, but he wasn’t so sure about that, so we will see.

Have you ever had to resort to desperate measures?  What do you do when an older sibling attacks a baby?  Please feel free to share all your discipline tips and tricks, especially for those of us with more than two children.


About Shannon

I am a university educated full-time working mother of four children. Proudly Canadian, I freeze my butt off along with my loving partner, two dogs and a cat. I hope you enjoy reading my posts as much as I love writing them, but if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.


38 thoughts on “The Day We Threw His Toys Away

  1. Gosh, I so totally feel for you!

    I’ll be honest — I have two very conflicting thoughts. The first one wants me to tell you “No, don’t do it! Everything I’ve read so far says punishment doesn’t work. It will make your son feel diminished and powerless and he will probably look for other ways to get back to you.” The second one tells me to just shut up! I’ve been there and I know how hard discipline in the “real world” is. I have just 1 kid and I can barely keep up and you are doing great with 3!!! So, I’ll just offer some of these that have worked for us in the hopes that you can adopt some of them in your house in some way perhaps?

    – When my daughter doesn’t clean up her toys we get unexpected surprise visits from the “toy cops” in the night when we sleep. It doesn’t happen every night, but once when she didn’t cleanup for several nights the toy cops heard about it and they came over when we were sleeping and took away a whole box of toys. They contained some of her favorites and were gone for several months, until Santa negotiated with the toy cops and put the lost box of toys under the tree during Christmas. When you are not the person who took away the toys, they don’t have to hatch up plans to get back at you. She cleans up most of the time by herself these days and I help her if I am done with my chores. Hopefully, someday by the time she realizes there are no toy cops or Santa for that matter, this won’t matter anymore 🙂

    – She has a personal fair called Chobani (long story) who brings her surprise presents (usually books, sometimes trinkets from dollar store or toys that mom doesn’t approve of). When we were having a rough patch of her feeling grumpy every. single. day when I picked her up from school (a combination of new school schedule + wouldn’t eat lunch + dropped nap etc), and I was at my wits end, Chobani started leaving her a surprise present (trinkets) every single day with occasional little notes about good behavior. As my daughter got adjusted to the new schedule and started eating better and could do without naps, Chobani got her a slightly big-ish present with a note saying she had to go out of town and would not be able to visit for several days. And somehow we had made it though a very rough phase. On occasion, Chobani has given her reward sheets to complete in exchange for surprises too. It works out when your mom is not enforcer and maker-upper of rules… somehow it is easier when things come from an exotic invisible personal fairy who pampers her most of the time 🙂

    – When she doesn’t play well with her toys (example throw or hurl things, or use it in a way that is harmful) or shows poor attitude after a board game, the toy/game goes away for the rest of the month. At first there were some tears, but now it has been accepted enough that even if she is agitated, she will hand me to the toy to be “put away” for the rest of the month. She always gets it back at the beginning of the next month, and of course, it goes away again if the bad behavior is repeated. Over the past year “Chutes and Ladders” has spent long periods sitting in the in the “go away” corner of the closet 🙂

    – Lots and lots of unexpected hugs and cuddling from mom at unexpected times for no reason at all. I think of it as putting a deposit in the bank that she’ll hopefully learn to cash out later when I am not in a place (either physically or emotionally) to give them to her. Seems to be working…

    Whoa, that was way longer than I’d expected. Anyway, good luck! I hope it all sorts out and you all get through this phase feeling more closer to each other.

    Posted by Sumitha (@afineparent) | January 29, 2014, 12:14 pm
    • Thanks so much for your thoughts on the topic. You are right, I am extremely torn between what is fair for my son, and what is fair for my baby girls. I wouldn’t normally result to these drastic measures but he could seriously hurt, or even kill one of the babies so I can’t let his behaviour continue. I have read several books and articles on the topic, but many of the useful suggestions do not work in a household with multiple children, never mind twins. And as for the hugging, well I don’t know if you read about my pledge to hug my children, but yesterday when I tried to hug him he screamed at me and hit me. I was trying the angle “I can see you are not yourself today, what’s wrong? Could you use a cuddle?” But he would have none of it. I am hoping he will outgrow this phase soon. Plus it will be different when the twins are older and can handle a smack or two, but as little defenseless babies, it’s not fair for them to be his punching bag. I really appreciate all your suggestions and I do see the difference between me being the bad/ good guy and someone else. Cheers!

      Posted by Shannon | January 29, 2014, 1:12 pm
  2. Oh man.. that’s a serious situation! My son fortunately has always been very protective and caring of his sister… but he sees it as his mission to do so.. kind of like a super hero .. but on the flip side.. When my daughter gets mad at her brother she doesn’t even pause before she hits him… Because we’re martial artists we look at things at a slightly different perspective.. physical actions have physical consequences.. So my daughter will have to do 10 ninja pushup (sprawls) and then we’ll reflect on why she felt she made the decision and then go over again what is a better way to show your anger (ie words, talking to an adult). We’ve taken toys away if they’re being irresponsible with them.. ie not cleaning their rooms or leaving them in a place they could get damaged or stolen. We keep it long enough to make our point and give them back when they’ve shown they’ve been responsible with other things or instead of getting their allowance they can get it back…

    Posted by ninjasinstitches | January 29, 2014, 12:48 pm
    • Thanks for sharing. Sawyer used to be very protective of his sisters as well, and he is usually so helpful with them. It’s just the past couple of weeks that I have noticed things spiraling out of control. I am hoping when they get older it will be easier because he will be able to understand more and once the girls aren’t babies, a hit or a kick does not pose such a threat to their safety. I love that you are martial artists, I think that is a great activity for both mind and spirit. Maybe that’s what I should be doing too. Let him channel it into class. I do admit I think the fact that this winter has been so brutally cold and snowy leaving us outdoorsy family trapped inside contributes to the situation. Thanks again!

      Posted by Shannon | January 29, 2014, 1:16 pm
  3. I think you do what you have to do to survive, my son went through a hitting phase now we have a showing off and being rude phase. I think taking away special things is more effective than screaming at your children to get them to listen…Well done you, I do agree he should be able to earn them back

    Posted by Expat Mammy | January 29, 2014, 12:58 pm
  4. My son is 3 and getting into the same habits, hitting and kicking his little brother and sister. I am at my wits end. I think I am going to try this too and hope for the best!! Thanks so much for sharing, I hope it works out well for both of us!

    Posted by MommaNeedsCoffee | January 29, 2014, 2:01 pm
    • Thanks! Good luck to you. I know it’s kinda weird for me because I have two babies (I often forget that that’s not how or usually is) but no matter what it is so hard trying to keep the best interests of all your children at heart when they conflict. I know yours are younger too, so if you do figure out something that works please let me know. Parenting is never boring eh?

      Posted by Shannon | January 29, 2014, 2:38 pm
      • Boring is definitely not a word I would use to describe parenting ha ha. I sat down with him today after he pushed his brother (22 months) because he wanted the toy he was playing. I explained that if he couldn’t be nice to his brother and sister I was going to have to start taking his toys away from him. I told him that I bought the toys for a nice boy and he wasn’t showing me that he was a nice boy anymore. He got upset and cried, so we had a cuddle and for the last 2 or so hours before bedtime there were no issues… Hopefully it stays that way *fingers crossed* I know he is only three and three year olds want to play more physically, but I need him to learn there is a time and a place for it.

        Posted by MommaNeedsCoffee | January 29, 2014, 8:37 pm
  5. Oh dear I feel you…Discipline is so tricky when you are outnumbered and all of them are so, so little but as you said violence is unacceptable. I did resort to the you throwing strategy and it worked a couple of times but now G (age 3) starts throwing the toys in the trash himself. I am at loss at what I could do because he has no notion of ‘tomorrow’ so canceling playmates is not working and also it often feels like any punishment of him is like big punishment to us. For example, when I cancelled screen time I removed the one hour I could actually breathe and relax! Lately it seems that jealousy between them is the trigger that worked better e.g. I am not throwing your car but I am giving it to your brother, sister or best bud etc.anyway good luck!

    Posted by redlipstickmama | January 29, 2014, 2:44 pm
    • I totally know what you mean! Like if we are out and they are bad my mom said just threaten to take them home and do it, but I don’t want to go home! Luckily, they are usually really well behaved outside the house. I am really worried he will get immune to this too, but that’s why I want to reserve it only for acts of violence and use other things for more minor infractions. Just like your son, once we had taken away tv time a couple of times, I would warn him and he would walk up and turn the tv off himself! I don’t know if he is jealous of the girls but I do think that it is also an attention issue. At his age he just wants it, positive or negative. That’s why if I do notice I am neglecting him a bit I cut him some slack, but yesterday I was right there with him doing my best to keep him entertained. Thanks so much for sharing and your kind words. I wish the best of luck to you too! Yesterday I kept flashing back to a post I wrote in October called “They call it terrible twos and threes because F#ck$ng Awful doesn’t start with a T” Two was great for us, but three has been a challenge.

      Posted by Shannon | January 29, 2014, 2:54 pm
  6. We haven’t gotten to this age yet so I have no advice but just wanted to offer HUGS

    Posted by Theresa | January 29, 2014, 3:12 pm
    • Thank you so much Theresa. I really do appreciate it. I don’t have any mommy friends in “real life” but there is so much wisdom and support in the blogging community I am so thankful to have it.

      Posted by Shannon | January 29, 2014, 3:19 pm
  7. My son is 8 and we noticed that his behavior changed when our second child arrived. I have also threatened to take toys way. It’s tough but we thought it:’s best hat he understands about consequences now that he is sill young.

    Posted by The Vanilla Housewife | January 29, 2014, 3:42 pm
    • I’d imagine having such an age difference brings with it its own sense of challenges. Sawyer was so young, he was never jealous per se (although that is kind of starting now). I can imagine how it must feel to be your one and only for so long and then have competition. Good luck to you, I am sure, in the end they will become friends. Cheers.

      Posted by Shannon | January 29, 2014, 4:31 pm
  8. I think this would work for cooper. He tends to throw his toys and it drives me nuts. And often Sawyer will take a toy to the voice. My girlfriend does something similar. She has a tall entertainment center in her living room. When her son does something naughty the toy goes on top of the entertainment center. She says it has worked wonders because he can ‘see’ the consequence.

    Posted by findingcoopersvoice | January 29, 2014, 7:02 pm
    • That’s a good idea. You have to be very basic and straight forward for things to work. That’s why I wanted this to be for violence only. Plus you have to balance it with good attention. Good luck to you, he is such a special little guy 🙂

      Posted by Shannon | January 29, 2014, 9:32 pm
  9. My step son (6) has a lot of violent behavior in general. He has only been in school a few months and has already been labeled the class bully. He and my son (3) often get into arguments and he lashes out by hitting, kicking, punching, etc. He completely lacks empathy in every situation. With the birth of my son in November I finally had to lay it straight with DH and tell him that he has got to get a hold of his son because I will absolutely lose it if he harms that baby in any way. We’ve tried time outs and taking away toys, TV and video games. The latter two seem to work best because he can always go find another toy and he knows he will only be in time out for a few minutes. So far he has not harmed the baby but has said a few things that let me know he is VERY jealous of him. He was daddy’s baby before our son was born and now he senses some competition.
    Good luck with your son. I know how frustrating it can be.

    Posted by Amanda | January 29, 2014, 8:33 pm
    • Thanks for your supportive comments. I can imagine how you feel, it sounds like a potentially scary situation. We tried tv first but it wasn’t long before he didn’t care anymore and would just walk up and turn the tv off himself. He is a real fashionista who loves his clothes, but I hesitate to take those because he actually needs them. Good luck to you and congrats on your new baby 🙂

      Posted by Shannon | January 29, 2014, 9:35 pm
  10. I am all for punishment. Its a life lesson. We dont all win all the time and when you do not do what you are supposed to, you get into trouble. I feel the same way about rewarding. You do something you get something-I mean would you go to work if you didnt get paid? I for one would not.
    My kids are not allowed to play legos for a week. They didnt clean it up, and I had to. I gave them 2 warnings, sent them to bed and then cleaned it up myself. Was there crying when they were not allowed to play with them? Yes, but it has been 3 days and they get it. I have not had to ask them to clean up the toys. Its a normal life lesson imho. I am so over some parents and schools that are anti-punishment-I can talk to them until I am blue in the face. Taking their stuff works better
    Example-drink and drive and you lose your license. The judge doesnt give you a stern talking to and give you back your keys. He also takes A LOT of your money.
    Good job mom!!! Let him earn those toys back, You are doing a GREAT job!

    Posted by Abby | January 29, 2014, 10:21 pm
    • Thank you so much! There is nothing as painful as stepping on Lego! I very much agree with you in that it’s good to get your kids prepared for what it will be like in the real world. I guess I was just hoping that at three, I had a little more time than that. Thanks again for commenting. You are a great mom too.

      Posted by Shannon | January 29, 2014, 11:27 pm
      • or having to replace (more than once) a vacuum cleaner… I think I found what stops the suction on a dyson! hee hee
        please you are lucky you had until 3-my oldest (now 6) started biting on the playground at 2…lovely!!


        Posted by Abby | January 30, 2014, 8:39 am
  11. Three year olds are arseholes. The good news is they get better and my about eight (apparently) they are cured of it.

    We did the toy taking away thing, too, and at first it seemed to work and then after a bit our son decided that he could “buy” opportunities to behave poorly with his remaining toys. As in, “Mum, can you confiscate my toys because I’m just in the middle of doing X, Y or Z.” He got a big kick out of being so blatantly disobedient and making absolutely sure I knew he was misbehaving.


    Posted by Bronwyn Joy @ Journeys Of The Fabulist | January 29, 2014, 10:40 pm
  12. Been there, done that. Taking toys away was painful for my eldest and youngest, but my middle child hated time out. It’s about finding what works best for your individual child. The good thing about taking the toys away was them being able to earn them back. They see the benefit of being good when they are rewarded. Hope you make some progress. As with everything I have found along the way, it is always a phase that will eventually pass.

    Posted by Nicola Young | January 30, 2014, 4:51 am
  13. I love this. I’ve told my 5 year old boy before that I’m going to throw away his toys when he behaves badly (back-talk, mostly, and deliberate disobedience), but I’ve never followed through. My fault, my fault. Empty threats won’t teach him anything.
    After reading about the IMMEDIATE result you had with Sawyer, though — I am DEFINITELY following through next time. Bravo.

    Posted by tawnimarie | January 30, 2014, 4:42 pm
  14. I think you’re on a winner. We need to do something similar for my son who us 4 and beginning to back chat and deliberately ignore instructions. But I like the idea of earning them back too. A bit of redemption. And if he gets to see the bag of toys and choose one to have back, he’ll see what else has been taken away and hopefully work hard to get more back. It’s a theory anyway 😉

    Posted by linbritt | February 2, 2014, 5:08 am
    • Thanks! With him, if he knows they are just in a bag, he won’t care anymore and it won’t work so we are going to say they have gone to the garbage dump. We are thinking that if he has a good day he will get rewarded by the fairy who will bring back one of his toys from the garbage dump while he sleeps as a reward. So far, since we did this on Tuesday he has only hit once! Considering he used to hit probably 10-20 times a day that is a HUGE improvement. I am keeping my fingers crossed that he is getting out of the habit. Good luck!

      Posted by Shannon | February 2, 2014, 8:14 am


  1. Pingback: If You Want To Be A Good Parent Be A Coach | A Game of Diapers - February 25, 2014

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