There are so many parents asking themselves how to stop a toddler grabbing everything!
It is a common complaint from parents of 1-3 year olds.
Their little bundles of energy just want to explore, but in doing so, they are on a mission to grab, keep, take and say, “MINE!”
Don’t worry though, toddlers are still human beings and are able to learn and adapt – through consistency and clear boundaries, and secure behaviour management techniques.
As they get older and start being able to express themselves better – verbally and emotionally, you will start to see less of these little bursts of “I want” and “mine”.
Stopping a toddler from grabbing everything requires a certain amount of discipline.
Discipline is NOT about telling them off, shouting, or slapping their hand or bottom.
It is actually about setting expectations and boundaries.
Why does it happen?
Babies and toddlers lack impulse control.
They are also completely unaware of the meaning of ownership!
All they know is that they want it, so they get it.
- TV remote
- Mobile phone
- Breasts (yep!)
- The dog or cat
- Other peoples faces
- Other children’s toys
Pretty much ANYTHING they can see, they seem to want!
One huge first step in battling the “gimmies” is to teach your toddler to ASK for things first.
Don’t allow them to just say, “mine”.
If this happens, move them away from the object or person and explain that he/she should ask first.
Do this every time they grab without asking.
Sometimes, toddlers actually grab at other children’s toys because they have “hidden feelings” that they do not know how to express.
Maybe your toddler has separation anxiety?
Does he/she have lots of toys at home? Or not many?
Here are the eight most effective strategies to use when trying to stop your toddler grabbing everything in sight!
1. Find a word other than “no”
Contrary to what many other blogs say on the internet, from over a decade of experience working with children, I can safely say that the word, “no” is a HUGELY negative word to a toddler!
Constantly shouting “no” at a toddler makes them feel like they are always doing something wrong.
You have to remember that they don’t know any different right now.
Only say “no” for dangerous things.
On top of the fact that it is a negative word, the last thing you want is your toddler learning the word, “no” before they really need to.
There are many other ways to say, “no” without actually saying those two letters.
24 Ways to say "NO" WITHOUT saying No
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2. Be consistent
If you let your toddler grab the tv remote and play with it ONE time, don’t expect them not to get upset when you then switch it up and tell them off for it or take it away the next time.
Toddlers need consistency and a secure understanding of what is and what is not allowed.
The more you repeat the same behaviours, the quicker they will learn them too.
Likewise, if you give in every time your toddler throws a tantrum or kicks-off in a public place, all they will learn is they can get what they want by creating a scene.
Inconsistency just teaches your toddler that “no” doesn’t actually mean “no”.
This ends up with them trying to push barriers constantly, to see if you will give in again.
3. Repeatedly move the object away
Younger kids do not know words and language well enough to understand why you are telling them off for always grabbing at your phone, your coffee, your chocolate bar or the TV remote etc.
Instead, they learn from actions.
That is why they copy everything you do.
By moving the object in question away from them, you are showing them (without any need for a verbal interaction) that they are not supposed to have it.
It might take 3 or 4 times of moving it away before they get the point, but they will get the point eventually.
If your toddler is one of those who keeps grabbing your face, your hair, your boobs or other peoples faces etc., then you will need to move your toddler away.
Obviously, you can’t exactly go and pick up another person’s child to move them away from yours!
4. Show them you understand
When a toddler wants something, they expect to get it.
They don’t understand why they can’t have it, so they get upset when told, “no” (another reason not to use the word, “no”)
If you see your tot eyeing up something that you know they are about to grab, try to talk to them about it.
Say something like,
“Do you want to play with that dolly? I know you do. But, this little girl is playing with it right now. You should let her finish playing with it and then you can play with it. Let’s play with this car while we wait. Good girl/boy”
This is a lovely way of giving them the opportunity to change their current point of interest and to also understand the importance of sharing and being patient.
If your toddler snatches the toy from the other child and the other child begins to get upset, just say something like,
“Oh look, she is sad now. She wasn’t finished playing with the dolly. Let’s give it back and wait a little longer. Mummy will wait with you.”
By telling your child you are going to wait with them, you are showing that they are not alone and that you are there to support them in their negative emotional state.
Of course, this may end up in a full blown tantrum, but you have stood your ground and taught them right from wrong!
If the tantrum ensues, just be sure to give your kiddo the toy they wanted when they are finished.
Check out my post on ‘How to deal with a toddler tantrum (and avoid them in the first place!)‘
Whatever you do, do NOT have a moan at them for getting upset. This tells them that their feelings are not valid and can lead to a lowered emotional intelligence in the long run.
5. Clear boundaries
Creating boundaries – which you keep to consistently is super successful for many toddlers and children.
In fact, everyone needs boundaries.
Making it clear that one thing is theirs and one thing is yours has a huge effect.
My Squidge actually now points to a hot cup of coffee and says, “mummy’s cup”.
She then grabs her own cup and says, “my cup”.
When doing drawing or colouring in, you can have a pencil case with 15 coloured pencils or crayons in it, but only offer out 2 colours at a time.
Then when your tot goes to grab the others, you can remind them that they are only using “two at a time”.
Get them to put their current two pencils back, before getting out the new two colours.
This, in turn, also teaches them counting and how to clean up after themselves.
6. Create distractions or suggest an alternative
You don’t have to make a big song and dance about the fact that they are grabbing again.
Simply creating a diversion can be effective enough.
It is a good idea to have a selection of fun, educational toys for them to choose from at home.
If your tot is making moves for your sandwich, quickly point at their trousers and say, “show mummy how you put your trousers on”.
Or, point at a puzzle or a book and ask them to show you how to do it.
While they are doing their “task”, you can move the sandwich out of view and take a bite every now and then when your little one is not watching you.
“Teaching” you something also gives them a sense of being “in control”. They soon forget all about your sandwich.
Is your little one grabbing your mobile phone, again?
Not to worry, just slide their own play phone into their hands.
If they don’t have one of those, you can even use an empty toilet roll as a telephone.
It is super fun to make the different noises with the tube!
There are TONS of fun things you can do with your Toddler
7. Don’t shout at them
The guidance in this post is designed to give you a calmer life and to make the process of stopping a “grabbing spree” much easier.
If you make a big deal about something, your toddler will likely remember that and expect it to happen in the future.
You must always be mindful of the mental health condition of your child when you raise your voice to a point of shouting.
I don’t know about you, but if I ever raise my voice at my tot, she finds it absolutely hilarious!
So, I don’t bother.
I find different ways to deal with the situation that does not include shouting.
Creating a big fuss can also get your little one heated too and is extremely damaging to their emotional and social development!
This will only inevitably lead to an explosion of tears from them and a very wound up you!
8. Be prepared and stop it before it happens
The best way to prevent anything from being grabbed, is to move it before it happens!
Keep things out of reach and out of sight, if possible.
There is nothing more frustrating than following your toddler around, repeatedly taking things off them or telling them they can’t have it.
I can’t imagine it is a very nice feeling for your kiddo either!
It never hurts to also give yourself some “me time“, to keep you calmer and less-agitated in stressful situations.
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