How to stop your toddler from spitting
Inside: How I stopped both my toddlers from spitting to express their emotions; interestingly both of them started to express their aggression by spitting; but we re-directed them everytime they experimented with toddler spitting, and got rid of the habit in about 2-3 days! Get the answers to your question ‘why does my toddler keep spitting’ and find the best possible ways on how to stop toddler from spitting.
It’s been quite frustrating in this household where my toddler keeps spitting as his newly learned trick! Which he’s been “practicing” around the house — when he’s angry, playful, upset, wants attention… You name it!
The most interesting thing is, he knows when he wants to spit he’s only supposed to spit in the sink or in the bathtub. Yet, he chooses to not follow this rule. I say he knows because when I have asked him at calm times where can you spit he says, “sheenk“.
What boggled me the most was, no one in our family spits, not even in the extended family. I am almost sure he learned that from brushing his teeth. We brush teeth together, so he learns the correct way. And he did. I was excited to see him learn to spit after brushing his teeth; but why is my toddler spitting other times?
To my horror, he had started flaunting his newly learned skill everywhere, especially when he wanted to convey his disagreement.
I think spitting is a particularly disrespectful behavior. And, for a couple of days, I was really frustrated with it and was worried that, I am going to have to deal with this way of expression for a very long time.
My toddler spitting on purpose —
Thankfully I was able to look past the spitting action and actually look into the purpose or reason why my 2 yr old was spitting.
I quickly realized my 2 year old spitting was not to show his disrespect (like a lot of adults). He would spit when he was playful, upset, angry even to express love. So, spitting for him was his way to express his emotions!
Very weird and absurd in my humble opinion, but some how he had made such connections in his mind.
Once, he was having fun with my husband, and was ecstatic and started spitting. That’s when I understood — the purpose of my 2 yr old’s spitting was to express his feelings, happy or sad.
That is where I understood the answer to my ever-dreadful question – why is my toddler spitting? But now, how to get my toddler to stop spitting?
In-spite, of being an innocent act; this certainly needed redirection. I was not going to let this turn into a habit. He had to be shown the societal limits. Also, I think spitting is particularly unaccepted since it can potentially spread germs very quickly.
How to stop a child from spitting?
In the article about Psychology behind why kids don’t listen, I mentioned how important it is to acknowledge their behavior. In this case, I had to take it a step further;
You must first accept them for what they are doing, to normalize the newly learned skill; and them intervene to redirrect it to something that they can’t do.
By accepting it, I don’t mean accept the wrong behavior, I mean accept that it’s a newly learned SKILL, and it’s a cool skill for that age.
And now, you need to show him where can he practice this skill.
Show them physically. Take them to the sink or outside or bathtub, whatever is your house rule.
For us it’s the sink!
So, everytime I saw my 2 yr old spitting I would say to him — “ You want to practice spitting? Let’s go to the sink”.
What changed the game for us is — whenever he needed to spit I would take him to sink and we would have fun with him practicing the skill.
Every time he began spitting, We both would go to the sink together, he would spit in the sink for 4-5 times, then we came back to the play area, if he started spitting again, I would take him back to the sink, and he would spit again for maybe 2 more times. And that was it, he didn’t want to spit again.
You see — you need to do the action in the right place and make it normal, as many time it’s needed.
Then he totally forgot about spitting and didn’t spit at all, it was almost an instant solution for me. Since we had been struggling with this for about 4 days, I was ecstatic.
My toddler repeated his spitting on purpose — About 2 days later, he was upset since I had to nurse my little one, and he spit again once. I told him; “You can’t spit when you are angry. Do you want to go to the sink and spit?” His answer was “No!”. But that was it.
He still spits to express his emotion of anger, but he spits once, and I remind him he can’t just spit everywhere and he stops after one incident. And this happens once every 3-4 days.
What did I do wrong initially?
I wasn’t clear enough about what I meant; until I physically showed him what I meant, by taking him to the sink to spit.
I never gave my son an ultimate warning since we don’t have punishments in the house, so there was no, “ if you spit here I’ll do this or that ”. But unfortunately, for the first few days, I wasn’t clear enough with my rule either.
Since I never physically took him to the sink, so spitting is for the sink was only an information for him. He didn’t really know what I meant by “spitting is for sink”.
I think I was too scared of his newly learned behavior and was terrified since this was particularly gross to me. Once I thought about it calmly, I was able to come up with a solution to it.
It’s all a phase for Toddlers
Most actions for toddlers last for 2 weeks at the maximum, and they learn a new skill again and are going to practice that. This does not mean they can keep testing the limits you set for them, they need to know what’s socially acceptable and what is not.
Be Patient, and remember it’s just a phase, but you can’t let it turn into a habit either. When you get into the tussle of war, it usually turns into a habit. Because when they keep saying no to something all the time, they keep remembering it, and it eventually turns into a habit.
It is not only about how to stop toddler spitting. This was just one example of my son breaking a house rule; here is a good article explaining why do kids break house rules, and how to redirect them. It could be spitting, hitting, kicking…
UPDATE: My 1 yr old also has the same issue where she’s not really spitting but spluttering all the time. This is like in the blood. So, now my older one has a reason too. They keep spluttering and giggling in the backseat while I drive. aagggrr…
UPDATE 2:Seriously, I can’t believe I’m wiritng this; but my younger one has also started to spit when upset; I do think this could be a learned behavior for her, because she started it when my older one started to experiment with his spitting boundaries again at around 3.5 yrs age, and she’s about 20 months old… BUT, guess what? The “Spitting is for sink” talk and then taking the child to the sink to spit every time they experiment worked very well with my younger one too. She stops immediately as soon as I remind her “spitting is for the sink, let’s go and try it in the sink if you’re feeling like spitting. She says; “Nooo” and stops!
Now I truly believe, stopping them instantly and redirecting them works wonders! (hands down!)