Spitting - West Palm Beach, FL

Updated on July 10, 2008
K.C. asks from West Palm Beach, FL
8 answers

My 2 1/2 daughter recently started spitting. Not on anyone but spitting in the car and spitting on the floor etc. I am a big believer in natural consequences but seem to be at a loss as to what might be (more?) appropriate. I have given her a 2 minute time out and then required that she wipe up her spit. Of course we talk about why she was in time out, that it is not nice to spit etc. However, this approach does not seem to be doing the trick. Any moms dealt with spitting that have any suggestions? Thank you!

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much for all the great responses, I really do appreciate them. In fact, we had another spitting episode about 2 days later and I did not make a big deal but told her that if she wanted/needed to spit, she could go outside, or spit in the sink. Well, she spit in the sink one time and was over it....at least for that night!! :) Thanks again!

More Answers



answers from Miami on

My 2 year old son spits too. I tell him no, no and how yucky it is. And give him a paper towel to clean it up. Like Laurie suggested, there are places that he can spit and it's no big deal, like the sink and the bathtub when she's taking a bath. I'm not sure there is much else you can do but be patient. Sometimes the spitting and cleaning it up becomes like a funny game to him and does nothing at all and I have to put him in time out too. That generally stops the game. I understand the idea of natural consequences to a point. However, the natural consequence of my son flying down the stairs might be a broken arm. If he does it after I've told him no, I'd rather swat his butt or do time out then have a broken arm.



answers from Boca Raton on

HI K., try taking away her "something special" that she just can't give up. My daughter has a "lovey"- a pillow. She is now three and has also gone through this same stage, among others. LOL. I tried your same approach as far as correction and to no avail. However, taking away her "pillow" now that was trauma for her, and it worked! Good Luck :0) H.



answers from Miami on

Hi K.!!

My 30 month old son went through a short spitting phase as well. Not sure if he learned it from school or his father :) who tends to spit outside while he's working in the yard and his allergys are bothering him??!!!???
Anyway, a very neutral and calm response seemed to work for him. I requested if he must spit, to please do it outside and away from other people, as not to spread germs...well after having to go through all that work LOL he stopped on his own.

A phase, just like everything else!!! it to will pass :)

Good luck :)



answers from Miami on


I also do natural/logical consequences as much as a I can. I don't use time outs at all personally and I'm not sure how a time out for spitting is a natural consequence. I guess technically, the natural consequence is she has to clean it up and Mom gets annoyed. I agree with Laurie actually. Rather than make it a big deal or a power struggle, I would tell her she can spit, but only in the toilet or bathroom sink. Giving her an appropriate place should take the power struggle out of it and hopefully she'll get bored of it! Good luck!



answers from New York on

Yep, I've dealt with this and hot sauce, or fish sauce or some other icky tasting liquid nipped this annoying and otherwise gross phase out. With my second daughter, she was a big time spitter but she did it when she was having tantrums. I'd use her butt to wipe it up and she'd get a small dose of hot sauce or fish sauce. Start with a little and tell her that if she spits again, she'll get a little more. IF she dares to do it again, give her a little more. I have mearsuring spoons with a dash, a pinch, and a smidgen. I've used all three of them and finally moved to a 1/4 teaspoon. Needless to say, the spitting stopped.



answers from Miami on

I am sorry but I have not dealt with spitting. I am now dealing with bitting and I am attempting all your same approaches.
I also have a 2 year old requiring PT/OT and it has been challenging to balance work and her therapy. Can you share what work you do from home. I am getting really stress out at work trying to accomodate my schedule to meet my daughter's appts. Dad helps but only so much because of his demanding work.



answers from Boca Raton on

As kids go through their phases, and they do, sometimes our response is what makes it a bigger problem. Meaning we reinforce the behavior even when we apply consequences. Try a more neutral response. Meaning either show her something she can spit in and make it "no big deal" or just ask her to wipe it up after with no other response. See what happens. Now that it has started you may need to do this for a longer period of time as children's behavior has what we call extinction bursts once we are waiting for the behavior to extinguish. Let me know how it goes after trying this for a week or two.
Dr L. Emery
Child and Family Psychologist
Boca Raton



answers from Miami on

Hi, K.. Hmmmm...I've wracked my brains a little bit to try to think of something that might help. The only thing I can think of is (1) your daughter might be spitting for a physical reason such as post nasal drip, which tastes really nasty. This may be why time-outs have not made her stop, because she really, really wants to get a bad taste out of her mouth. It could be any bad taste. Maybe she put her fingers into her mouth after touching something that tastes bad, or perhaps got a little piece of something in her mouth that she doesn't want to have in her mouth, and she really needs to spit it out. If this is the case...then you need to give her an alternative to spitting on the floor or wherever. My suggestion would be to give her a hanky or a paper towel to have on her, and then train her to spit only into that...sort of like what she's supposed to do when she sneezes or blows her nose. She can be taught to either give the used paper towel to Mom or throw it in a garbage can. With a lot of positive reinforcement, plus having you model the behavior for her, too, she will actually want to stop spitting on the floor.

(2) Sometimes children will engage in a power struggle over things that parents find important. If this is the case, I would still give her an alternative place to spit, rather than trying to wipe out the behavior altogether. That would lead her away from the spitting behavior in small steps until she stops altogether...but don't try to make her stop altogether without re-training her.

Try to find out if someone else around her is spitting, and it's only your daughter who gets caught. This will make a small child FURIOUS if others are allowed to do something, but they are excluded. She may have seen little boys (or grown men) spitting on the ground outside without anyone complaining, and then she doesn't understand the huge difference between the ground and the floor of the house.

Even though little girls usually identify very strongly with their Moms and are extremely eager to copy female behaviors, they can also be influenced by men or boys, and can be extremely upset when boys get rights or priveleges that girls can't have.

I know that spitting is pretty distasteful, but try to keep it from becoming a big, angry issue between the two of you. If she has some developmental issues, she may not be able to express herself or articulate what she's feeling, so she does a physical thing which relieves whatever is causing her to spit. A hanky or paper towel alternative may be the only way to get her to stop using the floor until you find out what's causing the behavior.

Anyway, I hope this is helpful to you.


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