13 answers

16 Month Old Frustration

Hi everyone!

My 16 month old son has been showing his frustration lately by hitting his head (smacking it with his own hand, bonking his head on the floor or any other nearby furniture... or even headbutting the dog!). I'm not sure how to help him stop this behavior. I've been redirecting him with distraction because I'm afraid to call too much attention to the behavior and have him do it more. I want him to understand that it's okay to be mad and frustrated, but also show him a better way to express himself. Any ideas are greatly appreciated!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you so much for all of your help! He has almost completely stopped the head smacking thing... we've been ignoring the actual action, but letting him know that we know he feels frustrated. He's still a toddler and I know he's going to get frustrated a lot, so we are just going to keep letting him know that it's okay to be frustrated. The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp is also an awesome avenue for ideas! Thanks again!

Featured Answers

My son also hit himself in the head, He grew out of it. Just continue to find things for him to do to distract him from it. Hang in there, it takes time.

More Answers

Hi! My 15 month old son does the same thing.. except not out of frustration. He just thinks he is being funny.. with no thanks to my 2.5 year old son who finds this extremely hilarious and only eggs him on. My pediatrician says it is fine and not to worry.. just don't give him any reaction and instead distract him with something else.. like a book or a toy to play with.
Maybe we should get together and let our boys play.. they would probably pretend like a couple of rams. Okay.. maybe that wasn't so funny ;-)
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

First of all kudos to you! Your wonderful boys sound like they keep you busy. My Son does the same thing and it is actually nice to hear that another mother has seen this behavior as well. I do the same you do, I redirect. I have also given him a fun little pop-up punchie thing that he is allowed to hit once if he gets really mad. That way he can release his frustration on a toy and it usually turns his mood around as well! Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

My son also hit himself in the head, He grew out of it. Just continue to find things for him to do to distract him from it. Hang in there, it takes time.

o wow you have your hands full. My kids are also 16mos apart except they are ages 3 and 4 now! My daughter went through a satge where when she was mad she hit herself. She is my youngest and all I really did was redirect her and not make a big deal. She did outgrow it. he may be have adjustment issues from the new little one. Good LUCK!!

I know someone with a 16 months son and she talks about the few "tantrums" he's had. She tried to console him at first but that makde him worse and he is now starting to headbutt walls. If she tells him not to do something he tries to bite her. Her trick is to remain calm and not shout at him. She just goes on about her business (making sure he's safe) and ignores him. It may just be an attention getting phase. Of course you need to make sure he isn't having some sort of pain that's causing him to do this. If it continues, check with his pediatrician.

What everyone else said is good. The only other thing I would mention is to make sure that your expectations aren't too high thus causing him more frustration. Our first did then when he was that age and started it again when he was 7...we discovered that our expectations were too high and that he needed help articulating his feelings. He was also looking for attention.

I'm writing as a grandma. I would try giving some loving attention to his head. Gentle massages, brushing, etc, with no verbal connection with the head banging. Don't want to make the behavior a way to get good touch. But giving good touch totally separate, at unrelated times, may help him to relate differently to his head.
Just an idea!

My son - who is now 21 months, used to slam his head on the floors. It's frightening, but it's a phase!!! I would just suggest giving some extra 1 on 1 attention at other "happy" times. I always have to remember that when my kids are acting out - they are having a need that isn't being met - and it is usually needing attention from mom or dad.
Good Luck!! As my parents tell me "this too shall pass"

D.: Sorry to hear about your frustration. Have you consulted with the doctor about this behavior and if so what have he/she suggested.
Have you made changes to his diet. Keep away the sugar.
I wonder if he is suffering from vertigo or any type of hearing problems. You should ask the pediatrician if she/he will reccommend a hearing evaluacion. Smacking his head on the floor or nearby furniture is a bit disturbing. Does he seems to be able to see well? Also look on the net behavior of children who suffer autism.
A friend of mine had two children with mild autism and the boy would display this type of behavior. I pray to God that this is not your case.

Good luck to you

Funny enough my 3yo just started doing that this week as he turned 3. So I brought it up to the ped today at our visit. My son only does it when he is mad at himself. The ped said it is an attention seeking behavior and that they do it out of frustration because they lack the skills to express it appropriately. He recommended ignoring him when he does it and it should stop. If not or it gets worse then we will address it as a larger problem. My dh cousin's daughter is 4 and does this when she gets mad. Their ped was more worried about it with her due to the frequency, etc and said to find other ways of helping her express her feelings, ie drawing.

there is a book called the way I feel. It gives different emotions and a description of them. Although he wont fully understand it yet- its a start to help him start expressing his feelings- I would keep redirecting him like you are. If you have a new little baby he may be struggling with sharing mom. Maybe try to spend some alone time with just him- I know thats hard right now- but just a few minutes of cuddling with him can help. The adjustment of only kid to being a big brother is a big adjustment. Good luck to you!

I tried very hard not to be a "first time mom" when this happened with mine from about 15 months to almost 2 1/2. I tried not to freak out and instead said "Hurt didn't it??? Maybe next time you'll think twice about how hard that asphalt is..." And my philosophy was well he'll knock himself out one of these days. But they threw this big fit at daycare. And kissed his little tushy so he would get whatever he wanted. DROVE ME NUTS because he expected that to carry over at home and this year at pre school. He is no worse for the wear and honestly I think the only thing that will "cure" that little quirk is time. He'll outgrow it. Funny how you never hear about GIRLS doing this.....

Hi D. -
Until children reach about 5 years old, they are little sponges for strong emotions around them. It's like looking in a mirror - they reflect back the emotions and actions of other people around them. They also love to get all the attention - which I'm sure you know. Their biggest issue is being noticed. Have you tried getting down on his level - eye to eye - and copying his behavior? Yes I said it, copy his behavior (you don't have to hurt yourself though). Start now, make sure your child knows you hear him. When he tries to get your attention and/or tries to tell you something that is important to him, listen and then repeat it back to him so he knows you heard him. Also, find jobs he can help you with. I know what it's like being a single mom (I have 3) and the older ones can often feel left out because the younger ones take so much of our time.

I hope this helps.

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