20 Month Old Baby Who Bites Herself and Pulls Her Own Hair

Updated on September 11, 2009
R.D. asks from Erie, PA
6 answers

I have a beautiful 20 month old baby girl who just began biting herself and pulling her own hair when she becomes angry or frustrated. These are the only behaviors that I am concerned about and they seem to be increasing lately. She is a very happy and healthy little girl otherwise. She has been engaging in these behaviors for atleast a month now. I also have a seven year old daughter who never engaged in these types of behaviors. I am wondering if this is something normal that she will grow out of or if I should be concerned. She spends a lot of time with her grandparents and I advised them that when she does these things they should calmly tell her "No" and not to make a fuss over it or give her too much attention. She LOVES attention! I would appreciate any advice that I will recieve.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I also have a 20-month-old daughter who will, at times, hit herself (usually in the face) or pull her hair. It is on rare occassion, but it happens when she is very angry or frustrated about something. It is also upsetting to me, as it doesn't seem "normal" to hurt yourself (although she is not really doing it hard enough to hurt herself). My daughter is also typically developing, although she is on the slow side with her verbal skills. I think when my daughter gets really upset about something and then cannot explain to me what is wrong on top of that, she gets overly frustrated and this behavior is the result of that frustration. I really don't think that anything is wrong with her, as I'm sure nothing is wrong with your daughter. I calmly tell my daughter to stop, that I don't want her to hurt herself, and that seems to work. I am hoping the behavior stops as she becomes more verbal. I just wanted you to know that you are not the only one experiencing this.


answers from Williamsport on

You're saying that the hair pulling and self biting are the only behaviors you're worried about, which implies you may be OK with tantrums and only concerned if she bites herself and pulls her hair within them. If this is the case, don't worry, tantrums are normal for every single child who is allowed to throw them, and within tantrums, the sky can be the limit. Head banging, biting, kicking, screaming, puking etc. She's not off the richter scale at all within the tantrum zone. And at 20 months, she's the standard age. My daughter tried her first at 18 months. Quickly learned they weren't allowed, and we had no terrible two's. Or 3's. She's never thrown tantrums. Just normal over-tired or hungry melt downs occasionally, which are rare and allowed. But no tantrums.

You're right not to encourage the behavior, but you'll never stop tantrums-or the behavior within them- with a simple "no" or ignoring them. This will just allow her to grow weary of them herself as she gets older (maybe) and maybe they won't get worse first-or maybe they will.

To teach her to control herself and choose good behavior over bad (no-she's not too young) and direct her energies in positive ways and get attention in the form of praise for NOT throwing tantrums, you should give a firm consequence after a calm warning when she starts the tantrums. Be consistent and calm so she gets it that she's only hurting herself EVERY TIME she chooses to start tantrums. She'll soon learn (took my daughter only about 3 attempts-but she was used to consistent discipline for other things too which helped) to calm herself back down from your verbal warning, and they will never escalate. By age 2 1/2 it was so not in her nature to propel herself into frenzies, she thought it was seriously alarming to see other kids do it. Good luck!



answers from Philadelphia on

Do you know if Grandmom and Grandpop have been "making a fuss" about it up to now? If so, your first instinct is most likely correct, and she IS attention seeking.
Unless she seems to be actually hurting herself, I wouldn't worry about it. Little kids are all about the reactions, and if she has been getting any attention at all, whether positive or negative, she will keep doing it.
Kids love getting a rise out of you! You are right in not making a big deal, and I would continue to do just that. You may have to just ignore it entirely after you tell her once calmly that it's not nice to bite/pull hair. Good luck! :)


answers from Allentown on

Hi, R.:

There is a new field of therapy coming out now for Infant and Toddler Behavioral Issues and Mental Health.

Jennifer Robers Miller, MS, LPC is a early intervention specialist working at Janesville Psychiatric Clinic.

This behavior needs to be assessed by someone who knows about children. Hope this helps. Good luck. D.



answers from Harrisburg on

I would imagine this is a common problem, since she's still young this might be the only way she knows how to deal with her frustration. Every time you see her do this, I would do as you say just calmly tell her no we don't hit our self. Maybe teach her other ways to release her frustration like squeezing a ball really hard (she'll like this!) My 2 year old niece gets frustrated and throws herself on the ground, kicking and screaming, I just try and distract her without giving her attention for bad behavior. I hope I helped! Good luck :)



answers from Pittsburgh on

How are her verbal skills? I would encourage her to express herself with her words. You can teach her some basic sign language as well.

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