Littlest Hitting Himself

Updated on December 05, 2007
A.H. asks from Las Vegas, NV
11 answers

My youngest child is almost 18 months old and when he is told anything that he doesn't agree with, he hits himself in the head until he cries. He didn't really start doing this until his step- sister was taken to Az by her birth-mother. Has anyone else experienced this from children that they know, or is my son just a masochist? I haven't talked to the pediatrician about it yet, as I'm putting off the 18 month check up until after the holidays.

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So What Happened?

Since I'm slowly getting over the morning sickness and my brother can stop by to help a couple times a week, it's gotten a little better. He's slowly getting used to hearing 'no', 'that's not yours', and 'you're hurting mommy, maybe you should get down, now'. He is picking it up so fast. I believe that watching his older sister's behavior is showing him how to behave, also.
Thank you for letting me know that its just a power thing for him. He's getting to that age, I should've expected something along these lines by now.

More Answers



answers from Tucson on

A child that hits himself when confronted with a disagreeable situation is NOT faking or trying to get attention. Your son hits himself because he is has reached a level of frustration that is beyond his control.

The "spoiling" thing is the key here. Your son has learned that manipulation will get him everywhere. This is not a good thing!

My boyfriend and I have had temp. legal guardianship of my grandson, who just turned 4, since he was around 2 1/2. Up until then, he had been in an unstable environment, a witness to frequent domestic situations, all stemming from unhealthy psychological manipulative behavior, and it's results, and had never experienced a consistent schedule of wake, nap, bedtimes, etc.

He hit himself many times when faced with accepting our calm, but insistent rules and demands in our efforts to create a safe and consistent environment for him.

We didn't make a big deal of it, most times just ignored it, and occasionally suggested calmly that he stop hitting himself and left it at that. I should add that he possesses an almost unbelievable (sometimes even eerie), extremely advanced amount of comprehensive and intelligent awareness, of all he sees and hears. I believe this is due to his memory skills. For instance, before his 2nd birthday, I showed him some object and told him it's color name was "aqua". Months later, during which time the word "aqua" was never referred to, he remembered and used it to describe the color of a different object!

There were some very stressful times, but we agreed that it was important to be consistent, stick to the goal of creating an environment of stability, which included a strict schedule when it came to nap and bedtimes, etc.

I did speak to the pediatrician about his habit of hitting himself, and he said it was not an uncommon behavior, and we were doing the right thing by ignoring/downplaying it.

My suggestion for you is to put an immediate stop to any spoiling by others, which is only reinforcing the undesirable fine art of psychological manipulation.

Be consistent, and let him know that he is responsible for his own actions and decisions. For instance, at bedtime, when my grandson makes a big fuss, he is given the choice of either laying in bed for a few minutes with light on and a book, or lights out, no book. Note that whichever one he chooses, the outcome of going to bed is the same!

It took close to a year, but my grandson did stop hitting himself when frustrated, and has accepted the fact that trying to manipulate us to get is way is a lost cause!

Good Luck! Hang in there!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

my daughter hits her head with her hands whenever I do something she doesn't want. However, I think it was because she originally started hitting ME and I told her not to do that. She seems to just trying to get her frustrations out.
good luck with your son. I know it can be so tough. . . hang in there.



answers from Las Vegas on

I feel for you and the many other parents who have these situations come up with their children. Regardless of the source of the problem and anything your children may be diagnosed with, there are things you can DO to help them.
I would suggest reading "The Continuum Concept". It is very worthwhile and will give you answers you will not find elsewhere.




answers from Denver on

Picture being that young and no words to express frustration. Do not give him attention when he does it, move him away from whatever is causing the frustration without a word and reward him or praise him for stopping that behavior. It sounds like it is improving but my son did this a bit when he was very young when he was bored, frustrated about something.



answers from Las Vegas on

My son started doing that around that age is mostly for attention...and so you can comfort him instead of disagreeing with him. Is he really hurting or just fakeing it...sometimes they just do it because the last time they hurt themeselves you comforted him...and now at that age they remember everything and manipulate and test you.
They are sooo smart.



answers from Grand Junction on

I agree with what Lisa B posted.

My son did this early on. I look back at it now and realize that he was just really frustrated and we to some degree made it worse by placing unreasonable expectations on him.
He is 8 now and still occasionally does this. We had him in some play therapy for anger issue's and basically were told that it was a control issue. He did it because he was beyond frustrated, yes but also because I would react and he would get my attention. We realized that he wasn't getting enough one on one attention from either of us. He is the oldest and the younger two tended to get more of our attention. He would get ticked at me and hit his head with his hand and tell me how stupid he was. He is really beyond bright in most subjects so this would just throw me for a loop and I would react and tell him how smart he was etc... When I quit reacting to his fits and just kind tell him that he needed to do that in his room or I would leave the room he quit doing it. He will still occasionally hit himself but most of the time it is because he has something that he wants to get out and just isn't sure how to get it out or we aren't letting him. I think you can look for triggers. See what else is going on? does he respond to your reaction? etc. Oh another thing that really helped was clear set expectations and consistency.

The book mentioned earlier "continum concept" in a interesting read. It might have some good info.



answers from Phoenix on

I agree it's for attention. But think about what your 8 y.o. daughter did during this age. I have an almost 4yo autistic son and he did that as well as bang his head on the table and wall. He even was a repeat offender with dropping the toilet lid on his hands and no complaints that it hurt him.



answers from Tucson on

Hi A.,

I have a 3 year old son and a 6 year old daughter with autism and mild CP. I have had so many behavioral issues with her. She is very social and very smart and delights in being naughty. I can't tell her not to do something because it's wrong or not appropriate or not nice because it just fuels her fire. I have recently discovered the love and logic institute, They have classes in select cities, and great books and video's etc. It just makes sense, and it takes the power struggle away. I don't know about the extent or true nature of your son's behavior, but you might look into this. It's great for all kids.

Good luck with this, I know it can be heartbreaking.




answers from Colorado Springs on

I can totally understand where you're coming from on this. My youngest used to slam her head into things when she would get upset or frustrated about something. I asked her doctor about it and he said if it hurt that bad, she'd stop........but she cried when she did it!! Eventually she got over it on her own when she was about 2. She still throws temper tantrums now, but they are normal, everyday ones!



answers from Phoenix on

Hi, I just wanted to let you know it's pretty normal. I have 2 children and I care for my 2 neices full time, my son went through it for a short time but my neice who is 2 1/2 now did it so bad she would have bruises & lumps. She knew it got our attention and thats what she wanted. When she would do that I would put her in the playpen where she could do it all she wanted without really hurting herself. It tooks a little time but eventually she realized when she was in the other room doing it she didnt get the response she used to. then it stopped & moved to just screaming her head off! ( she has temper issues) :) I just thought it would help to know ur not alone in it & ur sons not a masochist. Hope it gave u a little reassurance.



answers from Flagstaff on

I know that 18 months old is a bit young to look into autism but when children with autism have a big change in their lives, they tend to react in a similar manner as I am sure you have noticed with your 8 year old girl. I wouldn't have thought to say that until I saw that your daughter too had autism. The statistics of having more than one child with autism is not likely though very possible. More than likely it is a phase, and you will just have to walk away and not give any attention to the subject. Don't try to comfort or cuddle or intervene. Walk out of the room if you have to. It may take a week, but they will stop. When you do walk out of the room, it may get harder and louder temporarily, but the safest thing you can do is suck it up and let them stop on their own. (P.S.) This also works for children with autism.

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