My 5 Yr Old Is Hurting Himself!!!! Help!

Updated on May 06, 2008
A.M. asks from Elk River, MN
14 answers

I have a 5 yr old boy that has recently started hurting himself when he is mad at me. He has scratched the back of his neck with a duplo till it scared, scratched his tummy with his finger nails and made marks, and today he was punching himself!!!
I have talked to him about anger and that its ok to be mad but lets be mad at your pillow and scream in it when you are mad, or hit your pillow. He insists on himself!! I know teenagers ( I have been there) do this, but My baby is 5!!! Does he need therepy???

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I really wanted to thank everyone for their advice, I literally cried reading the sdvice. I thought I was all alone! I have just heard of this site yesterday and logged on and so far I love it! Thanks again everyone!

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answers from Cedar Rapids on

When my daughter is really mad, she bites herself. She has always had a temper, and she'll just get so mad that I don't think she knows quite how to show her anger, so that is her way of dealing with it. It has gotten much better now that she is 7, she rarely does this anymore now that she can run or jump on her trampoline.

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answers from Rapid City on

I would highly suggest getting him evaluated. They have 'play therapy' and a good child psychologist will have the skills necessary to give you, and your son the tools to help him overcome this. Other suggestions would be to ensure he is not watching, playing or listening to any media (t.v., movies, video games, music) or examples (friends, relatives, peers, etc.) that are violent. He's obviously getting his agression from somewhere and usually it is a 'monkey-see-monkey-do' behavior pattern (not in all cases, but it is in many). In many instances children need to be taught how to express their emotions, especially anger. You also need to check yourself and ensure that you are not doing something to 'trigger' these responses. Make sure that your actions are fair and just, but don't 'baby' him and try to appease his tantrums. He needs to know that 'no' means 'no' and that you are the mom and he's the child, no matter what he does... don't let his behavior modify your expectations of him.
Best wishes to you both!



answers from Minneapolis on

I believe much of kids' behavior stems from the food they eat, or the environment they are in.
I won't go into much detail, but I have experienced things that the conventional Dr. or onlooker might say I have to change my disciplinarian technique. But when I changed what they ate (we happened to go Gluten Free/Casein Free, but you have to find out what's right for you), thier behavior changed. Drastically enough for teachers to notice it. . .as if it was night and day!

I would highly recommend reading some books and doing some research into it. I would find a Dr. who you can work with on this. . .not all Dr.'s are open to this idea. I've since learned that in order to become a Dr., they need very very little nutritional education. Because of this, they do not know how to advise.

Good luck! Feel free to contact me for more info on what to read etc. . if you would like.

Good luck, A.! I'm sure that is difficult for you.




answers from Lincoln on

I have known kids as young as 18 months that bite themselves, etc. to hurt their caregivers. I believe it is an expression of deep emotions that are not able to be put into words. I'll bet that daycare you have begun has pulled the rug out from underneath him. His safe haven in now invaded by multiple foreigners who don't have to follow the house rules like him. His world is upside down. When you see him injurying himself put him in a cradle hold, you may have to cross your legs to keep him from kicking free, but physically give him a reason to believe that you are still in charge and you are going to protect him from getting hurt. Look in his eyes when you talk. If he never submits to your protective hold and loving eye contact, yes, call a therapist.



answers from Madison on

It sounds like to me he is looking for attention. Try to ignore him as long as he is not doing something to himself that would make a trip to the ER. My son did a little of that when he was 4. He is now 5. I just ignored his behavior and soon he realized that he was not going to get anywhere acting like that. I would say if that does not work, consult your doctor. Give it a chance, it might take a week or so. Good luck...



answers from Minneapolis on

I would start to find a point before he gets out of control to begin to calm him down. My daughter is two and when she starts to get upset I will depending on the circumstance put her in her room if she is being naughty, quick give the bump a kiss if she got hurt, or answer her when she is asking me for something right away. Once she gets over frustrated she will throw herslef down and sometimes hurt herself pretty badly. I tried potty training and took her diaper off once and tried to coax her to try sitting on the potty, and I pushed it too much and she banged her head against the wall several times until she had a goose egg there. I totally get that it is hard to watch your baby hurt themselves. When I put her in her room and close the door, she only kicks at the door or lays down and cries for a couple minutes. If I don't she hurts herself. I think that since the door is closed she just makes a lot of noise, but if she were in the same room with me she can get my attention by getting hurt. I don't know if that makes sense, but hopefully you find something that works for you. Good luck!



answers from Davenport on

I've had more than one child in my day care through out the years who prefer to release stress by hurting themselves. The trainings I have attended emphasize, "praise the best, ignore the rest." It is very difficult to walk away and not acknowlege your son when he's hurting himself. But you must remember, ANY attention toward this behavior is viewed as a success to him, and therefore encouragement toward continuing the behavior. If it's not life threatening, walk away, and when he's calmed down, focus on and comment on or discuss how he calmed himself down, rather than how he hurt himself. For most kids, it's a phase, and they do outgrow it as they learn better coping skills.



answers from Milwaukee on

It sounds like your son is just crying out for your attention, and when he does these things, he gets it.

Taking on a daycare and having a new baby all recently has probably got him feeling a little insecure.

Our son did this when our daughter was born. He pounded his head on the floor. Ran into walls. Scared the living day lights out of me!

We just learned to make him feel special and loved. Give him things that he can do. Have him perhaps be a big helper for you. It sounds to me like he just misses being the only one and he's fighting for mommy's love and attention.

Sending you many blesings,




answers from Waterloo on

I am so sorry to hear about this. Although it seems very disturbing I suspect that he knows this is the one way to get a reaction from you guaranteed. Although it has to scare you to death, clip his fingernails and put him in a safe place, where he can't get a hold of anything sharp and let him know that this behavior won't get any rewards. When he doesn't react this way but finds a safer outlet reward him and let him know that the reward is for better behavior when dealing with anger. Hey, we all experience it, we just have to teach them how to handle it. I don't think his behavior is equivalent to teenagers and their cutting. That is an emotional problem, he is just trying to find a way to express his anger and get the biggest reaction. If it was my child, it would work, I would be scared stiff!!!!! Good Luck



answers from Minneapolis on

I agree with the diet changes too. I'd start there. You would be surprised at how much artificial colors and flavors can affect kids. My kids are on the Feingold Program and don't eat any artificial anything, MSG, preservatives, nitrates, or nitrites.
It's more work but it's possible and you'll see a difference right away if that's what it is.
All of these additives are chemicals and made out of things like petroleum.
Another thing to consider is that he not only has a new brother but you mentioned that you just started doing daycare too. It's tough to share your Mommy with other people and he might be doing some of it for attention. I do believe the diet changes would help though. Just look for things labeled as "natural" or "organic". You can find deli meat, cheese, bread, cereals, milk, everything, even Cheetos, so he won't be missing out on everything that he likes.
Hope this helps and please email me if you have questions or want more info. I see you're in Elk River, I'm in Big Lake :o)
Mom to 4, soon another, and probably more through adoptions :O)



answers from Madison on

My daughter hurt herself, too, when she was younger. She didn't want to, but she didn't seem able to help herself. She would get so frustrated and, unable to verbally express her thoughts and feelings (she had a speech problem), or even know what those thoughts and feelings were, she'd bite the back of her hand, hit herself on the head with her hands, or rock back and forth and hit herself on the wall or other hard surface. Sometimes she'd throw herself down on the floor and flail around.

With her, it was frustration at being unable to communicate. Putting her into Speech therapy for a severe speech impairment at the age of 3 (she's still in speech at the age of 8, and will be next year as well) has helped enormously, as did finding out she has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), a form of Autism. I'm not saying your son has SPD, but it's something to learn about and keep an eye on.

SPD is vastly overlooked, and many kids can be helped if parents and caretakers are aware of what it is, what triggers set it off, and how to deal with those outbursts. Does your son stay by you when he hurts himself? Or does he also run away? That's known as the fight or flight syndrome, which my daughter would do. She'll still do it, if we discipline her, she feels guilty or ashamed about something, or she discovers she's done something wrong. We have to work very hard on helping her not to run away, but to stay and work through the problem.

If your son continues to hurt himself, though, and is actually cutting/leaving marks, it might be a good idea to take him to see a Pediatric Specialist, who is either a psychologist or a psychiatrist whose specialty is dealing with children. We took my daughter to see a peds psychologist for a year when she was in kindergarten, and it made all the difference in the world.

Just my thoughts.

A. C



answers from Rapid City on

DON'T WAIT ANY LONGER .... get professional help for your child ASAP! If a psychologist can nip this in the bud now, you won't have an extreme 'cutter' or other type of self-mutilation child later in their teens and into adulthood.

Do not feel ashamed! There are tons of children out there that have these feelings of self-mutilation and the sooner they receive help - the better it is for them.

I speak from both personal and professional experiences. If you contact your school's Special Education Director or school counselor, these services will be provided for you free of charge so don't let the thought of not having the money come into play.

God Bless,



answers from Eau Claire on

I would at make him an appointment with a therapist to see if they can help him with his anger issues. I don't think this is something that will go away on its own. He needs to learn the proper way to deal with his frustration.



answers from Minneapolis on

If he has never hurt himself before this, you can bet that he is having a very hard time managing his feelings around your daycare added to his stress around his new brother and being in school every day.

Each of these things would be stressful enough alone, but together they may be putting him over the top. Not that therapy won't be helpful, but it isn't the first thing to try... he is probably a normal boy all in all.

I know many moms who have tried the daycare thing and quit because of the stress it caused their children. I know other moms who have taken their children out of kindergarten because of the stress as well.

Since you cannot get rid of the baby... (kidding here A.),,, and may not have the option to eliminate the daycare, perhaps you should let him stay home more often... at least as often as he wants to. He will probably start to calm down over the summer with school out and the ability to stay home and be a part of the family again.

I subscribe to the school of least resistance. Since my kids would be in school for 13 years, missing a day (or a week) here and there for the purpose of emotional comfort seemed a small sacrifice when they were young. As they grow older, staying home is less of an option simply because of the work load at school.

Take him out of school for a day or two next week... or at least offer him the option to stay home, and continue to make school optional until the year is over. You may find a calmer son once he can regain some control over just this one thing.

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