My Child Is Hitting Himself.

Updated on December 14, 2007
J.F. asks from Sanford, FL
6 answers

My son is 17mnths old, he's bright and always full of life. There are 2 things that worry me however.

He hits himself in the head. His father and I have never hit him like that in any way...he's had what I guess, some would consider as a 'spanking', but we don't beat him. He gets one small pop on his bottom through the diaper and most of the time he doesn't even react to it, so we don't even bother trying anymore. We've found that timeout and an upset look gets to him more then anything else. He hits himself, when he's done something wrong, sometimes he hits himself and then does the something wrong, and alot of the time, he hits himself when nothing is happening at all. We can be reading and he'll hit himself in the head, out of the blue. It worries me though, I don't know why, my mom keeps asking me why it bothers me so much, but I feel like it's my fault or something, like I caused this somehow...and I know that there are alot of people that think spanking teaches to hit, but I just don't believe that we've done that enough in any sort of compacity to cause this.

The other thing that concerns me, is that I am afraid of my own son. He headbutts me on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day, and makes my nose bleed. I have multiple bruises from him, kicking, bitting, and hitting me with a toys. I'm waiting for the day he breaks my nose. He doesn't really do it when I'm upset with him or he's upset with me for some reason, he does it when we are reading or dancing together or just sitting on the couch or in the yard together. To most it's stupid, but I know that every time I am with him, I'm going to bleed at some point. And I know that if we are sitting together he's going to headbutt me. He does it everytime. He also doesn't do it to anyone but me, not to his dad or little friends or his aunts and grandparents, just me...I spend my life taking care of him, and all I get is a headbutt for it! lol I don't know how to control it. I've asked my friends about these topics, but no one else I know has ever dealt with this sort of situation before. Any advice would be appreciated.

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answers from Daytona Beach on

Hi J.! It sounds like you are a wonderful, loving mom! "First" children are hard because you are dealing with different situations for the first time :) The next time you have a well-baby pediatric visit I would mention what you wrote about and get your doctor's advice. As far as him "headbutting" you, he is very young, not yet two, so it is difficult to take away a privilege; maybe put him in a time out situation for a minute. Also, whatever you are doing with him, tell him it's all over. If you are enjoying a fun activity together, and he hurts you, it's overwith! And he goes into a "time out" situation. He has to learn that this is inappropriate behavior, and each time he does it, there is a consequence! But I would definitely discuss this, and the hitting himself, with his doctor! They are a wealth of information for new moms! Good luck! A. B.



answers from Orlando on

I agree wholeheartedly with Cary. You are the mother and there is no reason for you to be AFRAID of your own child. If there is nothing medical that needs attention then the only attention he needs for doing something like that is a swat on the butt. We are the parents and we do have to train them from babes. I have 2 daughters and their disciplined started at age 1. They are 8 and 6 yo now and they always receive compliments about how well behaved and well mannered they are, even at their age now. I love being around my children and my children love being around me because they know what will get them a spanking and what will not.

A lot of times we underestimate the knowledge of our children. Children are SMARTER than what a lot of people think. Obviously, he knows what he is doing when he is head butting you because he doesn't do it to anyone else but you. You need to believe and be strong in your parenting and let him know what you will and will not tolerate. We can only give you advice on what we have done with our children but you have the final say so in how you will raise your child.



answers from Orlando on

ask your pediatrician about testing for autism



answers from Orlando on

Hitting is usually a learned behavior, but also something natural that a child does at this age (they are going to see someone do it somewhere)--my son did it too,--the important thing though for you to do as a parent, is to stop this behavior and teach him it is wrong--, because if he isn't taught that it is wrong, he will keep doing it at 2, 3, etc.
At 17 months old, they have learned about cause and affect and reactions to things. I know when my son was that age, he thought the reaction to him hitting was funny--not realizing that it wasn't funny, it hurt,and was unacceptable.
You need to make clear to him that hitting (you, himself, others, etc), throwing toys, and heading butting is totally unacceptable behavior. Easier said than done with a 17 month old, huh?

You can do this by first doing what you are already doing--not hitting him or showing him that this is acceptable behavior by anyone --kids do model what they see--so this also means no TV show should be on in front of him nor video games (no matter how uninterested he seems)that has any sort of violence. And of course, he shouldn't be witnessing anyone hitting anyone else. Yes, it does happen, and yes he will eventually see more and more of this, but you can't explain to a 17 month old that it's wrong and why--so try to keep it away from his sight until these become concepts he can grasp.
Second, you want to dissuade him from doing the behavior and reward him for behaving. So if you are playing with him and he suddenly decides to hit you or head butt you, you immediately stop what you are doing with him, say "ouch, that hurt mommy--no hitting" and DISENGAGE with him (walk away, read a book--ignore him for a couple of minutes, at least). A 17 month old wants your attention and not getting it will give him a clear sign that what he did will cause this. If he gets upset--good--this means he understands! -it will take repetition and consistency on your part though so he can see the cause and affect of what he does. Once you disengage with him a few minutes, tell him that he can gently touch mommy (show him with his hand) or hug mommy, but no hitting or mommy will stop playing with him...then give him a hug, and continue to play with him....he will soon figure out that hitting mommy--means no playing, and will stop.
To stop him throwing toys--give him a warning after he throw one--no throwing your toy or mommy will take it away--and if he throws it again--take it away (and keep it away for at least the rest of the day). Rinse and repeat--our son stopped throwing his toys in a matter of days....
Some moms may also recommend classic time outs at this age, but I know at least with my son, that he wasn't ready to grasp that concept yet. By the time we brought him to the time out area and made him stay there for 2 min, I don't think he understood what it was for. We also didn't have much reason for discipline at this age, except for these two behaviors, so the immediate response of either disengaging with him or removing the said toy, just sunk in faster. We started implementing timeouts right before he turned 2, and still do now, and they work great though-
Whatever you do, do not tolerate these behaviors and make it clear to your son knows that you don't tolerate it!
Remember, no positive reinforcement for these behaviors from anyone--no laughing, etc. just a stern look and a solid "no throwing or ____ (time out, it gone, etc)' and then stick to it.
I don't know what to say about him hitting himself. My son did it some too-especially when he got frustrated with himself. I would just ignore the behavior and see if it gets resolved by resolving some of the other issues. My son is 2 1/2 now and doesn't do it anymore, but it wasn't anything we addressed specifically, he just eventually stopped.

Finally pleas don't feel guilty! You are not a bad parent--you just have a toddler and they can be very trying at times! He is his own little person--just remain strong and consistent with him on what you find acceptable and not acceptable.



answers from Orlando on

Hi J.:

Have you explained this behavior to your pediatrics Dr. This can be indicative of some problems that need to be looked into. They would be familiar and would know how to direct you, I believe. Does he seem to like music alot and respond more? Do you remember when Tryston first did the headbutt to you?



answers from Orlando on

I don't believe that hitting your son teaches him not to hit. I don't know why he's head butting you but he's obviously getting something out of it--power? attention? fun? Anyhow, if you hit him then you are not teaching him not to hit. I suggest that you leave the room (or somehow disengage with him) when he headbutts you, telling him that it is not nice to hurt people and you will not sit with him or play with him any longer. You have to be very careful not to reinforce the behavior by reacting emotionally. Be firm and clear and follow through on the consequence every time and the behavior will extinguish. Just keep in mind that it might get worse before it extinguishes because he will test you.

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