Need Help with 2 1/2 Year Old Son

Updated on April 04, 2008
N.D. asks from Newark, OH
28 answers

Hello!
My son is 2 1/2 soon to be 3 in a couple of months. He is a fun, lovable and always on the go toddler. However, he does have a horrible temper, which I know is very common and normal at his age. But his way of venting his frustration is by banging his head an the wall or any hard surface to the point of leaving red marks or even bruises on his forehead. My husband and I understand that most of it is attention seeking; therefore, we have tried ignoring it and he still continues to hit his head when he gets angry. We have also tried timeouts and that actually made it worse. He has never hit us or his 7 month old brother when he gets angry, just his own head and sometimes he will even hit his head several times in a row. He enjoys playing with other children and plays very well with them. I plan on sending him to preschool this fall, but am reluctant to due to his temper. I pray every day that this behavior stops as he is getting older and starting to talk more. Please, if anyone has experienced this type of behavior, I would greatly appreciate any help or advice. It is very sad and frustrating to see your little one hurtig himself.

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T.M.

answers from Terre Haute on

Just yesterday I read an article on this on babycenter.com. Go there and look at the article. It explains why kids do this and gives ideas on what to do about it. Hope it helps. Shannon

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E.H.

answers from Columbus on

go here and read the articles about discipline, this is a "ministry" for families run by a married couple.

http://www.nogreaterjoy.org/index.php?id=1

E.

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T.S.

answers from Columbus on

I have not experienced this myself, but my sister had this problem, to the point that my nephew would hit his head against the mirror in a fitting room or against my sister, givivng her black eyes and a bloody nose. He outgrew it and did not have any problems when he started school at 3. Hope this helps.

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T.P.

answers from Canton on

My son started doing the head banging thing out of frustration back in November. I don't want to compare your son and my son because they may not have the same issues going on. We are waiting for our appointment in May, with a developmental specialist to see if he is mildly Autistic or if he is just preemie-delayed (he was 8 weeks premature). But Ben started banging his head when he got mad and it scared me to death.
The first time he did it, I just sat, in total shock, with my mouth open! I didn't believe what I was seeing. He's only done it about 5 or 6 times, but each time, I had to physically remove him from the situation. Pick him up, draw his attention to something else, whether it be a toy, the tv, a book, etc. Sometimes it worked, other times he just continued to throw a fit in my arms.
I don't know what to tell you other than try to remove him from the situation and divert his attention elsewhere. I would also speak to his pediatrician about it, and get their input on it. Some kids with no other issues (unlike my son) just don't know how else to vent their anger. So they bang their head. They don't yet understand how to verbalize and communicate their frustrations. Try talking soothingly to him to help calm him down. If he's a good talker, ask him what's wrong, it may seem silly to try and rationalize with him, but it's giving him a chance to use his words to tell how he feels, rather than showing you. Good luck!

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F.P.

answers from Cincinnati on

Hi N.,
I've been through all of this. Please do not think my suggestion is harsh but make an appointment with his Dr. and explain what he is doing. My son did the same thing and we found out that he has Asbergers Syndrome. Now, do not be alarmed. It is a form of autism BUT not the catatonic state.
Very controllable with the right Drs. Good luck and feel free to email me anytime for more information or just to chat when you are at your wits end.
hugs

1 mom found this helpful
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K.R.

answers from Dayton on

I had a friend who's little guy did that too. They figured out that he needed glasses and after that it all stopped. It's worth a shot. Good luck.

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H.C.

answers from Steubenville on

I now 14 yr old son used to do the same thing all the time from 2 to around 3 and a half(ish). He is fine today, with out even having brain damage (haha). I used to get really upset when he would do it, and of course that just reinforced his behavior so at least you're one step ahead of what I was. I then started to either turn my back on him or completely leave the room and he would stop. I would also tell him that I couldn't help him/understand him when he acted that way when he was a little older and able to understand. I think sending him to PreK would be a great idea because he would see that other kids around him don't act that way, and the teacher has her own bag of tricks on how to manage it. Good luck.

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L.C.

answers from Columbus on

You could read The Strong Willed Child by James Dobson. My son had a very bad temper. He would throw his head back on the floor where ever he was and scream, that was before he turned 1, I prayed a lot and stopped talking about the "strong will" it seemed the more I talked about it with my friends the worse it got. It took 2 or 3 years for it to stop, he's now 5 and a wonderful child, he has his moments, but not at all strong willed.
Children also need consistincey, I'm sure you know that. When you say you are going to do some thing then follow through with it, you may try taking his toy's away from him for a few days. Have a stop and think chair, they need positive reinforcement/discipline. You can also take his favorite toy away from him and his fav. blanket and cup if he has any of those and ask him to show you to be a good boy. If he can show you that he is good for 30 min's then give them back and if he has another fit after you give them back then take them away again and make him be a good boy again for another 30 min's. I hope this works. I will pray for God to show you what to do. God Bless.
Do you Veggie Tales and Hermie movie's by Max Locado? He has some good movies that may help your son.

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M.H.

answers from Cincinnati on

We had the same problem with my daughter when she was that age. Try to put him in a "safe" place where he can't hurt himself. Clear anything harmful or hurtful out of his way. Give him a pillow (bigger is better) and tell him he can bang his head on it or squeeze it, but it's not ok to bang his head on the wall or floor. Keep your tone even and move him away from the wall if he continues. Consistancy is the key. Good luck!

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K.G.

answers from Columbus on

Hi N.,

My heart-felt sympathy goes out to you, as I know how very hard it is to watch your little one hurt himself. My son did some very dangerous things when he was little, and also had a hair-trigger temper.

You've said that you know it's attention-seeking behavior, but then said that he's taking out his frustrations by banging his head. These are actually two very different motivations for this behavior, but I can suggest a couple of different things that may work.

First of all, if he's seeking attention, try giving him some "extra" attention when he's being good...maybe stickers, have him pick out a cheap toy out of a box that you've filled with little toys, etc. but make sure that whatever method you choose includes both something tangible and goes along with the individual attention he may be seeking. Tell him he's getting the toy (or whatever) because he's behaving so well. In this way, you're emphasizing the positive behavior that you want to see.

Another thing that you have to do is to teach him another way to vent his frustration that is more appropriate. It's not reasonable to expect that a 2 year old will never get frustrated (or anyone of any age), so try to avoid phrases like "you shouldn't get mad about that, it's silly to get worked up over this, etc." Reality is that he is upset, but needs a better way to express it. Since he's so little and so active, maybe things like having a designated area where he can jump, hit a pillow, bang a drum might help. Explain the replacement behavior to him when he's not upset, show him what you want him to do when he does get upset, and if he actually uses the alternative method for venting make sure you provide lots of attention, praise and maybe a reward.

Also, when he does start banging his head, make sure you're intervening and stopping any serious damage...I know that the popular methods often suggest ignoring inappropriate behavior, however, looking at the potential for soft tissue damage to his head is not worth ignoring this risky behavior. Tell him that it is not acceptable, and keep repeating what you'd rather have him do. By first letting him know that you've simply accepted that he's upset and then teaching him what to do about it will take time and consistency, but by investing now you'll be building in coping methods that could last him a lifetime.

I pray that something in what I've shared may help you. God bless you and your family.

K.

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S.T.

answers from Youngstown on

i dont know what to say but my lil girl do the same thing she is 10 months if u worry bout him hurting his self but something on his head the will so when he does ithe wont get the bumps and what not

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S.S.

answers from Lafayette on

I just had a friend go through this. She discovered that her son had double ear infections. Sometimes it can be an attitude issue but make sure it isn't something physical.

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L.M.

answers from Cleveland on

Although it can be normal - it can also be a sign that he is in pain, I would consult your doctor to be sure.

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H.S.

answers from Cleveland on

my daughter is 2.5 too and she used to hit her head against things whenever she got mad or whenever I would tell her no. I too would try to ignore it and as hard as it is to ignore it, most of the time, it worked! She would realize that I wasn't paying attention and move on to something else, but every once and a while, she would hit herself so hard, that I would have to stop her from hurting herself. There wasn't much I could do either! When it got really bad, I would just tell her "no hitting" and try to get her to calm down & distract her with something else, so she would forget about what she doing to herself. She did eventually get out of doing this! Even now, on occassion, she will hit herself (with her hand) if I tell her no/or that she is doing something bad. I still just tell her no hitting and try to distract her and eventually it works... I just think it is a phase that they go through! I hope this helps!

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C.

answers from Cleveland on

My friend's youngest son does this. He's a little younger than your son. I don't know of any way to get them to stop but just an FYI, her mom watches him two days a week and he has never done it at her house. So you may not have to worry about him exhibiting this behavior at a daycare.

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K.B.

answers from Cleveland on

Hi N. D, I was reading about your two almost three year old son, and I understand your concerned with his behavior at this time is hurting himself by banging his head alot, you shared. My oldest Son when about his age was doing alot of this behavior too, and I discussed with our pediatrician, and the Dr. recommended having our son Tested for Psycological evaluation, ok. First our son had a hearing test to evaluate his Hearing ability, and then a cognitive test done by a Pediatric psychologist which helps all of us to understand his behavior, ok. If you don't obtain these results before, pre-school, then i'd ask the hospital he was born at to refer you for another Doctor, ok?I hope you'll find answers quicker and receive some help as well, ok? Good-Luck too! let me know what you learn, if you'd like to share your results? K. email: [email protected]____.com 4/4/2008 Every child deserves an indepedent Evaluation, especially for nice parents who care alot like you two, ok! PS Our Son had a 60% hearing loss that was why he couldn't express himself, and later we were told he had Autism Spectra-Disorder, Pre-School he attended helps Children with Special needs alot, ok!!he was mainstreamed by the time he turned age 8 yrs. and doing good back then, which led to new beginings and open the doors to success!

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R.B.

answers from Cincinnati on

My oldest son did the same thing when he was about 18 mos. I watched my nephew beat his head from the time he was 8 mos to 3yrs and my sister-in-law begged him to stop and cried and nothing helped. So when my son started I decided something had to be done. Initially we picked him up as soon as he began to beat his head and swatted him on the leg. This was only a short term fix, though. It didn't take long for him to understand that if he beat his head on the floor he would get a swat on the leg and he stopped. However, I later realized he still had a temper. As he grew older, as your son is, we began an "angry chair". In our home it is a rocking chair that is somewhat separate from the rest of the living room furniture. It is a place for him to choose to go to cool down without repercussion. He stays as long or short as he likes, but he has to have an attitude change before he gets up. If he continues his tantrum, instead of the angry chair, he is disciplined. This way he has a choice to handle his anger in a more effective manner and afterward we can talk about why he was mad and how proud I am of choosing to be self-disciplined.

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B.K.

answers from Lafayette on

N. D,

Hello, my name is B.. I have a 4 year old boy and a 2 1/2 year old boy. Both of them banged their heads on the floor all the time when they were angry. My 4 year old did it more than my 2 year old did. He is already over it. I think my 4 year old did this for almost a year. The times that scared me the most is when he did this outside on the concrete garage floor. I discussed this issue with my family physician and he said to just let it happen. He did state to obviously watch him to make sure he did not hurt himself and not say anything to him. He said the more he does it and realizes it hurts, he will eventually stop and he did. The only time he said to stop him, is if obviously it looked as if he could get hurt from it, example the concrete floor. Good Luck!

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L.E.

answers from Muncie on

My son did this for a long time starting at 2 or younger. He is now 7 and will on occasion slap himself in the head when he is upset. But, it is rarely attention seeking and was not then either. In his crib, alone he would do it. I was a toddler that rocked myself in my crib, a related behavior. My pediatrician said he would not be capable of hurting himself so just let it go and ignore it if I could. He was bruised several times and even had a goose egg once. I was concerned about his intelligence and found out about a study they did and the headbangers actually had higher IQs than the average population. I am going to have him tested for Asperger's so I would not rule out a physical problem, just like the other posters have mentioned.

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J.B.

answers from Indianapolis on

My granddaughter (who will be 3 in July) slaps herself (hard) in the face when she gets angry. She usually leaves handprints and once even bruised her cheek. When we see this behavior, we have been saying "don't hurt the baby just because you're mad." She immediately stops and argues that she is NOT a baby. The distraction has worked wonderfully for the last few months and she is hitting herself much less these days. GOOD LUCK

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K.S.

answers from Indianapolis on

N.,
My daughter did the same thing when she was about that age and so did my nephew. My nephew would actually bang his head on the concrete. My sister's doctor told her to ignore it but my doctor said absolutly do not ignore it. My doctor said to pick my daughter up and very firmly tell her no. She said do what it takes to make sure that they know that it is not OK to do that, even a swat on the behind! She said that they could end up really causing themselves damage. I hope this helps. This is very frustrating to go through but your son is not the only one to do it so don't feel like he is abnormal for it. Talk to his ped. and see what they suggest. I thought I was going to have to put a helmet on my daughter but we were very firm with her and it worked.
Good Luck.

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A.B.

answers from Indianapolis on

I would recommend talking to your Pediatrician. Find out if he is developing typically. Speech delays can make it difficult for the child to communitcate and make him frustrated. Indiana has a great program with First Steps. They will come and evaluate your child in your home and give therapy if needed. They can also help with behavior therapy. Hope this helps.

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L.B.

answers from Canton on

Hello! I have a son with a disorder that is called Sensory Integration disorder. Banging their head out of anger or frustration is a symptom. My question is does he talk well and communicate well?? I would talk to your doctor about it because there may be something else going on other than attention. We didn't find out about our son until he was 6 years old. Your doctor will be able to help you!!! Keep me posted!

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H.K.

answers from Evansville on

Sounds like your son is trying to find a way to deal with his emotions, and head banging must match their intensity! We have experienced trouble with hitting and biting. Rather than immediately trying to punish the self-destructive behavior, we learned to address its underlying cause. Therefore, we go to the child, hold him if necessary, and talk about the emotion. "No bang. It must feel frustrating when your tower of blocks falls down." Allow him to respond. He may say, "No! I'm angry!" Acknowledge his emotion and help him find another way to express it. "When I'm angry, sometimes I like to squeeze a cushion." "When I'm frustrated. sometimes I like to go to a quiet place for a minute." If he's out of control, you can try a favorite plush toy and a spot on the soft couch, speaking to him soothingly.

We found that by talking about the emotion each time, it empowers the child to learn what's going on and find other ways to deal, rather than simply ignoring or trying to cover up the feelings.

Good luck with your little one!

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K.D.

answers from Cleveland on

My son also did this when he was two. He is now three and has completely grown out of it. Don't get me wrong...he still has a temper, but he no longer bangs his head, thank goodness. Your son will also grow out of it. I had asked my pediatrician about it when my son was doing it and she said if he hurts himself he will stop. She was not concerned at all. Good luck - I know it is frustrating and hard to watch. One piece of advice....when he is doing that make sure he is in the middle of the room where he cannot hurt himself (i.e. away from cabinets, windows, doors, etc.) One time my son was by the back door (which has several panes of glass). Instead of banging his head forward he had banged his head backward. His head literally shattered a pane of the glass! If I had not been standing right there he would have hit his head back again and rammed his head into broken glass. Thank God I caught him before he did that. If he is throwing a tantrum move him to a safe place and then leave him be. I know this is super frustrating, but it will get better!

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J.K.

answers from Columbus on

N.,
My son used to do that too--he would actually leave the family room (that is carpeted) and go into the kitchen and bend down and bang his head on the kitchen floor. It was very disturbing to me too, but my pediatrician said that as long as it wasn't accompanied by other autistic-like behaviors, like rocking back and forth in a corner, etc., that we shouldn't worry. He eventually grew out of it. He still has a temper, but no longer bangs his head. He's 5 now, but he probably stopped doing that around 3 I think.

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C.C.

answers from Columbus on

My son did this for a little bit (although not quite as aggressively) and our prediatrician told us not to bring attention to it and they would learn that his behavior was only hurting him. If you feel like this isn't working, I might talk to your pediatrician. I always feel most comfortable receiving answers from her! :)

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K.B.

answers from Cincinnati on

When my son was around this age he would run himself full speed into walls! So fast that it would actually knock himself backwards on to the floor. I couldn't stand to watch, so I would hold him in a basket hold...like a tight baby hold and let him sit there and scream until he was done. I would try really hard to not talk or look at him, just hold him for his own safety. (It wasn't a comfortable hold, more tightly--you have to hold tight or else they can wiggle and fight out of it.) After he calmed down, we would discuss "better options" to release our anger (in an age/developmental approptiate way). It took a couple weeks, but he realized if he was going to run into the wall, he was going to be in this hold and stopped running into walls. Best of luck! Just remember children are always worse and push more lines with parents than they do elsewhere/with others, Preschool should not be a problem.

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