Babies go through a steep learning curve and can pick up on both good and bad behaviours. As parents, it becomes your responsibility to monitor where your child is going wrong and what you can do to ensure they do not misbehave or hurt themselves.
This is particularly true with toddlers who are quick to discover things and might not realise what happens when you bang your head against the wall or hit someone with your hand.
Sadly, that’s exactly what a single mum is undergoing right now. The 19-month-older toddler goes on a hitting spree whenever the mum tries to breastfeed and the mum is not sure how to tackle the problem.
Fortunately, the Internet is here to help.
Baby Hitting Head With Hand When Angry
In her post on Reddit, user DiligentPride2 writes, “I’m a single mum with 100 per cent custody of my 19-month daughter, she sees her dad less than 10 hours per week. I’d like to say I’ve raised her following “gentle” techniques-it was never intentional it was just natural. In saying that, I have never hit, spanked, or pinched my daughter as a punishment.”
The child though has turned out to be physically aggressive.
The mum explains, “When she hurts me-pinches/bites while breastfeeding, the newest move is to grab onto my hair and pull it so hard she gets handfuls of my hair or slaps me in the face. I tell her we don’t hurt people, that really hurt me. And I’ll remove her either off the boob or if she slapped me I’ll move her away from me.”
The aggressive behaviour has been going on for weeks and now the little girl is hurting herself.
The mum says, “The last few weeks when this has happened, she slaps herself either in the face, on the head or on her arm. Or she will pinch herself in the arm. I then tell her “don’t hurt yourself please, and we don’t hurt anyone else.” And by then she’s usually back on the boob cuz she’s whined for it.”
The mum said she was concerned that her toddler has picked up this “self-harm” from somewhere and is feeling guilty about it.
Fortunately, the good folks of the Internet weren’t too far from giving some parent-friendly advice.
Netizens Offer Supportive Advice
One user explained the child’s behaviour as attention-seeking. They said, “In this circumstance as a parent, I would gain more control of my behaviour-getting attention. When she hurts you, react by calmly and immediately looking away and moving away without saying a word. Don’t look at her for a minute and then resume normal interactions.”
The same user further elaborated, “Direct attention and praise at behaviours that you want rather than unwanted behaviours. I am assuming that her current self harm is mild enough to be ignored.”
Another user wrote about experiencing similar behaviour with their toddler.
They wrote, “My son does the same thing, he started at 18 months and he started doing it again recently at 2.5, I just remind him that we use gentle hands with our bodies and encourage him to apologise/apologise on his behalf depending on what the situation is and then offer a cuddle. It usually distracts him enough to forget about hitting himself. Good luck!”
Another user commented, “I think she’s just trying to understand what it means to hurt vs be hurt. It’s the first inklings of empathy. Instead of stopping her instantly, maybe you could try going “Ouch! Yes, that hurts! That’s what mommy feels when you grab my hair (or whatever).”
One Redditor recalled her daughter’s similar phase, “My toddler went through a phase of this as well. I would just catch her hands and say, “I won’t let you hurt me/yourself.” Retrospectively, I noticed that she only does this when she’s really tired and I usually do a calming activity with her (a busy book is my go-to) and then put her to bed ASAP.”
Baby hitting head with hand when angry, Redditors insist it’s a phase
One Redditor wrote, “Should be a phase, hopefully. My kid would bang his head when he was mad. Doc shrugged and said make sure he’s on the carpet. He’ll get over it. He was right. Kids are crazy.”
Another commented, “My son at around 12-18 months would bang his head against cupboards and other household items when we asked him not to do something in a strong tone of voice. We were also really worried but it came and went as do most things with children.”
Another user assured the mum she had nothing to worry about, “Everything is good. From what I’ve red it seems you do the right thing for handling these situations. So please, as a father I say, : No worries. With your daughter is everything fine.”
Another user told the Redditor that the behaviour remained the same with both her children, “I’ve raised 2 children. Both went through similar phases, though to varying degrees (much more an issue with my 1st). They both completely grew out of it by around 3. I think much of it is a curiosity. Kids explore and they see when they do this, there is an unusual reaction. I wouldn’t be too concerned.”
Baby Hitting Head With Hand When Angry: Why Kids Do This?
Here are some of the reasons that prompt toddlers to react in this manner:
1. Sensory-seeking efforts
Some kids like to have physical sensory experiences and may hit themselves for the desire for physical stimulation. They find this soothing and could do it again as an exercise to calm down when stressed or tired.
Toddlers who have a slightly dull sense of pain may also hit themselves often for that physical sensory experience.
2. Lack of communication
Some toddlers may not understand how to channelise their emotions or what’s the correct way to show them to parents. They are still learning to talk and their emotions are stronger than their vocabulary.
So, when they aren’t to communicate what they feel, they might just hit themselves out of frustration.
It’s also something you might see with older children who stammer and cannot communicate something within a certain timeframe. This only adds to their anxiety and frustration, which is why some kids need speech therapy.
3. To get a reaction from you
We are sure you’ve played peek-a-boo at least once with your child and see how their face lights up whenever you find them or run after them. Toddlers love all that attention, but some may just love it more than others.
So, if they figure out that you will pay more attention to them when they hurt themselves, they are likely to repeat that behaviour.
Whether you were compassionate or had a big laugh on their fall, they’ve got your attention now and the toddler might repeat the same till they get bored with it.
4. Your toddler is hurt
There’s a chance your toddler may be suffering from an ear infection or beginning their teething process. With that discomfort hard to describe, they might hit themselves to give you a clue that something is wrong.
If you don’t see the other reasons for your child to hit themselves, you may consider this one and visit a paediatrician.
Baby Hitting Head With Hand When Angry: How Can You Make Them Stop?
Image Source: iStock
First and foremost, your priority should be to protect the baby from hurting themselves seriously. Here’s what you need to do to make them stop.
Babyproof your home to cover all sharp corners and edges. While kids are unlikely to put more force to gravely hurt themselves, they might bang their head against a wall or furniture, which poses a greater threat.
If your toddler is acting aggressive, pacify them by wrapping your arm around them firmly. Make sure you do not hold them too tightly which could suffocate the child.
For kids seeking a sensory experience, a hug or making them sit in your lap might just be the thing they were looking for.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Kids might act out for attention and it’s best not to spoil them by giving it to them every time. If you sense a pattern of the child hurting themselves for attention, you might want to ignore it altogether, which will make them stop on their own.
Before you ignore, make sure you acknowledge what they are going through. Sometimes kids are looking for validation and that might just help you diffuse the situation.
What more can you do?
When the child is crying or feels frustrated because they are hungry or want a hug, make sure to address their need first. That should bring the problem under control.
Reassure them that they can ask for things and do not need to hit or hurt themselves to get your attention.
If you recognise patterns like the toddler hitting themselves when they have a wet diaper or when they want food, try and get them out of that situation beforehand. So replace the soiled diaper immediately. You can also set an alarm on your phone once you determine the little one gets hungry at a certain time.
You should also teach them to channelise their anger in the correct way. While they may not listen to you when angry, do sit with them later and explain why it’s a bad thing to hit yourself. This also extends to how to vent their frustration. A smart trick would be to let them hit a pillow or a stuffed toy. You could also get a “hit me” soft toy specifically for their anger management.
What Should You Consult A Doctor?
If you’ve seen troubling signs in your child who is not only hurting themselves but even pets in the house, you may want to speak to a paediatrician. More so, when the child is much older and can communicate their thoughts and feelings.
A doctor will conduct a physical exam of your child and will also ask a host of questions related to growth and development. Some kids may require professional therapy and the doctor will be in the best position to guide you around the same.
In most cases, this will be just a phase that will pass on its own and you do not have much to worry about. However, do keep track if they are exhibiting this behaviour otherwise if not in front of you.