It can be extremely disturbing seeing toddlers hitting self. Many parents are surprised and generally, don’t know what to do.
Toddlers are exploring the world in different ways every day. Most of this exploration is normal and forms parts for healthy and active minds.
However, In some cases, toddlers can exhibit frustration when faced with developmental challenges. On the one hand, they are learning the rules of the world, and on the other, they have been restricted with the freedom independence to explore it.
Related: How To Teach A Toddler Not To Hit
It is within this learning framework that most toddlers face overwhelming frustration.
They crave independence, but cannot express themselves effectively with a limited vocabulary.
At this crucial developmental milestone, your toddler will begin to throw tantrums when their intellect outweighs their expression and it is here that the most common cause of toddlers hitting themselves can occur.
Toddlers Hitting Themselves: Reasons Why
Expression is the most popular reason with developmental challenges and emotional challenges being at the forefront of toddlers behaviour.
Some toddlers will inflict self-harm to get attention. As your toddler is yet to comprehend the different types of attention (attention from good behaviour and attention from bad behaviour) they will default to whichever is easier.
Unfortunately for parents, negative attention is much easier for your child to acquire, meaning you’ll see more tantrums, mini-meltdown and abusive behaviour as it gets an immediate reaction.
Some toddlers inflict harm as a way to punish themselves for mischief or a mistake. This happens frequently in younger children and is a way to show mummy or daddy that they have done something wrong and should be punished.
This is usually a way toddlers can express their disapproval of their own behaviour and used a deterrent to soften the blow for any more extreme punishments you may give them.
Rhythmic & Calming
Sometimes toddlers hitting self can be attributed to self-soothing
This is often linked with younger children mimicking the soothing feeling of being in the womb with Rhythmic knocking or banging of body parts.
While isolated incidents aren’t much to be concerned about long term behaviour can be linked with autism so it is always advisable to get a professional evaluation by a suitable paediatrician.
Ways To Deal With Toddler Self Harm
- Try to keep all sharp objects away from them once you feel an episode is coming on.
- Put yourself physically in the way of the headbanging or head knocking to limit any long term damage
- Try to distract your toddler back to safety with soft toys or soft activates
- Use a polite voice to remind your toddler that hitting anyone including themselves is bad.
- Keep a journal or diary of your routine and eliminate any triggers that may increase the chances of self-harm. For example, thirsty, hungry, tired, overstimulated and under-stimulated babies tend to revert to hitting themselves more often. Keep a journal of when this behaviour happens and ensure that it isn’t linked to any of these fundamentals