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My 3.5 year old son punches himself in the head whenever we tell him "no"...

I don't know how it got to this point. For the past year, my 3.5 year old son will punch himself in the head whenever he does not get his way, or if he is told he cannot do something, or if he is scolded. I have no idea what to do. Today, he wanted to do something which we could not do at the moment (he wanted ice cream and we were traveling), so he started punching himself over and over in the head. Daycare told us that he does the same with them, and they are ignoring the bad behavior and trying to focus on rewarding good behavior. So do we just ignore him punching himself? At first we tried to just make him happy and give him what he wants just to keep it quiet. But that is unrealistic. No one can live their lives like that. Light spanking does not work. He has a speech delay, so trying to explain to him why he cannot hit himself does not work. I have no idea what else to do. Can anyone help? He is turning into a monster.

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Asked by Anonymous at 6:31 PM on Jul. 26, 2009 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Answers (8)
  • I'm not trying to offend you in anyway, but could your son be autistic?

    Answer by Anonymous at 6:36 PM on Jul. 26, 2009

  • my 22month year old does this and will throw his self on the ground. my son is far from autistic. and i work with autistic kids as well as add/ adhd kids as well so i don't think it is that. but i give him more attention bbecause i feel he's acting out for a reason. i feel my son has really bad anger problem that shouldn't be there at such a young age. i would sit him down and try to explain to him that what he is doing is innappropriate. and there's other ways to express yourself when your mad.

    Answer by Anonymous at 6:42 PM on Jul. 26, 2009

  • This is the original poster. He is not autistic, was evaluated.

    Answer by Anonymous at 6:48 PM on Jul. 26, 2009

  • My son does this when he messes something up. For example if he is coloring and he colors outside the lines, he will hit himself. He is only 3. When I see him hurt himself, I get on his level and make him stop. I tell him over and over again that it is not right to hurt ourselves. Then I ask him if he would hit someone else and he says no and we tell him that him hitting himself is just as bad as if he hit his sister. Then we also tell him that it hurts us when he hits himself and it makes me sad. He does not like to make us sad, his father and me, and so he will stop. We then try and figure out what the problem is and work on making it better.


    Answer by krissyvelazquez at 8:51 PM on Jul. 26, 2009

  • OK so when he first started this you gave in? That might be part of the problem. You now have to retrain him to realize that this will NOT get him his way. Which means, you need to stop him from doing this to himself, physically. Then let him know that it will not get him what he wants. It will take time. But be consistent in NOT giving in.

    Answer by Petie at 12:15 AM on Jul. 27, 2009

  • First, it's important that you know he cannot hit himself hard enough to do damage. You get him to stop by no longer addressing or giving attention to the behavior. If you completely ignore the self hitting and no longer act as if it concerns you he will stop on his own.

    Answer by ThrivingMom at 10:34 AM on Jul. 27, 2009

  • He is having a hard time expressing his anger. He doesn't know how to verbally, so he lashes out on himself. I agree, ignore the hitting and later on, when he calm, talk to him about why he was mad and how he can better express it.

    Answer by asiamommi at 11:36 AM on Jul. 27, 2009

  • Well this may be kind of like common head banging. My son was a head banger but we ignored it and he stopped. I would def ask your doctor what they think, as I am concerned about his age. This is not normally something you see in an older child. He may not be autistic but I would discuss this with the doctor to rule out anything else that may be going on. Good luck.

    Answer by salexander at 3:49 PM on Jul. 27, 2009

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