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How to deal with an abusive toddler?

For months now my son thinks it is funny to bang his head on things. Sometimes he hits & bites my, too. I have been putting him in time-out for biting. One minute in his room. His is always really sweet afterwards.

Now he likes to jump off the couch head first. He is really rough on himself, and it scares the shit outta me! What's a mother to do???

I mainly want to know what to do about his head banging. Its been going on for about 4 months. He is 18 months. Any advice is welcome.

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Asked by Amberoz at 1:45 PM on Apr. 20, 2010 in Toddlers (1-2)

Level 4 (34 Credits)
Answers (11)
  • Well unless he's giving himself bruises with the head banging, I wouldn't worry about it. It's pretty common for kids to do that for whatever reason. If he really is hurting himself with it, do timeouts for that as well. At 18 months, to keep her safe, we held my daughter in our laps for time out, facing away from people and TV, etc. If he's hurting himself in timeout you could try that, or get, like, a separate chair that has straps in it to keep him seated and safe while he's in timeout in the corner. I don't recommend using his high chair or anything like that because he could grow to resent it as teh "bad chair" lol.

    It sounds like you have a normal little boy lol. I don't have boys, just one daughter (and baby #2 on the way.. dunno gender). I'm afraid to have boys after my sweet little girl! lol.

    Answer by Ati_13 at 1:51 PM on Apr. 20, 2010

  • head banging is almost always a way of calming, especially if the child finds a rhythm in the act. think of it like rocking. it's also very typical behavior for a child who has autism. "self mutilation" and the "no fear" behavior are also autistic symptoms.


    Answer by Anonymous at 1:52 PM on Apr. 20, 2010

  • My 20 month old son is the same way and it comes down to this - he's a BOY! Boys (most boys) are crazy, active beings and mix that in with being a toddler and you get what you got! You are doing the right thing by disciplining the bad behavior and although you can tell him to stop banging his head until you are blue in the face theres not much you can do. If he were really hurting himself he wouldn't be doing it. Keep the house as "toddler BOY proof" as possible and keep a close eye on him. Also, make sure he has lots and lots of safe activities he can do that he can spend all his energy on. It really does make a difference!

    Answer by Anonymous at 1:54 PM on Apr. 20, 2010

  • Get him a soft helmet so he doesn't hurt himself.

    This is a sign of bigger things going on. Time-outs are one of the Top 10 stupid parenting ideas ever. As you have found it doesn't stop bad behavior in the long run, it doesn't teach good behavior, and he is learning to manipulate you! Thats what the acting all sweet afterwards is all about. When you send an 18 month old away from you what you are doing is taking yourself away.

    I recommend that you stop all forms of punishment. You can discipline, raise up a child to have excellent behavior without punishment. I recommend the book Love & Limits by Elizabeth Crary. She has a website called Star Parenting. She uses problem avoidance and problem solving techniques.


    Answer by Gailll at 1:55 PM on Apr. 20, 2010

  • it's also very typical behavior for a child who has autism. "self mutilation" and the "no fear" behavior are also autistic symptoms.

    don't let this scare you - it's not uncommon for ALL toddlers (again, especially boys) to do this, not just autistic ones.

    Answer by Anonymous at 1:56 PM on Apr. 20, 2010

  • Oh, and the behaviors you described ARE NOT ABUSIVE!

    Answer by Anonymous at 1:57 PM on Apr. 20, 2010

  • He is beginning to get bruises. His doc doesnt seem to involved about these issues I bring up. I want to also mention that ever since birth, he has been a high-needs baby. His father has been gone for almost 2 months now, but this behavior was going on prior to his father being gone. There is no tention in our lives so idk. He doesnt do the head banging in timeouts, It does seem pleasuring to him. wth?
    Autism- idk about that one his milestones & developmental skills are pretty high. He eats with a fork, no highchair, says over 30 words, can put on his boots...

    Answer by Amberoz at 2:01 PM on Apr. 20, 2010

  • how are timeouts manipulative????? I have raised my son the dr sears way & if I let him hit & bite me...then he will be in control. i am the parent. as a parent i am supposed to give my child boudaries. I have taken Love & logic classes & Christian based classes. So I do not know where you are getting your paernting tips, Gaiil. Kids need punishment or they will think they can do whatever they want in the future, That is not how someone should think when they enter the real world. It is a rough place, why teaach them otherwise?

    Answer by Amberoz at 2:07 PM on Apr. 20, 2010

  • Gaill, I also have to disagree that time outs don't teach good behavior and are ineffective. They have been very effective for my daughter. I do recommend balancing it with a lot of love and attention and praise. She helps me pick up her toys, feed the cats, pick up the laundry, put away the dishes... she gets praise every time she listens to me or demonstrates good behavior. She gets punished for the bad, but rewarded for the good and it has created a very well behaved child. Before I started time-outs at 16 months she was totally out of control.

    Answer by Ati_13 at 2:16 PM on Apr. 20, 2010

  • gailll posts a lot and has some rather unique ideas... Head banging isn't as uncommon as it sounds..Most kids just outgrow it. Kids who seem very aggressive can also have a condition called "Sensory Integration Disorder". I'd never heard of it until it was raised as a possibility with my son, who, like yours can be very agressive both to himself and to other kids. He's what's called a "sensory seeker". If you want more info, read the book called "The Out of Sync Child".

    Answer by Anonymous at 2:20 PM on Apr. 20, 2010

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