The minds of children are so flexible and straightforward, and almost anything can be ingrained in them just because of this fact.
It might seem like child’s play at first, but if care is not taken, it can go out of hand. Of course, this happened to little Kevin.
You might ask why? Why on earth would a child hit himself? That’s what we’re going to look at now. Read on as I take you on this journey into little Kevin’s mind.
With his sore thumb throbbing- and his little teeth trembling, Kevin once again looked down with self-pity.
He had done this to himself, not because he wanted to, but because he couldn’t help but do it. The whole world seemed overwhelming- it felt like the mountains were taking turns to collapse on his developing brain.
Although he wasn’t sure of why he afflicted himself, one thing he was sure of was that he had been doing that to himself from a very young age.
His parents narrated tales of him hitting himself every single time he felt frustrated and stressed.
The moment he recalled this, it all came together. Here’s how it all started. Kevin had always been a lone wolf since the age of three.
He sat alone, ate alone, and did most things all by himself. It was not that he didn’t want anyone’s help.
The truth was that he was so reserved to the extent that he couldn’t ask for help. As a result of this, he developed a bad habit- he always bit his thumb whenever he felt extremely overwhelmed; drowning in the sea of doubt and frustration.
Self-guilt became his middle name. He practically blamed himself for every little thing that happened, and it became a part of him.
As time went by, it seemed like ‘playing the blame game’ wasn’t enough, so he started to hit himself just to ease his guilt.
He felt that he needed to punish himself dutifully so that he would not make that same mistake again. Little did he know it was doing more harm than good to his young mind!
Although a child’s mind might be simple and it might seem like they do not have much to worry about, unlike the adults who have a ton of things to take care of; that doesn’t mean they do not have problems of their own.
For all they care, their problems are huge enough to overcome them, hence the reason they hit themselves.
There are various reasons children hit themselves. It could be borne out of self-guilt, just like what little Kevin faced. But let’s see more on the reasons this happens.
Why do kids hit themselves?
This is a common reason kids tend to hit themselves- physical pain. There are a lot of growth processes that take place in children, one of which is teething.
Teething is the process by which a baby’s teeth erupt from the gums. Research on teething disturbances in babies has shown than about 80-90% exhibit teething symptoms.
This process of teething is usually painful for babies, thereby causing a lot of gum and jaw discomfort.
This leads to restlessness, hindrance sleep, decreased eating due to discomfort and other symptoms in addition to the teething pain itself.
As a result of this pain, the children hit themselves to cope with it, usually in areas around their teeth. Apart from teething pain, there is also ear infection.
But in this case, the children hit their ear. Following this pattern, it is safe to suggest that the part of the body they inflict pain on is most likely where they have problem with.
As a parent, you should take note of this kind of behavior so as to find an immediate solution where necessary.
Stress and Frustration
There are sometimes when situations happen, and the child does not find it favorable or cannot handle the outcome.
At this point, there is a high tendency of them feeling frustrated, and since they don’t really know how to express themselves, these feelings of frustration evolve into stress overtime.
Due to this, hitting themselves might be their only way of expressing how they truly feel.
Depression and self-guilt
This is most seen in children who tend to shy away from other kids when playing.
Research has attributed this behaviour to bad experiences/trauma.
Yes, of course! Little children can also be traumatized, and in most cases, they begin to blame themselves for the unfavourable occurrences around them.
This leads to self-guilt and in turn, depression. They feel they should “punish” themselves, to at least, feel better, and they do this by hitting and harming themselves.
Another reason kids, especially toddlers or babies, may hit themselves is because they might be trying to know their limits.
Babies are inquisitive because they learn new things as they grow, and they would most likely want to test it out.
You know, beating a drum is different from hitting a human being. They are trying to test how much exactly is too much.
Testing limits may be one of the reasons why kids hit themselves.
Kids definitely don’t know how much hitting would hurt or pain.
Trying to hit themselves might be a means for them to know how much is painful.
They don’t have any self-control built yet
Generally, emotions are powerful tools that can be destructive if not directed in the right way.
This is even more tempting for the children because they really have no idea how to control it. For an adult, you know how to control yourself.
If you’re angry, you know what you may do to pacify yourself. You had that advantage of controlling your emotions, but this is not the case for a kid, most especially a toddler.
Their impulse control, let’s know that it has not fully been developed in them, hence, causing them to express their emotions in any way possible even if it means bringing the whole hose down with their laughter or screams.
When kids are happy, bored or frustrated, one of the ways they show it is by hitting themselves.
According to research, between age 3 to 9, kids tend to show more positive growth in this area, and this is more significant in girls than in boys.
The age range is quite wide to stick an age to expect this to stop, but as a guardian or parent, you can help your kid stop hitting himself or herself.
They don’t know how to process their feelings yet
They are kids, but they are also human beings, and they have feelings too, just like you and me.
The issue right now is they do not know how to process it. Adults know how to process and see if they are angry or happy or sad, but babies have that difficulty in knowing which is which.
This is one of the reasons they hit themselves.
They don’t know it is bad
Sometimes even when kids are not provoked, they just hit, sometimes to see what will happen or to see the aftermath. They don’t know how bad it is; they might not even know that it is bad at all.
Scientists have shown in one of their studies that this happens quite well in toddlers from the age of eleven months to twenty-four months, and they concluded that in most cases, the kids were not provoked, distressed or stressed.
So, it’s not necessary that the reason your baby hit himself or herself is any of the reasons here, they might just do it because they don’t have an understanding of what it is. They are not provoked; they just hit themselves.
Kids hit themselves to soothe themselves. This happens when a baby is probably tired, lonely or under-stimulated.
If you notice that your baby is hitting himself or herself due to under-stimulation, you should try to keep them busy by giving them games to play.
You may also decide to play it with them. Kids, especially babies, find hitting themselves soothing when they feel pain.
The fact that kids, especially toddler or babies can hit themselves seems quite amusing to them. They are entirely new to body control, and this may be one of the reasons they beat themselves.
Babies or toddlers are just learning to control their bodies, their ability to control their body and hit themselves is a means for them to try to master how to manage their body.
They do it sometimes to get attention
If you are familiar with babies, toddlers or little children, you will agree they love to get attention from their parents or guardian.
Kids may hit themselves just to get the attention of the parents or any guardian around.
It may start with some whining or crying for some kids before the hitting comes in.
Please try not to get angry about this when it happens. This happens to be one of the reasons kids may hit themselves. You’ll agree babies love attention quite much.
WHY DO BABIES HIT THEMSELVES IN THE HEAD?
As unusual as it may seem, this is a very common thing among babies- to hit themselves in the head or the face.
According to Kiran Pure, a child psychologist, this starts around the ages of six to nine months.
Probably, you have noticed this common trend among them, and you’re trying to know what could be the cause of your baby hitting himself in the head.
What could be the reason for this behavior in babies? It’s not out of place for you to feel scared because of this. Read on to see a few reasons why babies hit themselves in the head.
When babies are quite tired or having some pain, they tend to respond by hitting their head with their hands just to give relief to the pain they are feeling.
This might be the reason why your baby hit himself or herself- to help ease the pain.
Sleep-related movements and self-soothing
Babies may be tired and also, hitting themselves in the head seems to have a soothing effect on them, especially right before they fall asleep.
It creates a feeling which is familiar to what the rocking they’re used to when their parents try to make them sleep.
When they hit themselves in their head, it makes them feel relaxed.
Teething is not really a smooth experience for a baby. It comes with a lot of discomforts. This can make a baby hit himself or herself in the face where the pain or discomfort from the teething is.
When the frequency of the headbanging increases and is also accompanied by other behaviors such as retarded speeches, unnecessary emotional outbursts, poor social relation, loss of skills, retarded learning abilities and so on, then you should take your baby to see a pediatrician for tests.
This could be related to a psychological disorder, and it’s best to discover it early so that appropriate measures and treatments can be administered.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
This behavior in children is not something you have to deal with or cope or bear; instead, there are things you can do to either prevent, control or redirect kids who indulge in hitting themselves.
Here is a number of things you can do as a parent or guardian:
Understand their behavioral pattern
You should really take note of the attitude or behavior your kid shows before he starts hitting themselves.
Sometimes, it begins with whining or crying for some kids, before the hitting. You just have to find out their behavioral pattern before they hit themselves.
Once you notice that, you know that the next thing they would do is to hit themselves. But before they do, try to restrain them.
You can give them a firm and warm hug to calm them and prevent them from hitting themselves.
Do this until the kid is calm and settled, and you’re sure he or she won’t hit himself or herself. You can also hold their hands firmly, but in a calm way.
Speak to them calmly
As I mentioned earlier, most kids do not know they hit themselves. It could be out of curiosity, pressure, or just because they want to.
Other kids may see it as a suitable way of punishing themselves. Either way, try to talk to them calmly in a way that they would easily understand.
Remember they may be trying to express an emotion they can’t process. Just speak calming words to the kids to pacify them.
Tell them they are safe, and there’s no need to be harsh on themselves. You could support this action by giving them something sweet to drink or a toy to play with.
The manner in which you speak to them may even help them to express themselves in a better way, and from there, you can see to whatever the problem is.
Remove the child from the situation
If possible, the kid can be removed from the situation or environment, try to do that.
If a friend had provoked the kid, and he is hitting himself, you can just take him away somewhere else. This would make him calm and also stop him from hitting himself.
Discuss or Model alternatives
If your kid is at an age that you can speak to them and they understand you very well, try to reason with them and discuss other ways they can express their emotions, rather than hitting themselves.
This way, they can learn to gradually stop hit themselves and explore the other way they are taught.
They might not change the first time you tell them; you might have to keep reiterating it so it can register in their subconscious mind.
Remember, you have to do the correction and redirection in a calm way.
If your child is still at an age that they may not really be able to understand you correctly, all you need to do is to model the behavior you want from them.
For example, if someone hurts or provoke you as a parent, don’t retaliate or do any harm. You can just leave the environment or do any positive thing you expect as a response from your kid if they were to be in such a situation.
This will teach the kid to respond in a way like this, rather than hitting himself/herself when provoked.
Kids watch their parents or guardian a lot, and they tend to pick behaviors subconsciously from them. If you model the actions you want from them, be sure they will see you, and will also show those behaviors.
Again, this might not give an instant result, but the more they see your actions, the better they will able to mirror such a response when they are in similar situations, rather than hit themselves.
Support them emotionally
Remember that the hitting is caused by the kid’s inability to express their emotions accurately.
Another thing that you can do is to help them be able to express their emotions by using the words that qualify the feelings they want to convey.
This will help them be able to relay their emotions better and correctly, next time.
Listen to them
Please don’t assume that you already know why they are hitting themselves. Try to ask them questions, and most importantly, listen to whatever they have to say.
While they tell you how they feel, try to comment once in a while. This would really help to ease their emotions and eventually stop them from hitting themselves.
Also, if you continue to use this means, they might adopt the act of expressing themselves to you, instead of having to beat themselves.
Reward good behaviors
When you notice that your kid responds in a right way than hitting himself/herself when provoked, try to reward them.
This will send to them signals that they are doing the right thing and make them respond in similar ways next time.
Be patient with the kid
I know it can be frustrating or annoying having to deal with your kids hitting themselves but try to be extremely patient with them if you really want to understand them.
Distract the kid
Once you notice that your kid is already hitting himself, try to distract him. You can have him watch one of his favorite cartoons, or try to make him play his favorite video game or something enticing you can distract him with.
WHAT YOU SHOULD NOT DO WHEN YOUR KIDS HIT THEMSELVES
In the list above, what you should do as a parent or guardian was discussed. Also, there are things you should not do as these could worsen the situation.
- Don’t yell at them
Children are very sensitive, so it will not do any good to shout at them. I know it can be frustrating but try as much as possible to speak to them in a calm way.
- Do not hit them
You are to model the right responses you want your kids to give in different situations when provoked.
If you’re hitting them too, this may send a wrong message to them and worsen the situation.
A study that was carried out in the year 2017 showed that children that were spanked at the age of five were reported to have more of a behavioral problem when they attained the age of six than children who had never been spanked.
These behavioral problems were arguing, fighting, anger, acting in an impulsive manner, and so on.
If you’re a parent or guardian wondering why your kids have to hit themselves and how you can stop them from doing it, I hope this has given an insight on that and the necessary measures to take to control it. I wish you a wonderful parenting journey.