You asked

My child hits and bites himself. What should I do?

Some children hit or bite themselves to express anger towards the adults around themselves. Some do so because they become so frustrated during a tantrum that they just cannot express it any other way. Others do so because they feel the need to punish themselves, or because they’ve learned the behaviour from someone else. Whatever the reason that your child is doing this, it’s perfectly justified that you are worried.

Sometimes, children who act out like this have had this kind of abuse inflicted on them by others, so it’s worth speaking to your child’s other caregivers to make certain. Other times, it may be that you can pinpoint a definite catalyst, such as a lifestyle change, or even an event like yourself or your partner going away on business. If this is the case, then you can usually address the cause of the behaviour, and stop it quickly.

If you can’t associate this kind of behaviour with any one event or person, then there are still a few things you can do to help. Make sure you give your child lots of attention. Play physical games with him, that will help to dissipate excess energy that may be causing the behaviour. Distract your child when you see him hitting himself, and tell him that you can’t let him hurt himself like this, because you love him. That kind of reassurance may even be all that he’s looking for.

Most children will outgrow this kind of self destructive behaviour spontaneously, but if you haven’t seen a marked improvement after a week, speak to your child’s doctor or preschool teacher, who may be able to help you develop a plan to stop your child from hurting himself. If all else fails, you may even consider approaching a family or child therapist to help you solve the problem.

Remember – many people will tell you that lots of children do this, and that’s true – however, you shouldn’t allow YOUR child to continue with this kind of self harm.

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