My little caveman

Kendall likes to hit himself… in the face, and sometimes he follows that up by bashing his head against the wall, doors, floor, etc.  I especially love how after he freaks the fuck out on himself he looks at me, as if to say, “See what YOU made me dooooo!!” Yes, it is totally my fault that you just slammed your head into the pantry door when I wouldn’t give you that second helping of Goldfish. Totally.

At first glance it seems this is all brought on by a fit of uncontrollable rage that takes over his body and mind, leaving him no choice but to abuse himself and to run into walls on purpose, but upon deeper investigation I have found that this is all very calculated, and there is indeed a method to his madness. Exhibit A being the careful manner in which he looks over one shoulder while sitting on the ground in the process of throwing his head back mid tantrum. See, the boy is smart and still has his wits about him. He’s checking to make sure he’s not going to end up smacking his head atop a toy truck or the corner of a wall. Then he lowers his head, but does it in such a dramatic way that you think you are watching the whole episode in slow motion, you know, sort of like The Matrix.

I mentioned how at his 18 month checkup he smashed his head into a giant mirror on the wall in front of the nurse. It was exactly like when that chick in Disturbing Behavior (bad late 90s movie with Katie Holmes, long before she was ever part of TomKat) smashes her head in the mirror, with the same intent and intensity. I was actually really worried he might have cracked the mirror. Then I followed it up by asking the nurse (who was SHOCKED and let her mouth hang open maybe a little too long) if that was “normal”. She didn’t answer, but instead just raised her eyebrows and typed something on her laptop. Great.

Good news is the pediatrician said it was normal. I mean, I guess that’s good news. She basically told me what my mom’s been telling me for a while, that he is doing it out of frustration and as a way of trying to communicate because he can’t find the words to tell me what he wants (she also told me the pea sized lump under his skin on his forehead is most likely scar tissue from the repeated beatings he’s taken to that particular area).

I think that’s sort of crap considering 1. I speak his super secret language of 30 words that mostly sound a lot like “ass” pretty well. My husband looks to me to translate all the time.

“Ahoose” = juice
“AsssAh” = outside
“Ahhhhs” = bath
“Ahhwah” = Dora
“blahlablah” = Elmo
“Oof”= earth (which is really the moon, but we can’t seem to explain to him that we are standing on earth, not looking at it in the sky… the solar system mural in his room is really screwing with his perception of reality)
“foof” = fruit
“BALL!” = Football!! Give it to me now!! Let’s run! Now chase me!!! TOUCHDOWN!

And 2. I don’t speak slap, nor have I ever let on that I do. Really, where in evolution did young humans learn the super cool ability to hit themselves as a form of communication? Not effective anymore.

So anytime I see him start to hit himself I make it a point to get down on his level, look him in the eyes and calmly ask him to “use his words” or point and show me what he wants. He smiles, asks for me to pick him up, then does something like pointing to the Goldfish and saying, “naanaaNACK!” I reply, “Okay, I know you want more Goldfish, but you are going to have to wait until after lunch, which I’m making right now.” Then, as if I have awakened the beast, I see it all play out again. He turns red, stiffens up, yells, “AhhhhhhhHHHHHHH!!” He looks at me, as if to say, “But I used my FREAKING WORDS and POINTED! And I want Goldfish NOW!!” Then smashes his head into the pantry door, and I do the only thing I know to do… I walk away and try not to let him see me laugh.

Kendall is 18 months old and the pediatrician says that scar tissue may go away in a few years, but I’m not convinced

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  1. A friend’s son did something similar. When he got frustrated, he would smack himself in the head.

    One time, when he did that, she got down on the ground with him, hugged him and told him something like, “Please don’t do that. You’re mommy’s baby. Please don’t hurt mommy’s baby.”

    At a playground a few days later, he got frustrated and threw himself on the ground. When my friend got up to check on him, he looked up at her, started clutching his head, rocking and chanting, “Don’t hurt mommy’s baby.” She said she left right away because she was pretty sure the other moms there had jumped to an entirely different conclusion and were calling the cops to report her for child abuse.

  2. My son does the same thing and if I’m holding him, he becomes this monster that tries to rip off the skin on my face, head butt me, and then try to rip the skin off of my hands. It’s a treat, really. I think our boys are only a week apart (May 8) and apparently two little cavemen.

  3. I’m expecting my first kiddo in a few weeks and have been reading WAY too many books, and recently read the Happiest Toddler on the Block. Have you read it or watched the video? The doctor describes toddlers as little cavemen and how to deal with them using language they’d understand. It’s super interesting, although the method make you sound like a moron (if you’ve seen the video you know what I mean!)

  4. Noah once looked at me and bent down very slowly, keeping eye contact the whole time, and beat his head off the floor. i couldn’t help it- i laughed my ass off at him. He hasn’t done it again, so maybe laughter is the cure to showing him how ridiculous he’s being?

  5. Just thought that I’d share you are definitely not the other one. My Julia (now 22 months) regularly hit her head when angry. What would get me is she would look for hard places — if she did the sofa first by accident she’d go over to the tile kitchen floor and try again.

    The worst was concrete. I really hated the sound of the “thunk” when she hit her head on the driveway while playing outside, or the concrete floor at a restaurant where we ate outside. (and oh, the looks from fellow diners!)

    She eventually stopped a bit ago, but don’t think I really did anything to help. She probably finally realized it hurt?

  6. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss what your ped says as crap. 30 words is a teeny, tiny fraction of all tens of thousands of words we use a day. Ella has a ton of words and she still gets frustrated by not being able to communicate.

    Plus, there is the frustration of not being in control, that you are the boss of him all the time. There is a lot to be frustrated about at this age.

    I’d try the caveman talk more and reasonable talk less. I also really like a book I just read, “How To Talk so Your Kids Will Listen” by Adele Ferber.

    And all these stories make me glad I have a girl. 🙂

  7. LIndsey, I did read HTOTB and I have tried to use the methods… to a degree. I do find that if I just speak more simply to him, it helps, but I can’t make myself do the whole caveman/match his level in public without laughing. I’ve tried.

    Lisa, oh, I know it’s not crap 🙂 Just feels like crap to me a little bit, but I know they are right. Thanks for the book rec. I will try to read that one. Like I said, I do get good response from him when I really stay calm and try to help him tell me what he wants. It’s the whole him not understanding that he can’t always get what he wants that I’m having a hard time conveying.

    As always, so nice to know I’m not the only one in this situation.

  8. no kids of my own but there’s a 13 year gap between me and my little brother – he absolutely despised sitting in his carseat so he would bash his head on the seat in front of him and literally spew snot out of his nose…not the easiest behavior to ignore 🙂

  9. When my son Lee was that age he would hit himself in the head and then reprimand himself by saying emphatically “Not nice Lee-Lee!” It didn’t last long. He quickly moved on to making fart noises and giggling hysterically. Unfortunately that second behavior was encouraged (and probably taught) by my DH. Ah, boys.

  10. Pingback: Timeouts may be working for 19 month old | Baby Rabies

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