My just-turned 1 yo has had a history of "violence". I don't feel right saying it, he doesn't understand that what he's doing is hurtful. Some of it is meant as affection, and I know it is, but it's very painful. He's broken skin and left bruises, and no amount of saying "That hurts" or "No hitting" or "Gentle hands" or trying to walk away gets through to him that what he's doing is hurting.
He head-butts, and it seems like he's trying to give hugs and kisses by doing so, but again it's very painful. He's not doing it (from what I can tell) out of anger, or because we did something he doesn't like- if it were because he's upset I could probably deal with it better, but he does it when he's happy and has our full attention. We've never raised a hand to him or each other, he's never seen violence, he just doesn't understand that what he's doing hurts.
It's at the point where I'll flinch when he comes over because he just hurts me so much. I don't want to feel that way, I feel ashamed of myself for feeling that way about my baby, but I just don't know what to do. Everything I've found about babies being violent, it's when they're upset (a very natural reaction), I just don't know how to handle a young toddler who's violent to express love. I don't know how to make him understand that what he's doing is very painful, and it's very hard to be patient and gentle when someone is hurting you.
I know it's not his fault, he isn't doing it to hurt me, he's trying to play and show love. I don't think he's a bad child, he's just a baby who doesn't understand.
Also- should I be worried that he doesn't seem to notice or care when I'm upset or sad? I'm not sure when babies are supposed to get that kind of empathy, but I've broken down in tears and he's just giggled like it was a game. I know kids don't get "full" empathy, usually, for a few years, but I thought babies and toddlers got upset when their caregiver is upset.
To survive this awful phase, I kept my little guy's nails clipped regularly to minimize the scratching. I would also pick him up and hold him facing outward so that his hands couldn't do as much damage. Distractions like books, toys, (and even Daddy's Ipod, when I got desperate) were helpful while I was doing this. Sometimes I'd physically take his hand and demonstrate light caresses, saying, "Gentle! Like this!" I don't think it's because of my corrections that he stopped. Like you said, you can say it over and over and it doesn't register to them. It may just be a phase that he grew out of.
I'm not sure that there's no quick fix in these situations. Learning good manners can be a journey for some kids. That's probably not the answer you wanted to hear, so maybe someone has a more immediate and pragmatic solution.
And let go of the guilt! Anyone with a nervous system would wince at the prospect of getting hurt. It certainly doesn't make you a bad mother!
Thank you for your reply!
"Rough" is definitely a better word. I'm glad it's normal, although I really wish it wasn't. I just never thought this would happen. I know that babies and toddlers will throw tantrums and don't always have the greatest control, but I didn't think it'd hurt so bad!
I do try distracting him, but it's hard finding things that he'll be distracted with and that I'm okay with him having. He always seems to want things that are either dangerous or make a big mess!
How long did it take yours to grow out of it?
My friends son was a similarly rough, and she realized that a lot of what he was doing was sensory-seeking... pushing, pulling, squeezing/pinching, etc. So she took him to occupational therapy and started doing certain sensory activities with him regularly, and especially whenever he started getting rough (easy things like wheelbarrow-ing him, so he could feel the floor pushing up against his hands, or spinning him). It really, really helped. Her little boy is three now, and his sweetness is no longer hidden by a roughness. Just something to consider...
My daughter did that too. However, when she saw a toddler crying the other day, she went over to offer comfort. It was so sweet to see. It made me think that I may not be communicating clearly with her, since she does seem capable of empathy.
Maybe you can think of other ways your son has shown empathy?
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25yo FTM to a Wiggle Panda , student teacher , newlywed
I remember this with my first! He was so lovey, but had no control over his body and was so exuberant in his expression of this love that I was frequently scratched and bumped and bruised. I started trying to catch him right before he flew at me and say things like, "I love your hugs and kisses. My FAVORITE ones are slow and soft and gentle!" And I would say it in a slow and mellow voice as I was drawing him to me. I tried to make sure he never felt "blocked" when I would catch him, so I would kind of slowly embrace him. Other times I would kind of swoop him and set him on my knee in a way that kept him from tackling me to the ground unintentionally, or worse.. completely melding with my face (which sometimes seemed completely plausible)! It took a little while, but soon he would approach me more slowly with his arms open wide, and say adorable things like, "I have Mama's favorite thing" (probably more like Ah hab Mama fayvit teeeen)!
Hang in there mama, this too shall pass!
At home amongst the redwoods with my husband and my son, born 7/5/11 Instant CNM, just add !
I'd say "gentle, gentle gentle," and take his hand and touch gently---
also the cat taught him--
when he wasn't gentle, she'd run away!