Violent Toddler - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 04-24-2014, 10:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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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.

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#2 of 11 Old 04-24-2014, 09:08 PM
 
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To me, "violent" sort of implies a choice. "Rough" might be a better word for your tot, since it sounds like he's well-intentioned but gets carried away. I may not know enough to make this pronouncement, but at least on the surface, his behavior sounds like something that a lot of normal toddlers do.

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. irked.gif It may just be a phase that he grew out of. shrug.gif

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! hug.gif Anyone with a nervous system would wince at the prospect of getting hurt. It certainly doesn't make you a bad mother!
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#3 of 11 Old 04-25-2014, 06:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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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?

 

:Hug

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#4 of 11 Old 04-25-2014, 06:20 PM
 
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Big hugs. I agree that what you're going through is probably normal... My oldest was always sensitive/gentle but my younger one is only four months and has a grip and a punch you wouldn't believe! That said, i have something else to consider if you are finding that conventional redirection doesnt work for your toddler...

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...
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#5 of 11 Old 04-25-2014, 08:24 PM
 
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I am not sure about the empathy thing, but I too have been surprised by how many women say that their "ouch!" reactions to rough touch are met with giggles rather than empathy.

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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#6 of 11 Old 04-25-2014, 10:14 PM
 
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FWIW, empathy doesn't usually stick until kiddos are 4-6 years old. My DD was the same way, but it was a short phase.
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#7 of 11 Old 04-26-2014, 02:05 AM
 
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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!  :Hug

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#8 of 11 Old 04-28-2014, 07:11 PM
 
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OP, you asked how long it lasted. Um, yesterday he bit me in the shoulder--HARD!--because he wanted to nurse. It looks like I can still commiserate with you! lol.gif

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#9 of 11 Old 06-01-2014, 04:34 PM
 
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Ugh, just wanted to express some empathy for OP. My almost 3 year old had a growth spurt recently and suddenly when he runs into me, thumps his head on my chest, crawls on my lap or on my back, he is all elbows and knees and I am in pain! "ouch" and "gentle touches!" have next to know impact. Finding this thread was a relief. He's always been such an affectionate, cuddly little guy, but his love hurts these days!

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#10 of 11 Old 06-06-2014, 05:06 AM
 
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He's always been such an affectionate, cuddly little guy, but his love hurts these days!
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#11 of 11 Old 06-24-2014, 01:18 AM
 
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In my experience, this "Sometimes I'd physically take his hand and demonstrate light caresses, saying, "Gentle! Like this!""
REALLY WORKS!

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!
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