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My 4 1/2 year old DS has a much beloved plush panda. It is his security object, his sleeping partner, the animal he takes to the dentist's office, you get the idea. Frequently at night when we are settling down to sleep, panda hits him in the face. I.e. he uses panda to hit himself, then cries because panda is hitting him. I do not believe he is actually hurt by this -- its a stuffed animal and not even a very big one at that. I can't figure out if this is just unusual but ignorable or a sign of something else. Any thoughts from you guys?
 

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I think some kids just do this kind of thing as a phase, but it could be a sign of something. Has your ds been dealing with any unusual stress lately?

My dd (now 3) had imaginary friends who hit about 8 months ago. At the time, she was in a not-so-great daycare situation (poor management of aggressive children) and didn't really have the verbal skills to explain what was going on. We changed daycare and the violent imaginary friends went away. Like your ds, it tended to happen when she was tired.
 

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Indeed, sounds like he's working something out. Perhaps working through the ins and outs of strong emotions (anger, frustration, etc.), or aggressive behaviors. Seems to me, he's found a way to work through whatever it is in a way where he no anyone else gets hurt. He knows what he needs to do and he's doing it, while you're there (no doubt for that extra support).

I recently read Playful Parenting which gives wonderful insights to this type of behavior. My DS (3.5) recently went through a very similar phase and by playing along and even helping him work deeper in, I found out that he was working out some rough feelings about another playmate who hits him on occasion. DS in turn, had begun hitting another playmates younger sibling in sort of "testing" mode. After we started doing the stuffed animal hitting play (he initiated, me playing along), he seemed to work through it and is no longer hitting his friends younger brother, and is more assertive with his other friend when he gets too aggressive. DS even named the game "hit back" where we would both have an animal or puppet and we would take turns hitting (fairly gently) back and talking things through ("Ouch! That hurt. I won't let you hurt me." to which DS would say, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hit you and I won't do it again). We'd repeat the game over and over, trading places and such. Wow, it seemed like such a long big deal at the time but it occurs to me now that he worked things through rather quickly.

The fact that he does this while you're there make me wonder if he doesn't want you to play along. I'm already getting way to rambly here, but by playing along you might gain some insight as to why he's doing it. Kid's work out pretty much everything through play. It's their MO so to speak. Keeps your ears and eyes open, you may come across something you can help him with.

Sorry for the ramble! This has become a subject that truly interests me and since reading the book, I feel like I'm understanding more and more all the "seemingly" nutty things DS does!
 
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