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Head on the Floor

My mother has told me more than once how, as a newlywed, she watched her new nephew bang his head on the floor in frustration and thought to herself with the certainty that only the childless ever have: “No child of mine will ever do that.”

Then she had my brother Steve, who walked around for several months as a toddler with a black and blue spot right in the middle of his forehead. This bruise, a result of his frequent and fervent head-banging, was my mother’s mark of shame.

I’ve never uttered “No child of mine will ever do X”, but I get off on a technicality. Smart enough to rephrase things as “I doubt a child of mine will ever do X” or “I hope a child of mine will never do X”, I’ve evaded the absolutes of the dreaded statement, while still expressing a fair amount of certainty that behind it. In other words, it’s all semantics.

So you can perhaps imagine my amusement when a few weeks ago I watched Simon get horribly frustrated in the kitchen, get down on all fours, and rap his head against the hardwood kitchen floor. “Well,” I thought as he looked up at me crying and holding a hand to his head, “I’m sure that wasn’t much fun and you won’t be rushing to do it again.”

Wrong. I saw it soon afterwards, and while it’s hard for me to pin down the exact frequency since I’ve traveled three times in the last six weeks, I know it’s become more common of late. I’m not deeply troubled about this behavior, for I’ve read that alongside rocking, which he doesn’t do, and hitting himself in the head, which he does, that this is “normal” toddler behavior. Basically, they get themselves all wound up until, unable to control themselves, they lash out at whatever their nearest target may be. Even if that target is themselves.

Still, it’s behavior I’d very much like to minimize, the secret of which seems to lie in reducing frustrations. I have a few strategies in mind, but I’m also mindful that as Simon approaches two, he is feeling frustration similar to what he faced between eighteen and twenty months. That is, just as his frustration peaked before he began to walk, he now seems to be getting frustrated over his inability to speak in sentences.

So it’s just possible-and this is surely what I’ll tell myself if I fail to get him to stop banging his head on the floor-that the best thing I can do is sit back, help Simon with his speech as much as I can, and let him work out his frustrations as best he can. That will be much cheaper than padding the floor, at any rate!

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