I watched dumbfounded as my 1 – year old baby Jamaine hit her head with her tiny hand.
Just a few seconds ago, I had pried the electric plug gently but firmly from her hand, triggering the scene I had just seen.
I didn’t know how to react next.
Too many worries were rushing in my head.
Is my baby emotionally imbalanced?
Was it my fault?
Did she inherit this from us?
Did she imitate this from TV?
Will she grow up violent?
I scooped her in my arms, “Baby, that’s bad. Please don’t do that again.”
I’m not sure if she understood me but she didn’t do it again that night.
She did it again a few days later.
She was turning the TV on and off like a light switch and I had to pull her away. She picked up the remote and hit her head with it. Twice. She cried.
“No! Don’t do that!”I almost yelled.
Jamaine stopped crying and looked at me as if she was more hurt by what I said than the remote that hit her head.
Oh no, has my baby become such a drama princess?
Both behaviors continued every few days or so. On some days, she did it more than once.
I was starting to get really worried despite assurances from certain people that their kids went through the same phase.
I asked my mom if I was ever like that as a kid and she said I never exhibited such behavior.
Hubby though was another story. My mom in law said, when hubby was a kid, he used to hit his head against the wall when he was frustrated.
Ignore and distract
During Jamaine’s check up, I brought up the matter with her pediatrician to ease my worries.
The pedia said that that behavior was normal at Jamaine’s age because she is just starting to deal with all her emotions. It’s possible that she may have seen it from someone or from the TV. Or she may just have done that on her own instinct.
The most important thing, she said, was to deal with it properly: ignore and distract.
She said that kids in Jamaine’s age do most anything that gets them attention whether it’s negative or positive. That’s why neither gentle hugging nor emphatically saying “No!” to her worked to prevent my baby from doing it again.
It’s better to just distract her with another toy or a fun activity.
So the next time Jamaine hit herself again, I acted as if nothing happened and started to read her a fairytale.
The expression on her face said something like “Mommy, I just hit my head again, aren’t you going to do something?”
But I just continued reading in an animated voice. It took her only a few seconds to finally join in.
Another time she hit herself, I just did the same thing.
A few days after, I observed that Jamaine wasn’t hitting herself anymore. I also did my best to provide her with a lot of things to do so she won’t even have the time to be frustrated about anything.
Lately though, after Kalia was born, I observed that Jamaine has been hitting herself occasionally. I figured it must be because of the confusion and anxiety she’s feeling over being “dethroned” as the family’s only angel.
Plus, she’s beginning to learn that no matter how much she whines or cries, she can’t always have or do everything she wants.
Keeping my sanity
I’m learning everyday that parenting is such a challenge. And sometimes, when things like these happen, I feel so inadequate.
But these personal guidelines help me to keep a sane head:
1. Do not take things personally.
When Jamaine started exhibiting that hitting behavior I was worried that I had failed at something , it was my fault and I wasn’t raising her right. I was beginning to think that I was such a bad mother only to learn that such behavior really is part of a growing child’s pains.
2. React calmly.
Sometimes, when Jamaine does something bad or when she’s in a bad mood, I tend to overreact. But I’ve learned that overreacting actually aggravates the situation and never really contributes to the solution. Calmness, on the other hand, helps me to think of better ways to deal with it. Plus, when I am calm, Jamaine often calms down too.
3. Always see the innocence.
Sometimes, we are guilty of putting meanings to a child’s actions like: “She’s pulling the plug to annoy me” or “She eats the cotton even if she knows I’m going to dig it out of her mouth anyway.” Thinking about these meanings can make us get mad so easily at our kids.
But when try to see the innocence, we’ll understand them more and deal with their actions better. Like “She’s pulling the plug because she is curious about how it works. She must have seen me do it a couple of times and she wants to try it herself. But I have to teach her that it is dangerous for her to do that at this time.” Or “She eats the cotton because it’s fluffy and she must like how she can swirl it around in her mouth. But I have to teach her that cotton is not food and I should just give her something else to eat to show her the difference.”
4. Always act from a place of love.
Exhaustion, personal worries and a lot of other negative emotions can block that loving feeling. But I always try to remind myseld to act out of love. No matter how difficult or confusing things sometimes become, when I act out of love, I know I’ll always do the right thing.