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Toddler pulling hair and scratching

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Question

Hi Dr. Laura,   

What do you suggest doing: My 22 month old son has been pulling hair and scratching. He does not seem to be doing it out of anger but seems like he wants a reaction, he laughs when he does this. It is very frustrating and I try my hardest not to get angry but it hurts. He will pull my hair until I raise my voice to him. 

I need some suggestions please!

Answer

Ouch! I hear he's laughing but it sounds to me like he may actually be trying to get your attention. You don't have a new baby in the house, do you? 

I would reframe this as a bid for connection. When he pulls your hair even a little, immediately move away, calm yourself, and then go back to him and say "Hey, are you out of hugs again?" Pick him up, hug him, throw him around and get him laughing. Then say "Hey, when you need more hugs, just say 'Hug Mommy!' and I will hug you!" 

You aren't rewarding the hair-pulling, you are meeting the need he is expressing and teaching him a better way to express the need. 

Good luck!
Dr. Laura

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