Dear Dr. Meg,
My 8-year-old son is not an ADD child or anything, but he has always struggled with self control. Tonight I noticed that his eye was red above and below his eye, and I asked him about it. He told me that sometimes when he notices that he is getting too crazy, he punches himself in the eye, and that he has been doing this for a few days! I am worried about this…is he making this up? Or if not, should I make a big deal of this? I encouraged him to stop and pray next time, instead of hurting himself, because God can help. Is this a sign of some big problem to come, though? Or should I just take this in stride as childish and not worry too much about it?
No, it isn’t normal for an 8-year-old boy to punch himself because he feels that he is “getting crazy.” This tells me that he is having very contemptuous feelings about himself and doesn’t like himself much. Younger children will self-soothe with behaviors like head-banging but he is too old for this.
Here’s what I would do. Don’t make a big deal out of it just yet. He may have just been angry at himself over something and it could pass. I would watch him carefully over the next couple of months. Watch how he talks about himself. Is he constantly saying negative things about himself? Also watch for other self-destructive behaviors. If you notice this type of thing continuing, I would ask your pediatrician for help. You might want to call and ask for an appointment without him present so that you can discuss these issues freely with your doctor. But for now, just keep a close eye on things and pray for him. It may well pass.