When my daughter gets angry, she makes this mean looking face and then starts punching on her legs. Should I be concerned about this behavior? I do tell her to "stop it" and I would ask her, 'Why is she punching herself?'. She would respond with, "because I am mad".

Is this a problem that may become a much bigger problem as she gets older?

2 Answers 2


In some ways this might be considered a healthier reaction than punching other things. It shows that she is trying to control herself, but she doesn't know how.

My son had anger issues and it helped when we got him one of those inflatable punching buddies. We made sure he understood that it was absolutely okay for him to punch it as much and as hard as he wanted. When he popped it we just bought him another. I think it helped that we were able to explain to him that there is nothing wrong with feeling anger. The important thing is what you do when you are feeling that anger. There are "good" ways to express anger, and "bad" ways. Give your daughter good ways and she won't need the bad ways.

Some children feel the need to express their anger physically, with punching or destruction, and others can express it more cerebrally. My sister used to give her daughter reams of paper and tell her to draw pictures of how she felt when she was angry. This resulted in many pictures of my niece hitting or shooting people, of my nephews being hanged, decapitated and thrown into sewers, and once of several pieces of paper being cut up into tiny pieces and thrown all over her room :)

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    Follow up requested. How old is your sisters daughter now and what is her emotional state? Your post would make me feel better if there was a conclusion to your son and niece being well adjusted adults now.
    – Adam Heeg
    Sep 4, 2015 at 13:25
  • @Francine I agree as well. Definitely a healthier reaction than punching or destroying other things. Sep 4, 2015 at 14:10
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    +1, in particular for "there is nothing wrong with feeling anger. The important thing is what you do when you are feeling that anger" — I have a friend who was told growing up that his anger was bad. He still struggles, decades later, with "anger management issues" that could have been somewhat helped by being told it was his expression of the feeling, not the emotion itself, that was problematic.
    – Acire
    Sep 4, 2015 at 14:20
  • I was just thinking the other day how responsible my niece had become. She is in early teens now and we just all went on a family camping trip (me + 4 siblings + all our kids) and it was very pleasant. She is over her vegetarian stage and her teenage rebellions are pretty mild and she is very good with her younger siblings now. Sep 4, 2015 at 21:08
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    My son also has gotten over his anger. He only had it for a year or two (we adopted him from a Chinese orphanage at age 4-1/2) and he is now a very considerate boy who cares about others and is a natural leader (boy scouts is really nurturing this) Sep 4, 2015 at 21:10

Self harm is a serious issue. I could write yet another article on the subject where I could also cite that

15 percent of kids and teens engage in self-harm

~ Deborah Serani, PsyD in "Depression and Your Child"

Personaly I would model meditation as a starting point while searching for the physiological remidies that target the compulsive self-harm behaviour.

  • While it is good to consider this, please be aware that punching yourself is not necessarily self-harm, at least not in the medical sense. AFAIK, it's only self-harm if it is actually causing injury. But if you are at all in doubt, consult with a counselor / pediatrician / therapist or whatever it is called in your country - they are there to help.
    – sleske
    Feb 8, 2016 at 8:15

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