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My almost 2-year-old toddler enjoys falling on her knees (purposely) and then saying "ouch" with a big smile on her face.

I didn't think much of it when she used to do it on a carpet, but now, she has started doing it on concrete/driveways/etc. This has resulted in some scraped knees and loud crying (but that doesn't seem to stop her). I am also generally concerned about the well being of her knees.

I've asked her repeatedly to not do that ("no Grace, Grace get an ouch") but she seems to associate "ouch" with a good thing. (I have no idea why.) We usually do not cuddle her after she hurts herself, but we did always say "ouch!" So we gave her attention. We started ignoring her when she hurts herself 6 months ago, but that doesn't seem to be changing her actions.

How do I get her to recognize that hurting herself...is not a good thing?

  • Is she really hurting herself? What may look painful if you were to do it is quite different when you're 1/4th your height. It could be just a game. I would start worrying if she shows other behaviors where pain and pleasure seem mixed up - perhaps there is something physiological going on. – w00t Jun 12 '12 at 19:46
  • You can think of spinning in circles as a game where pleasure and pain (at least discomfort) are mixed up. But it seems clear that it is normal and healthy play found in children everywhere. – Paul Cline Jun 15 '12 at 17:00
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As I understand it, it is normal and common for toddlers to cause themselves modest pain. It seems to be a combination of sensory stimulation, sensory integration, expression of frustration, body control feedback, and exploration of cause and effect and consistency. Sometimes out of lack of fine control of bodily movements the toddler will cause themselves more pain than intended. For me to consider this normal with my son, it needs to be relatively minor and not cause an injury needing anything more than a kiss from his mom.

I think what you are describing is normal behavior and will diminish over time as that particular stimulation is well integrated into memory and experience. If her falling to her knees only ends in minor scrapes it seems unlikely that she will damage her knees. Keep in mind I'm no expert on knees or knee injuries.

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Some children strongly associate with the cuddles they get after they hurt themselves, so you may find ignoring minor bumps and bruises helps here, so they don't get the sympathy they crave.

Not sure if that is relevant in your case but I have seen it with some of my friends children.

Our approach, helped by having a wife who is a nurse, is to ignore them if they hurt themselves unless they look like something serious has happened.

A bit harsh, but it means they laugh off small bumps and only come for sympathy when something is really bad.

  • I understand that, however, that isn't relevant in our case. We usually do not cuddle her after she hurts herself...but we did always say "ouch!" So we gave her attention, yes. We started ignoring her when she hurts herself, but that doesn't seem to be changing her actions. – Swati Jun 8 '12 at 17:11
  • @Swati if you only recently started ignoring the small hurts, give it some time to "sink in". – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jun 8 '12 at 18:17
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    It's been 6 months. That's like...a quarter of her life already.... – Swati Jun 8 '12 at 18:18

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