Archived Q&A and Reviews
I'm hoping that someone can give me some guidance here: my nephew has begun to bang his head on the crib when he is ready to come out of his crib, doesn't want to take his nap, is finished taking his nap, trying to get to sleep etc. Also, he hits himself on the top of his head when he's a bit frustrated (wants to do something, but is not allowed to). Both behaviors are concerning to his parents (it is his head after all). I'm more concerned about the parents getting through this (they are distressed) than I am about my nephew. My sister is wondering if the head hitting is related to the fact that he's teething. Has anyone else experienced this at all? Thanks, Aunt concerned about parents
I apparently did this as a kid. I don't remember, but my parents talk about it and how stressful it was. I am fine and as normal as a person can be. My mom thinks it was that I could not verbally communicate all that I wanted to say and that when I was able to articulate better I stopped banging my head. I would tell them no to worry too much, I think it's pretty common and skulls are strong. C
It is the epitome of normal for this age. I just came from my son's pediatrician last week (my son is 16.5 months) and he does it sometimes too, just to get us to tell him to stop it, I think, hahaha. She told us it's normal, and when he did it on the door of the exam room, she smiled at him and said,''He'll stop when it starts to hurt,'' and he did. Tell your nephews parents it's no biggie. Bridget
My almost 14 month old daughter bangs her head on the ground when (I think) she is frustrated or tired. I always pick her right up and tell her not to do that becuase it hurts her and she calms down. Is there anything more I should be doing? Is this normal? Should I be worried? Thanks for the help. anon
I was a major head banging toddler, according to my parents. For whatever reason I cant possibly recall now, it was something I enjoyed, as well as a way to get my frustrations out. My son does it, too, as a toddler. I don't worry about his behavior because I know that I was the same way. They grow out of it. She won't bang her head so hard that she'll actually hurt herself in any real way. Its definitely a ''self- limiting'' behavior. Jenny
Our son was a headbanger starting at around 13 months, and stopping at about 2 and a half. It was terrifying, especially because it accompanied night terrors and tantrums that inflicted pain on him and us. Our pediatrician said that before he could do any actual damage, he would pass out/knock himself out. In other words, his body would stop him before he broke his skull. Plus, she advised we try banging our heads (to see how it works), and we realized that you can get a pretty loud sound without hurting yourself. We saw that going on more as he got older. Finally, she recommended Setting Limits and Raising the Spirited Child, and we saw a lot of our son reflected in those books. When he would do it, we'd clear a space, try to stay calm and offer suggestions about his feelings and some possible solutions. Eventually he outgrew it, but he is still physically very expressive about his feelings, sometimes in ways that scare me (he's 3 and a half). I have to remind myself of the headbanging days and say, ''this too shall pass.'' Andrea
My 14 month old son hits himself on the head (usually slapping his palms, but occassionally his fists, on to the top of his head). He often does this when I'm feeding him at night, so he's well-ensconsed in my arms and a blanket as we get ready for bed. When he does it, I usually say ''no, no, no, please don't hurt your head'', at which point he'll usually stop, then smile conspiratorially at me, like he's getting away with something. This makes it hard for me to know what his motivation is here - if he's just testing my limits or if there is something else going on? A few times he's hit himself in the face or purposefully banged his head on something, like a table. He has no obvious developmental issues, is watched by a loving nanny during the day (as he has been for the past 10 months) and gets our undivided attention at night. Has anyone else experienced this? Is this cause for alarm, or is he just discovering coordination, strength and testing my limits all at the same time? Should I just ignore him, as long as it's relatively 'harmless'? Any insights would be greatly appreciated.
My son used to hit himself on the head too when he was about your son's age. Does he do it when he's tired? This was the case with my son, and I think slapping his head was just his way of releasing some frustration. He is now 19 months old and hardly ever does it. I wouldn't worry if I were you. Like so many other bahavior quirks, he'll probably outgrow it -- maybe when he starts communicating verbally. Carrie
This is actually quite common in small children, and it's not a cause for concern as children this age are not strong enough to hurt themselves. anon
My 16-month old has also been bonking herself on the head. Sometimes she does it to re-play an accidental bonk, but sometimes she does it spontaneously, on the floor or the bed. I think it's to get attention or to simply test the sensation. I, too, tell her words to the effect of, ''I love you, please don't hurt yourself.'' I look forward to seeing what others have to say on this. Zoe
Our son has taken to banging his head on the wall or floor occasionally when he seems frustrated or just in usual play. Has anyone observed this in their toddlers before? Lois
My daughter had the same habit of banging her head on the floor or a table when she got frustrated or angry. She would slam her hands down at the same time for the dramatic effect. She started this at about 12 months old and it stopped after about 6-7 months. We were not able to get her to stop by any intervention on my or my husband's part, but she got better about it when we started to teach her ASL since she had to learn sign language because her cousin is deaf. We started to notice that signing helped ease the frustration she felt from communication problems, but the head banging really started to taper off when she slammed her head into a marble table at a restaurant and discovered how much it actually can hurt (much to her surprise). I spoke to other parents about it and the ones that had the same problem with their kid(s) said theirs outgrew it too after time. Good luck, hope this helps. A. Brown
My thirteen-month-old occasionally bangs his head, mostly after accidentally hitting it on something, he'll repeat it and then kind of realize it hurt! I usually take him away quickly from whatever surface he was near and give him a little comfort, and he seems to be getting over it. The ''What to Expect'' book says this is baby discovering rhythm, if that makes any sense. Try to change his situation and give him a diversion. head banger's mom
My son would hit himself on the head when he got really upset and had banged his head on the wall a few times. We would just stay really calm and sympathetic and concerned and tell him that that didn't help and offered to hug him. We'd always validate that 'yes, you're really angry'. I tried suggesting he hit the floor with his hand, but he never did, and maybe that wasn't the best idea, anyway. He eventually stopped doing it, but he is always able to tell me 'I'm mad, I'm sad' what ever it is. He's now almost 3. Good luck! namastesf
I actually have a question for a friend and a question for myself.......My friend has a 17 month old who has recently started rocking back and forth and banging the back of his head/back against the wall, crib, doors. It is a new behaviour but pretty disturbing. Could it be the beginning signs of autism? She's hoping just a passing phase - obviously. I have a five year old who sleeps in his own bed but it a real flip-flopper. At what point should I remove his bedrail in order for him to adjust to the ''grown-up'' way. At this rate I can see him still having the rail on at 18 !!! If I place cushions on the floor will him falling out a few times make him more semi- conscious and try not to flip-flop as much ? I don't want him to hurt himself but how long will the rail be best left in place? Thanking you in advance for any advice or suggestions.
My almost 4-year-old has been rocking his head since he was very young. It was somewhat worrying, as it looks a bit like autism or some other abnormality. But he is fine. It was a sure sign he was tired when he was very young, and now I think he still does it primarily when he's tired. But he also does it when he's enjoying listening to music--like rocking out! He does it (and always has) in his car seat a lot too, often before falling asleep. Now that he's much bigger, when he does it in the carseat it ''squeaks'', and he says he has birds in his seat!
Regarding taking off the rail, we did it shortly after two years old, when it was clear he could climb over if he wanted. The bed was at the lowest level, so it wasn't that high. But we put pillows for a while. He does move a bit while sleeping, but not too dramatically. Occasionally he would fall out, sometimes cry, or sometimes we'd find him asleep on the floor. It was pretty rare, and he was never hurt. We got him a ''big boy bed'' at 3 years old and skipped the rail entirely. Bryan in Oakland
My 18 months old boy has taken the habit to tap his head with his hands or 'bang' it on the floor for no specific reasons. He does it when he eats, when he plays, but also when he is not happy and about to throw a tantrum. I want to think that it is because he is trying to attract our attention but would like to have comments from other parents whose children have had the same behaviour. Is it a phase they are going through? I don't think that he suffers from headackes as he has not shown any other signs such as being in pain and crying. Thank you very much for your input - I have been meaning to write for a while... Karine
My son (now 2.5 yrs) was a head banger. He started when he was under a year old and it appeared that he did it out of frustration or anger or to get attention. He went through phases with it -- sometimes more and sometimes less -- but it has pretty much stopped. When he was doing it a lot, I tried to get him to stop or to at least hit his head on the carpet instead of the hardwood floor, but to no avail. I don't think it hurts, but it used to bug me to see faint bruises on his forehead and to see the funny looks from other parents when he'd bang his head in public. Reasoning didn't work and neither did imitating him to show him how silly it was to do it. Try to ignore it as much as possible while still protecting him from really hurting himselft. He'll get over it when he can either move around better and/or communicate better. My son doesn't bang his head anymore, but when he's mad, he'll drop down to his hands and knees and rest his forehead on the floor like he's going to bang it. Good luck!
My son (now 15 1/2 years old) was a head banger as a toddler. I don't remember the exact age, but I think he was around 2 years old. He would bang his head on the floor, ground, table, etc. when he was frustrated. At first we reacted to this behavior but soon saw that it was better to ignore it. I distinctly remember one time where he did it at a softball game on the asphalt and made his head bleed. The doctor said the only thing we could do at the time was to make him wear a helmet, which was not possible. He out grew it in about 6 months as he was better able to handle his frustrations. He is now a thriving honor role, all league athlete at a college prep high school. So there was no lasting damage. At the time it freaked us out, but now we look back on it as a great story to tell about him and his ''hard'' head. My advice would be to ignore it if possible and remove him to softer ground (carpet, grass)if necessary and help him if you can before the frustration level gets to that point. We didn't do anything specific and he outgrew it eventually.
Hard Heads Mom
My 21 month old has on occasion banged his head on the floor in frustration. This happens primarily when he doesn't get his way about something and is usually the final step in a full demonstration of his anger (he drops to his knees, throws his hands up and then flings his body at the ground). At first, it was quite frightening and we worried that he would hurt his head. And, quite frankly, he did at first. Now (about 10 months since this started) he's more careful about when and where he does it so I know he's learning to be careful.
While it was frightening at first, I learned to recognize it as a straightforward tantrum. I remind him to take care of his head (and move heavy hard things away if possible), but otherwise let him express his anger. I figure he doesn't have the words and needs to do what works to relieve his frustration.
I think it's important not to overreact in a way that encourages the behavior. I figure if I give in every time he bangs his head, he's pretty quickly going to learn to do that to get his way. I also try to give the words to his frustration: ''You're angry because Mom says (fill in blank), aren't you?'' In time, I hope he uses the words.
Finally, I learned to give up on stuff that doesn't really matter. For example, if my son ate paper, I let him- as long as it wasn't important paper or dirty paper. I figured that pretty soon he'd quit on his own. And, when it came to eating dirt and sand (my son's favorite snacks), that's exactly what happened. Margaret
You might find this BabyCenter article about head banging in infants and toddlers reassuring: http://www.babycenter.com/refcap/toddler/toddlerbehavior/11554.html --Dana
My son, now 18 months old, went through a period of head bonking. Like you are experiencing, he would do it out of frustration (he didn't get something he wanted), or when he wanted my attention (if I was on the phone, cooking dinner etc... ). He would bonk his head on the side of the cupboard (he had a favourite place just for this)and then come running to me for sympathy. I continued to tell him that this was not good - and show that I was upset and hurt that he did this. I would try not to reward this behaviour by picking him up - instead I would would bend down and hug him or just talk to him letting him know I am there - but his behaviour hurts both of us. He hasn't bonked his head this month at all (he started around 16 months).
My mother-in-law told me my husband also did this as a toddler - and it did not last long with him as well. I equate it to separation anxiety - something they will work through with your support and attention - but will pass with their development. Marcella
Best to ignore it! A babies whole world is throough its senses. ''What does it feel like if I pull my hair out'' WOW! My son used to look right at us and yank a huge glob of hair out. It freaked me out. I decided to ignore it and before you know it he stopped. When he would later throw tantrums and throw himself on the ground, he finally started to let himself down slower, during the tantrum, so as to not hurt himself. Very funny to see.
All these weird behaviors seem to go through phases. Before you know it your baby will let go of the head banging and then discover a new thing, maybe hair pulling. When it gets a rise out of us that just makes it better! anon
My son started banging his head (when he was angry or frustrated) when he was about a year old. At first it really freaked me out. I went into hyperdrive for a few days trying to avoid any situation that might trigger this behavior. Then I read an article on babycenter.com that said, basically, that it is a calming behavior and is self regulating so they won't hurt themselves. After reading that article, I simply did not put ANY attention on the behavior at all. I noticed that he never cried in pain. I noticed that a couple of times he hit himself harder than he expected and surprised himself and eased off. For a short while he would take a running start for the harder (wood under upholstery) part of the couch and hit it like a ram full speed. That was hard to take, but again I didn't react and he stopped doing it shortly thereafter. He is almost 3 now and still occasionally bangs his head on the floor or wall. I don't even have to be in the room for him to do it, so I don't feel it is just to get my attention. More often, he bangs his head into me when he is angry. I treat this the same as hitting, kicking, biting, etc. Although I must admit that I am much more on guard because he has hurt me a few times with his hard head.
He has enough verbal skills now that I keep asking him to use his words when he is angry. We talk about this when he is not angry, because my sense is that right now he still can't express himself verbally when he is in a rage. So I try to role play a little when he is in a good mood, hoping that soon he will be able to find his voice when he is in a rage.
Oh, one more thing I used to do when he was head banging, or otherwise displaying angry behavior. I use to say, ''Hey, has Mr. Meany come to visit? Is that Mr. Meany in there? Tell Mr. Meany to go away.'' This actually worked sometimes. We gave the mood a name so he could deal with it. anon
Our son head-bonked quite a bit, usually when he was upset. It seemed that he often chose rather hard surfaces, such as a window, door, wall, or floor. It clearly hurt him, but he rarely got a bruise from it (plenty of those from falling, anyway). We would tell him to stop, and if he didn't we would usually pick him up and try to comfort him. He is almost 3 now and I can't remember the last time he bonked.
I have a 20 month old daughter that is very bright and active. She is a very good natures person for the most part except for the fact that she is almost two and therefore frustrates easily. Our problem is that she bangs her head on the nearest surface when she doesn't get her way. Today she threw her forehead onto the bathtub, sidewalk, her sisters back and the side of the car. She cries because it hurts and then she does it again. My question is what should I do? I am tempted to ignore it but she chose such hard surfaces I worry about her head. I have tried to hold her tight and let her take her frustrations out on me but quite frankly I don't like being banged into with all of her force. Once she scratched my neck with all five nails. Ouch. Any ideas would be appreciated. I am trying not to panic about this and think the worst.
My friend just recently broke her eardrum when her twenty month old son head banged her in the ear. In my view, while head banging can be considered *normal* behavior on the part of some infants and toddlers (it seems to be a means by which some individual children deal with tension and fatigue) it needs to be taken *seriously* and responded to because it's a safety issue.
My son, now eighteen months also went through a period of time where he did quite a bit of head banging. When he did not want to be held or confined, my son would bang his head into my head (he hurt my husband and I a number of times). Sometimes when he was unhappy, he would make his body go limp in protest, arch his back, throw back his head in protest. It was difficult to control him because he would just throw his body back on the ground, often hurting himself in the process when he landed his head on concrete or hard linoleum.
When my son head banged me, I tried to respond as calmly but as firmly as possible by saying, No head banging! You hurt mommy. Mommy doesn't like it when you bang your head against me. It feels bad. When mommy feels bad, it makes mommy want to cry. I was trying to emphasize how much it hurt me. (In addition to being very physical, my son is very affectionate and loving...I know he didn't want to hurt me.) I think getting him to realize how much it hurt me was the key to changing his behavior. I also tried to make an effort to verbally acknowledge his frustration (which he is obviously too young to do for himself), recognize when he was winding down, getting overly tired or stressed, and make sure he got naps on a regular basis.
When he would bang his head into the floor (and later cry because it hurt.) I would say Yeah it hurts when you bang your head in the floor. (I would mimic him in a funny way and pretend to hurt myself whiling making funny sounds like *boom*) Ouch I hurt myself...hey that doesn't feel good. Then I would make a funny face in mock pain. (Usually this would get him to start laughing, so it seemed that he was listening.) You don't want to hurt yourself...that hurts!! At this point I tried to make sure that there was eye contact and an emphasis on how much it hurt. I would also tell him, Mommy loves you. Mommy doesn't want to see you get hurt.
My son also started hitting his sister out of frustration. In response, I started implementing two minutes time outs. After a month or so, his behavior was remarkably much better.
Incidently the book, Raising Your Spirited Child has greatly helped me understand my son's personality. I have found that I have needed to be a bit more firmer, more creative and adopt a new set of parenting strategies with him than with my daughter who rarely exhibited this type of behavior as an infant or toddler. Good Luck! I know it's not easy.
I know a kid who's in her teens now and has been banging her head against her pillow to get to sleep since she was 2 years old. She's sweet and smart and just fine (though in a few years she might want to stop for fear of frightening a lover). Maybe the thing to do would be to encourage the child in question to bang against things that are soft, safe and comforting.
My 20-month-old son is exhibiting some alarming behavior lately. He's a little gentleman with the nanny and the little girl we nanny-share with, but with me and my husband he's suddenly a little Klingon. He whacks us and/or head-butts us and laughs, even when we are in obvious pain. He head-butted me so hard yesterday that my nose swelled up! I was crying with the pain and my husband, of course, said, No! Don't bonk Mommy! Gentle! and the like and my little demon looked right at me and smiled, Funny! I of course said, It's not funny, it hurts! He seemed nonplussed. This is incident 237 in a series. He never hits in anger- It really is sorta Klingon in that it's (to him) friendly roughhousing. We ALWAYS tell him, Don't hit, hitting hurts, etc. I also remove myself from the play situation. But the behavior just seems to go on and on regardless. We also went through a biting stage where he bit only during a hug or snuggle- He bit when he REALLY loved you. That's thankfully very much on the wane. By the way, he only watches PBS and he's an only child- so no older siblings pushing him around or playing WWF Smackdown or anything like that.
So. Is my toddler a sociopath or just a toddler? Will he figure out that hitting hurts eventually? And why does he hit only us? Melissa
No, your son is not a sociopath!!!! You are doing the right thing by firmily telling him that it hurts to be hit, and that he needs to stop and he eventually will. This behavior is quite common for young children. Hitting and biting are common impulses when children love too much. It might be helpful to have a place where he could hit or bite, instead of you guys. A pillow, or a bitting toy arond his neck. I did this with my daughter, who was biting often when she was around 23 months. She had a toy hippo that she was allowed to bite. It worked well. She eventually stopped biting people, and even gave her hippo to a younger friend who was in a biting stage. Eliana
I am wondering if there is anyone out there who has any advice about what to do when my 3 year old has a tantrum that involves slamming her head, face, mouth into the wall, floor, her hands etc. Our pediatrician has told us that we need to ignore it completely as any attention will promote the behavior. This is hard to do when she is bloodying her face on the wall. She has already made several dents in the plaster. Her face is really bruised up and she has a big scratch on her head. I'm sure people think we beat her.
When I ask her later on when she is calm why she does it, she expresses concern that I am going away and she has to be with her father. I have recently returned to work after being home for 5 months on maternity leave. I know this is why the behavior has returned, she used to do it when she was younger, I had hoped she had grown out of it. I understand seperation anxiety, but I don't understand the compulsion to hurt herself. She knows it draws a crowd too, which is part of the problem.
I just don't know how to get the behavior to stop with out completely ignoring it---but how do you ignore a 3 year old putting her head through the wall? Does anyone know of any good books? Therapists? Any advice would be appreciated! Concerned mom
Our 3 year old has been throwing serious tantrums that involve severe head- banging (she's put several dents in her wall). She has done this for a couple of years now. Everything I have read tells me that this behavior exists in 1 out of 3 kids, and the only thing that can be done about it is to ignore it up till the point where they might hurt themselves.
Today, at a visit to Children's Hospital (for a dental pre-op) she threw an absolute fit in front of the staff when they were trying to get her blood-pressure, etc. The person on duty stated that he had never seen anything as severe as her tantrum, and wanted us to immediately get psychological help for her. The staffer that suggested this is not a doctor, nor a psychologist by his own admission. This does go against most of what I have researched on this behavior.
We will look into this with our physician, but I was wondering if anyone out there can shed some light on this behavior. She is currently taking Singulair and Zyrtec for allergies and asthma. Could this be a side affect? Thanks in advance!
You might check out the book ''The Out of Sync Child'' re. the head-banging and for some sensory advice. I always felt ''ignoring'' tantrums was so hard to do in the heat of the moment, especially when they got so physical. And clearly at some point they can't actually calm down on their own. My youngest used to bang his head in his crib for sensory feedback, and was always banged up, despite a double thick crib bumper. Best of luck. mom of two strong willed children
My child also banged his head and had violent tantrums and it was very difficult for our whole family to cope with. He also had a tantrum severe enough to bring a succession of doctors into the urgent care, beginning to schedule an MRI(he calmed after nearly 2 hours!).
After 6 months of worry we finally got some great help from a panel of behavior experts through Regional Center. They explained that a behavior like head-banging can serve many different functions including self-stimulation, frustration release, attention-getting, and pain relief/expression. Sometimes the behavior begins as one thing, such as pain or self-stimulation, and continues as an attention-getting behavior. They encouraged us to ignore the behavior whenever possible, or use a special holding technique where you wrap yourself around your child while sitting, basically so the child cannot move. This is to prevent escalation and self-injurious behavior. They also encouraged us rule out any possibility that pain could be causing the behaviors.
Our child ended up having a long list of medical problems that were contributing to his behaviors. When the pain and irritation were relieved, the behavioral approaches worked quite quickly. It is prudent to see your child's pediatrician to rule out pain or medication reactions as contributing factors, then ask for behavioral help. By this I mean from a behavior specialist or a doctor/child psychologist who specializes in doing behavior analysis and modification. You may have to work hard to get the proper referral, but it will be worth it.
We also tried craniosacral massage, Wilburger brushing protocol(especially on his head), homeopathy, and reducing allergens. These all worked to reduce incidents/severity, and helped us to feel we were ''doing something about it''.
This is a very difficult issue to deal with and it can drain you physically and emotionally. Try to give yourselves a break in whatever way you are able; this will help you and your child. Give yourselves a pat on the back for reaching out to get help for your child. I hope you get a lot of helpful replies. doesn't bang his head anymore
My almost 4-year old has been a ''headbanger'' since she could lift her head. She lies on the floor for up to an hour banging her forehead against her hands and chanting. She has no symptoms of autism, but seems to use this repetitive behavior to calm herself when angry, disappointed or overwhelmed. Sometimes I try to engage her while she's doing this, and it's almost as if she's in an altered state and unreachable. She is verbally precocious and expresses herself freely and clearly, and easily discusses feelings. Early on, her pediatrician said not to worry and that this type of behavior tends to disappear by age 5, but still, I worry (though I try not to express overt concern to my daughter)! Any insights, sharing of similar experience, etc. would be appreciated!!!
We also have a headbanger - our 3.5 year old son has been banging his head since he could lift it. He bangs on walls, windows, furniture, the floor, us, and with his own hands. We have noticed that he bangs his head more when he is tired. We try to remind him when he does it to be gentle to his head (although there are times when he has bruises!). We have also been told that he will outgrow this and are anxiously awaiting the time when he does. I do not know if this is the case with your daughter, but our son has a large head for his body size and I wonder if that is part of the problem - his head is heavy and may be something he notices more than most. I expect that when he gets bigger and more proportioned he may not be so focused on his head. Mom to a bumper
Sometimes when my 11-year-old son gets really upset (angry, frustrated, ?) he purposely bangs his head repeatedly on the wall. I've told him that he can bang any part of his body EXCEPT his head, but I don't know what to do. I read in the archive about headbanging, but it's all babies and toddlers. I'm afraid that this headbanging is some sort of self destructive behavior that will turn into cutting or worse when he gets a little older. Has anybody had any experience with this behavior in an older child, and if so, what do I do??
From your description of the situation, it sounds like your son's behavior is intense and unlikely to stop without an intervention based on an understanding of the behavior's underlying cause.
You may find it helpful to document the history of the behavior. When did it start? With what frequency does it occur? Any particular time of day? Any particular issues (under the broad umbrella of anger/frustration)? Duration of each episode? How does each episode end? Who is around? Location of episodes? Your son's mood prior to each episode? Is the onset sudden or are there warning signs? Your son's mood following each episode?
Answering as many of these (and other related) questions as you can, and carefully observing and documenting episodes for a few weeks (2-4) will go a long way toward helping you to identify patterns around this behavior. Once you have established some relevant patterns, it will be much easier to determine a course of action.
I hope you find this helpful