Ben's Disturbing Habit of Banging His Head...

~ Posted on Sunday, July 25, 2010 at 2:39 PM ~

Sigh... we have been observing this disturbing habit of Ben for the past few weeks now and I'm reading up on the article about it at BabyCenter website. Notes in blue below are excerpts from the article:

Why does my toddler purposely bang his head?
Head banging is surprisingly common. Up to 20 percent of babies and toddlers bang their head on purpose, although boys are three times more likely to do it than girls. Head banging often starts in the second half of the first year and peaks between 18 and 24 months of age. Your child's head banging habit may last for several months, or even years, though most children outgrow it by age 3.


Sigh... Boys are 3 times more likely to do this than girls?!! And peaks between 18-24 months of age?! Ben is 16.5 months now and he's already banging his head! And the article mentioned that most children outgrow the habit by age 3?!!! Oh crap... Ben has got a longgggggggggg way to go then...

Based on the possible reasons listed, I think for Ben's case, he bangs his head because:

* He's frustrated ("If your toddler bangs his head during temper tantrums, he's probably trying to vent some strong emotions. He hasn't yet learned to express his feelings adequately through words, so he's using physical actions. And again, he may be comforting himself during this very stressful event.") and

* He needs our attention ("Ongoing head banging may also be a way for your toddler to get attention. Understandably, you may tend to become solicitous when you see your child doing something that appears self-destructive. And since he likes it when you fuss over his behavior, he may continue the head banging in order to get the attention he wants.").

He only does that when he is playing with us (hubby and me) and when one of us go "No Ben, don't do that!" and off he goes and bang his head. Or when he tries to do something (for example stack the Megablok toys) and unable to do so, then off he goes and bang his head.

I can see the tell-tale signs that he's about to bang his head on the floor. It's either 'No Ben, don't do that' or he gets frustrated then he will step away to a wider space, get ready and squat down, head lower down and then he delivers one swift bang on the floor. He only bangs his head once and then he'll stand up, rub his forehead and started to cry if he does it too hard. Otherwise, he'll rubs his forehead, stood still with his angry and frustrated look until we diverted his attention elsewhere and he will forget about it and goes on playing.

The only picture I can find that comes quite close to how it looks like when he is going to bang his head is like the picture below but he does it real fast and he's clever to choose a wider space area for his head banging actions.

Now what can we do about it?

Give your toddler your attention — but not when he's banging.
Make sure your child gets plenty of positive attention from you when he's not banging his head. If he still bangs his head to get your attention, though, try not to make a big deal about it, or you may reinforce the behavior. Even if you can't completely disregard the behavior, don't scold or punish him for it. He's too young to understand the situation, and your disapproval may only make matters worse.

Protect your child from injury.
Check all the screws and bolts on your toddler's crib once a month or more to make sure the rocking isn't loosening anything. You can also put rubber casters on the crib legs and hang a soft fabric or quilt between the crib and the wall to reduce noise and to minimize wear and tear on the walls and floor. Don't put pillows or blankets in his crib to soften his surroundings, because these are a suffocation hazard. If you want to use bumpers on your toddler's crib to soften his blows, make sure that they're thin, firm (not puffy), and securely tied to the crib railings, so your toddler can't get his head between the bumper and the railing.

Try not to worry.
Your toddler may get a bruise or two, but don't worry — head banging is usually a "self-regulating" behavior. This means your child is unlikely to hit his head hard enough to seriously injure himself. He knows his threshold for pain and will pull back on the throttle a bit if the banging hurts.

Help foster your child's love of rhythm in other ways.
Your child clearly likes a good steady beat, so help him find other outlets for his love of rhythm. Experts often recommend dancing, marching, and drumming or clapping to music together. You might also try putting a metronome in your child's room to give him the comfort of a steady rhythm. Make sure he gets lots of physical exercise during the day, too, to help him burn off some of the nervous energy that may feed his head banging.

 Consult a doctor if your child's behavior becomes worrisome.
If your child bangs his head a lot during the day or continues to bang his head even though he's hurting himself, you may have cause for concern. Though it's uncommon, head banging can be associated with autism and other developmental disorders, which sometimes become apparent during the toddler and preschool years.


Ok... currently, whenever Ben bangs his head, we'll actually try to stop him (if we can catch him on time) but otherwise, after he bangs his head, we'll pull him over and tell him in a stern voice not to do that (and now reading the above which mentioned scolding and punishing won't help cos he's too young to understand), oh well, we really need to be super patient and try not to over-react when he does it since it's a self-regulating behavior. And we've also gotta look for ways to channel his energy to other activities (dancing and clapping to music sounds like a good idea!) After all, we might have to wait and ride this out until Ben turns 3 year old... gulp...

Comments (4) -

MieVee @

Try using positive language. E.g. "Stop that, it hurts" instead of "Don't XXX". Children may filter out the "Don't" and focus on "XXX".

Teach him a way to get your attention when he needs it. E.g. " Just call Mummy when you need me."

My boy frets too when he cannot fix a puzzle piece, so I encourage him with "It's fine, keep trying. You can do it."

Hope this helps. Smile

I'm a full-time mummy

Hi MieVee!
Yeah, I read before in a book not to use those negative words like 'No', 'Don't' etc but somehow still hard to change  Frown
I also encourage Ben when he's having problems with his puzzle blocks and it works sometime. I'll try your suggestion on teaching him a way to get my attention when he needs it by calling for me (he's not very vocal yet). Thanks for sharing your ideas. Appreciate it!


ooh, been there before. only jackjack used to bang his head against the wall. he stopped when he realized he only hurt himself. turned out he was teething. is ben teething?

I'm a full-time mummy

Hi cheri!
How long does it take for jackjack to outgrow this habit? I found out Ben is teething, upper first molar coming out.

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