I think all of my children have gone through the stage of banging their heads when they get upset, angry, or frustrated. I have always wondered why they would want to inflict pain on themselves like that.
My 1 yr old son has been banging his head A LOT lately and it is really getting to me. He will bang his head on the floor (carpet or tile – it doesn’t matter). He bangs his head on furniture and on walls. He even bangs his head on ME. Sometimes he will bang it softly and it doesn’t necessarily hurt him, but sometimes he will bang his head really hard until he makes himself cry. I have even seen marks on his forehead from the banging.
I did some research about toddlers banging their heads and why they do it and it pretty much confirmed what I thought.
According to BabyCenter.com, they list out several possibilities:
• Self-comfort. This one seems a little weird to me. I have heard of thumb sucking, rocking, and hair pulling for self comfort, but not head banging. They say that toddlers sometimes bang their heads to relax. They bang their heads rhythmically as they’re falling asleep, when they wake up in the middle of the night, or even while they’re sleeping. Developmental experts believe that the rhythmic motion, like rocking in a chair, may help toddlers sooth themselves.
• Pain relief. This one makes sense to me. I have felt like banging my own head when I am in pain with a migraine or a toothache. Your toddler may also bang their head if they are in pain — from teething or an ear infection, for example. Head banging seems to help kids feel better, perhaps by distracting them from their discomfort.
• Frustration. This is the one that I see in my 1 yr old. They say, if your toddler bangs their head during temper tantrums, that they probably are trying to vent some strong emotions. They haven’t yet learned to express their feelings adequately through words, so they are using physical actions. They can also be comforting themselves from being frustrated.
• A need for attention. I do see this sometimes in my toddler. Ongoing head banging can be a way for your toddler to get attention. Understandably, as parents, we can get upset seeing our child banging their head. 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.
• A developmental problem. Head banging can be associated with developmental disorders such as autism. It can be one of many behavioral red flags. Rarely does head banging alone signal a serious problem.
I have to say I feel much better reading this list of possible reasons my toddler would be banging his head. I know that this phase will not last. Once he is able to express himself better through words, I think that the head banging will decrease and eventually stop altogether. Right now, my 1 yr old son doesn’t talk, so he is just using the physical action of banging his head to get the emotion and frustration out.
I think it is probably best to not pay too much attention too it, because it can become a need for attention. I have seen the head banging increase since I started saying to my son “No, don’t bang your head..”. I am going to work on ignoring it just like I ignore my older children’s pouting.
So, if you are struggling with having a child who bangs their head for self comfort, pain relief, frustration, or the need for attention – don’t fear – this too shall pass. In a few years you will look back and laugh about it. And if your child is showing signs of developmental issues, then share your concerns with your pediatrician and they will point you in the right direction for further help.
How about you? Have you ever dealt with a child who bangs their head? What did you do?