Fair   63.0F  |  Forecast »

Why Some Babies Start Head Butting and What to Do

What's with thrashing behavior in your toddler? Should you be concerned? Experts weigh in on the reasons and how to keep these kids safe.

Does your 2-year-old look like he's preparing for a rock concert? Head-butting the wall, his sibling or you?

Well there's no need to be alarmed. About 20 percent of children do this, according to pediatrician Paula Schreck of St. John Providence Health System. Boys are more likely to engage in the behavior.

The reasons

"This is similar to any tantrum," says Schreck. "It's usually brought on by frustration or lack of attention."

Typically manifesting between 18 months and 2 years old, the behavior is a way for toddlers to send a message to the parent. It should subside once they start talking at around 3 or 4.

Prevention

To prevent this behavior, the first step is to notice when it happens. "Try to pay attention to when the child does this, what they're trying to get out of it," says Dr. Laurie Warner, psychologist and board-certified behavior analyst at Beaumont Hospital's Center for Development.

If it's an attention-seeking act where, for example, you're on the phone and not playing with your child, be proactive. Set up toys or games for while you're busy to distract your kid from your lack of attention.

"When a parent comes to me with a child exhibiting this sort of behavior, the first thing we do is go over the history of the event," says Dr. Tisa Johnson, Henry Ford Hospital pediatrician. "We go over what happened before, during and after the behavior."

Safety

The next step is to make sure they're going to be safe.

"It's unlikely they will do it hard enough to hurt themselves more than once," Warner says. Basically, if they hit their heads too hard, they likely won't do it with as much gusto next time.

Although they are unlikely to seriously injure themselves, bruising may occur.

Ignoring

The best way to get your child to stop this action is to ignore it. Like any tantrum, if you overreact or feed into it, the child will realize that doing this bad behavior results in more attention.

"Even picking up your child to stop the head butting is reinforcing the behavior," says Johnson. "If you're worried about their safety, pick the child up, put them in their crib and leave the room. This ensures that they are safe, but you're still ignoring them."

Other tips

If the behavior is happening for an extended period of time, contact your family pediatrician.

"It could also be a response to pain," says Warner, such from "an ear infection or new tooth that they are unable to verbalize to you."

Head butting also is often seen while a child is preparing to fall asleep. This is not problematic and should not be taken seriously.

"Toddlers may rock or head bang while falling asleep," says Schreck. "They simply enjoy the rhythmic movement like when they were in the womb."

Made sure their crib or bed has a soft place for them to rock their head, but be cautious to not over-stuff it with pillows and blankets for fear of suffocation.

Many parents are worried that this head-banging behavior is an early indicator of autism or other developmental disorders. While it is one symptom, without other red flags, the behavior on its own is no need for alarm.

Add your comment:
Advertisement

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Beach Towel and Picnic Blanket Caddy Craft

Beach Towel and Picnic Blanket Caddy Craft

Looking for an easy, compact way to tote those summer necessities? You're in luck! This simple sewing project makes carting your fabric accessories a breeze.

Socialite Returns Adopted Child to Orphanage for Crying

Socialite Returns Adopted Child to Orphanage for Crying

After only one night in, Romanian socialite Monica Gabor took her adopted son back to the orphanage because the child was too distressed.

Medication Mistakes Common and Dangerous, New Study Finds

Medication Mistakes Common and Dangerous, New Study Finds

Recent findings published in Pediatrics show that nearly 40 percent of parents make measuring errors for their kid's medicine. Why is this happening and what can you do to prevent it?

Craft Roundup: Fun Summer Projects for Kids

Craft Roundup: Fun Summer Projects for Kids

Beat vacation boredom with these four cool ideas from blogs, including Popsicle holders, printable sewing cards, jellyfish handprint bookmarks and more.

5 Tips to Get Your Kids Interested in Cooking

5 Tips to Get Your Kids Interested in Cooking

From picking out ingredients to concocting their own culinary creations, here are a few ways to encourage your children to help out in the kitchen.

Family Picnic Recipes and Ideas

Family Picnic Recipes and Ideas

Head to the park or on a hike and make the great outdoors your dinner spot. Here are six ideas to help you plan your meal – from drink to dessert.

Book Review: Three Fun Summer Craft Reads for the Family

Book Review: Three Fun Summer Craft Reads for the Family

Want a few simple, fun sewing ideas for the kids, projects to brighten up their rooms or maybe just tips for DIY tinkering? These authors have you covered.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement