Some toddler behavior can seem odd and some can be downright disturbing. When you see your toddler repeatedly banging their head against their crib, it is difficult not to be alarmed. Although it is very worrisome in appearance, head banging is in fact quite normal behavior for young children.
The Hard Facts
As strange as it may seem, babies and toddlers like to bang their heads over and over again. It is estimated that anywhere between 15 and 20% of young tots are regular head bangers. Your child can start banging their head as early as six months and will usually stop doing it between the ages of two and four. Boys are three times more likely to participate in this behavior than girls are.
While it is easy to worry that your toddler will seriously hurt himself, most of the time he won’t. On the odd occasion, he may receive a bruise or two, which is nothing serious and won’t cause any permanent damage. Your toddler does know his own pain threshold and is unlikely to bang his head any harder than he can stand it. As baffling as this behavior can be to parents, even more surprising are the reasons behind the behavior.
After a busy, stressful day, you probably like to unwind by indulging in a glass of wine, soothing yourself with a warm bath, or maybe attending a yoga class. When your toddler has had a busy day and needs to relax before going to sleep, he likes to bang his head. Yes, that’s right. Head banging is a form of relaxation for your 18-month-old and is why it most often occurs at nighttime when they are trying to settle down to sleep.
Head banging can also serve as a soothing distraction to discomfort or pain felt by your toddler, for example when they are teething. It is not unusual to see your toddler banging their head when they are in the throws of a temper tantrum since it can be used as an outlet of anger, as well. On the odd occasion, it may also be used to get your attention. In extremely rare cases, head banging can point towards a more serious problem in your toddler, like autism or a development disorder.
While you can’t necessarily curb your toddler’s head banging ways, here are some things that can help you deal with the situation:
- Although it probably goes against your initial instinct, ignore your toddler’s head banging. This will help ensure that he is not doing it solely for the sake of getting attention.
- Since it is normal behavior, there is no sense in scolding or disciplining your toddler for his actions. Your toddler probably wouldn’t even understand what he did wrong.
- If it makes you feel better, install a cushioned bumper onto the sides of your toddler’s crib. While it won’t stop the behavior, you can at least feel more secure knowing that he has something soft to plant his head against.
- Look for other activities that your toddler can do that will let her bang away, like a toy tool kit with a toy hammer. Also, make sure they got lots of active play during the day.
- If you can’t help but notice the rhythm in your toddler’s banging, then consider incorporating music into their day. Put on some lively music and clap, stomp, drum or dance to the beat with your toddler.
- In the evening, establish a routine with lots of soothing and relaxing activities, like a quiet reading time or rocking gently together, to help your toddler wind down after their busy day.
When to Worry
Although head banging is harmless most of the time, there are occasions when parents should be concerned. If you notice that your toddler is hurting himself; is continually unhappy or distant; is significantly less communicative or doesn’t want any physical contact, make an appointment with your toddler’s doctor to investigate any possible problems.
Get advice on how to deal with toddler headbanging by chatting with other moms in our toddler forum.