head banging - normal-ish? - Mothering Forums
Life with a Toddler > head banging - normal-ish?
omelette's Avatar omelette 06:13 AM 02-02-2011

My son is 16 months.  We have a clamp on seat for the bar counter that he eats in.  When he is done he whips his head back, banging it on the back of the seat.  He does it very hard and will do it over and over until we get him out.  Sometimes he does it with a little smile on his face, sometimes he starts crying.  He's been doing this for quite some time.  He has also now started banging his head on the floor or on the wall.  If I take something away from him, he gets mad goes down on the floor and bangs his head once or twice or walks over to a wall and bangs his head.  Is this considered a normal behaviour?

The other thing he does which I think is a comfort thing is pinch at his own neck.  If he's in my arms or in bed with me he tries to pinch at my neck but I remove his hand, he tries again, I remove his hand and then he starts pinching at his own neck.  He does it all the time though, when he's playing, walking around...  Would you consider this a comfort thing?

Mal85's Avatar Mal85 06:15 AM 02-02-2011

I'd say it's a comfort thing. My niece and nephew both started doing this as babies and still do it when they're very tired now. (ages 8 and 11 now!) For a long time it was the only way either of them would go to sleep. 

cristeen's Avatar cristeen 11:06 AM 02-02-2011


Normal? Yes.
Easy to watch? No.

Anyone got any tips on stopping it? My 16 mo is doing it too and its really disturbing. Its one thing when i know hes mad/frustrated, but when he starts for no reason, it really bothers me.
naturalmummy's Avatar naturalmummy 07:12 PM 02-03-2011

My brother banged his head up and down on his pillow in bed every night before bed for probably 5+ years. He would also do it if he got angry or upset. I realize on a pillow is less scary than against a hard surface like a floor, but I do know for my bro it was a comfort habit and he eventually grew out of it and he is just fine.

Hopefully it's something that won't last long and he'll find another toddler habit...there are so many "great" ones! 

Only tip I can think of is talking to him about it being dangerous - that's what I have used with my toddler, basically since I don't say "no" often, i only do if i follow up with explaining why something is dangerous and could hurt him. It seems to have worked, but has taken months. (he's now 21 mos and usually gets it when i associate a "no" with danger...

queen b's Avatar queen b 07:19 PM 02-03-2011

my 18 month old ds does this too! i don't know if it indicates something being wrong other than him just being extremely mad or frustrated at the time. sometimes he does it and laughs other times it hurts and he cries, but still continues to do it. i try to redirect him when he is doing it and usually tell him to be gentle with himself. i am hoping he grows out of it soon. i have hear of other kids doing this so, yes, i think it is normal-ish.

marispel's Avatar marispel 06:53 AM 02-04-2011

 My DS banged his head at that age.   We tried a number of things from saying "ouch, don't bang your head that hurts" to moving him to a safer place (the couch) and then we finally started ignoring it unless he was really upset and then we would pick him up.


It's normal and its a phase.   DS banged his head around that age...then stopped and started again.   He has since stopped since he became more verbal and older.

mamarotondi's Avatar mamarotondi 02:25 PM 02-04-2011

My son started banging his head when he became frustrated (being buckled  in the car seat or wanting my attention when he had to wait a moment). He still does it once in a while (at 2 1/2), yet not as often now that his vocabulary is growing. It is vert upsetting to me. I find that lettiing him know that I understand he is frustrated helps. Sometimes I pause after acknowledging his frustration and that is all he needs to compose himself. I also hoep this is just a phase.

BroodyWoodsgal's Avatar BroodyWoodsgal 09:32 PM 02-05-2011

I know so many boys who did/do this and no girls! My DD didn't do it, but DS sure did/does(?). He arcs his back and throws himself backwards as HARD AS HE PHYSICALLY CAN onto the floor, ground, whatever. It is so disturbing to see and he hits his head HARD. Usually it's when he's being told he can't do something...sometimes though, it's over the *slightest* frustration. He's been doing it for about two months or so and at this point, it sort of comes and goes. It's not every day anymore. But man, it's horrible.


But, like everything else, it's a phase. At first I gave it a lot of attention, but quickly recognized that the more attention I paid, the more he did it. So, as hard as it was for me, I would simply move him to a place where it was safe for him to bang his head on the floor and then walk away and ignore. I would stay where he could see me and go to him if he was getting REALLY upset...but I noticed that when I started giving the behavior less attention, he stopped doing it everyday and when he would, would only do once before he looks up and is like "hey, where are you going" and wants to follow me to see what I'm up to. When I would get all fussy over him and try to scoop him up, he'd get more and more upset.


GL..it's normal!

peainthepod's Avatar peainthepod 11:43 AM 02-06-2011
My son did this from infancy until very recently. It was a self-soothing thing that he always did before bed. Sometimes, even now, he rocks himself to sleep by banging the back of his head rhythmically against the pillow or cushion behind him. It's very hard to watch and a little freaky if you've never seen it before, but multiple sources have assured me that it's totally normal and most kids grow out of it at some point. (Although I did meet one person who told me he still does that, at age 62!) redface.gif
DevaMajka's Avatar DevaMajka 09:25 PM 02-06-2011

I think it's relatively normal. Ds2 did (still does occasionally) head bang. I'd read a lot of advice that said to ignore it, and they will stop. I tried ignoring it for a long time, until my grandma was going to stay with us for a week. I knew it would freak her out, so we started 1) giving him his way as much as possible (before the headbanging started) and 2) telling him not to hit his head, and indicating that if he needed comfort to come to us. Those two things helped a lot.

The other thing that I think influenced the headbanging was food sensitivities. I think his food sensitivities either affected his sleep, which led to headbanging, or they caused him pain/discomfort which caused the headbanging.

I also read that teething can make kids headbang because of the pain.