14 answers

Head-Butting Toddler

Hi, my 22-month old has a problem with head-butting objects. Its usually when he gets upset. He'll start screaming and then start head-butting whatever's around, ie: the floor, table, door, bannister, whatever he could get his head to. I'm worried that he might be hurting himself doing this. He has a bruise on his forehead from it. I'm just wondering if anyone knows how I could stop him from doing this. My other two Boys NEVER did anything like this. I don't know what to do! Please help. :(

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So What Happened?™

I just want to say Thank You all very much for your responses. They were all very helpful and encouraging. I know now that its just a phase but I will keep an eye out for anything more serious. Thank You again.

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I am not saying he is, but you may start researching other observations of behavior as signs of autism and other developmental disorders. Don't jump to conclusions until you research.

If this is the only behaior and is just something he say and is mimicing, it will pass. My son punches people (me and his sister). I have researched about the toddler boy need for physical expression. So, I have taught my 2 year old to punch a pillow. I pick him up immediately and kindly say: Oh, let us go find a pillow for that...here have at it, let it out. Most of the time he is giggling by this time and doesn't need to follow through. But giving him the okay to express his frustration and angry physically in a safe place for everyone has really helped the behavior. I get most of my parenting help from Love an Logic by Foster and Cline.

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I have to agree with Mandi and Staci that the head-butting can be a sign of autism. That's not to say that your son has autism because he is headbutting, but it is something that you may want to take into consideration. It was actually head-butting and biting and other aggressive behavior that started me on the path to getting my son evaluated for autism. It is a common belief that all autistic children are the same, but my son had a huge vocabulary and could sing many songs and then he started to lose language after he started to show aggression and his screaming and not liking crowds. I hadn't realized many things until I really stopped to look and he's a twin and one of four children. I had many to compare him to. So, while I don't mean to say that just because your son headbutts he must be autistic, but sometimes it can be part of the symptoms so don't discount it.
C.

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You're not alone. My daughter did that too and I thought there was something wrong with her until I heard or read somewhere that that is normal for some toddlers. She stopped doing it as she got older and wiser. When she did that, I would just redirect her to somewhere that she wouldn't hurt herself. I've also seen other toddlers do it. The bruising is a concern, huh? What about a helmet? Have you mentioned it to your doctor? That might provide some answers.

1 mom found this helpful

I am not saying he is, but you may start researching other observations of behavior as signs of autism and other developmental disorders. Don't jump to conclusions until you research.

If this is the only behaior and is just something he say and is mimicing, it will pass. My son punches people (me and his sister). I have researched about the toddler boy need for physical expression. So, I have taught my 2 year old to punch a pillow. I pick him up immediately and kindly say: Oh, let us go find a pillow for that...here have at it, let it out. Most of the time he is giggling by this time and doesn't need to follow through. But giving him the okay to express his frustration and angry physically in a safe place for everyone has really helped the behavior. I get most of my parenting help from Love an Logic by Foster and Cline.

1 mom found this helpful

Welcome to the head bangers club! My son is now 5-1/2 but from the time he was 13 months to 2-1/2 years old he did the same thing. The doctor said it was his way of expressing himself since he couldn't find the words or know any other action - frustration took over. I see your oldest child is MUCH older and that puts this child in a class of his own - everyone else talks and knows how to express. It will pass in time. My son never did any damage to himself he is very smart but stubborn as his MOM! Once I got him into daycare with other kids it became less and less of an issue and then within 2 weeks of daycare he never did it again. I know it looks like it is damaging, but if it hurt that bad he would quit at some point - at least that is what the doctor told me. Maybe some extra attention is what is needed - By the way - we also tried the helmet and at that point he was too smart and knew how to take it off. I know nothing on autism, but I know my son is fortunately not affected that way. Good luck!

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My eldest daughter used to do that. She was about 2 years old when she started it. I found that if I didn't make a big deal out of it she didn't do it as much. Mostly, I just looked out of the corner of my eye to make sure she was okay and then walked away or continued with my work. Eventually she did it less and less. Now she's eight and never does it. My mom told me a trick--tell yourself, by the time he's five he won't be doing it anymore. And yes there were several times that we had pictures taken with bruises on her forehead--hang in there he'll get over it. M.

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My son is 25 months old and has been doing this for quite awhile. He has slowed down, he has gotten to a point were he will look at me after he does it and say "broke head!" I am ignoring it for the most part and yes he also bruises himself. he usually picks the ceramic tile floor. Mostly it is when I ask him not to do something. I talked to the Dr. about it last time I was there and he told me about his collegues son who used to head butt his crib clear across the room. He never hurt himself, but ended up going to Stanford. So I guess it is considered a form of intelligence! lol I know how much it can drive you insane, it should slow down and then stop soon. Just don't respond, I also know how hard that is. When Jack looks at me and says "broke head," anymore I usually say "well, yeah don't do that then!"

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http://www.drgreene.com/21_1104.html

http://www.drgreene.com/21_578.html

http://mamashealth.com/child/temper.asp

Hi J. -

I listed links to a few articles that you might find interesting in regard to head banging and tantrums.

First off, don't worry, its nothing you've done and since you haven't mentioned anything other than tantrums, he's not austistic. Kids who are autistic do have head banging tantrums and will rock or bang rhythmically but they also don't look anyone in the eye, appear to be in their own little world, they don't connect emotionally by showing affection or smiling, and they often have speech delays.

It's also very unlikely that your son can hurt himself even in the heat of the moment. Bumps and bruises, yes, but permanent damage is unlikely. If you're very concerned, your pediatrician can probably offer some input at your next well-check.

My very intelligent, outgoing, and athletic 5 year old was a rhythmic head banger starting at 10 months - he still does it when he is tired or upset. (It was so bad at one point my next door neighbors asked if we were doing construction in our home!) My youngest is 23 months and is a tantrum banger. He has a very outgoing personality with a strong stubborn streak. He doesn't speak as well as my first did at this age and I know he gets frustrated because of not being able to communicate everything he wants. My first never had the same kinds of outbursts that the youngest does. Youngest finally banged his head so hard that the next time he went to go hit his head, he thought twice and decided not to do it. He still throws himself to the ground in amazing displays of emotion however. I let him lay there 5-10 seconds to let him work it out and then I pick him up and love on him. After he banged his head, I would just talk to him in a comforting way reminding him that it hurts to bang his head.

The best thing to do is be very matter of fact about it and not reinforce the behavior by freaking out. It's hard to do, but so necessary. Otherwise, he'll learn exactly what to do to pull your strings.

We started playing a little game with the boys to "get the frustration out". The older is better at it of course but the younger likes to copy and play along. We pretend to blow it out with big breaths like bubbles and then we wave our fingers about our heads like we're popping all the "mad" bubbles. It's dumb,I know, but it helps them visualize a different way of getting rid of it.

I hope the articles help you! Feel free to write if you have any other questions or just want to commiserate with another MOHB (mother of head banger)

best regards,
C.

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Hi J.,
Head butting objects is a type of self comforting that some kids do. Head butting is often associated with Autism. Does he rock himself against objects? Are there times when you can't get his attention and he's staring off into space? Are there times you hug him and he's like a board? There are other signs of autism. If he has any at all i would have him checked. Good Luck.

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Don't jump to any conclusions, but do you notice any other odd behavior. A LOT of autistic children exhibit these behaviors, but I don't want to scare you or anything. My disabled son also went through the phase of banging his head, we simply redirected his anger ie. hitting the floor with his hand. He grew out of it eventually and I had to learn how to stop caring that everyone thought I was beating my son... Perhaps keep track of when and why he does it and any other behaviors and seek a developmental specialist that could ease your mind.
good luck

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The best thing to do is walk away and ignore him. As suggested by others. Sometimes, I will do the opposite and laughing, I tell them that their tantrum isn't good enough and encourage them to do other things like , "fling their arms", "stomp their feet on the floor louder and maybe I'll give in". By the time they are done the child usually sees how silly they look and we are both laughing having forgot what they were mad about in the first place. Either way when they are done, I give them a big hug and discuss a better way to express their feelings. Then we have what we call a "do over". This works better when they communicate, but I have them start the situation over and use their new "tools" to get themselves understood. Even at 2 years old, if he can't talk with his mouth, he can express himself with his actions. Good luck

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my son went through a head butting phase too!! he head butted EVEYTHING!! the walls, the tv, the couch, the dog..... he grew out of it. i could never get him to stop. i would try to stop him before he did it, like grabbing him before he did it, but then he would just get madder. try to figure out what triggers it. my sons trigger was he would get frustrated with us when we couldn't understand him. we had some communication issures. so i would just get down on his level and we would use some hand gestures and i would rub his hands to calm him down. just be patient. alot of boys do the head butting thing.

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My little boy who is 5 now started banging his head on the floor deliberately when he would get mad at about 15 months old. It continued for a while but he grew out of it by the time he was a little over 2. People told me that sometimes certain kids just do that when they are upset. I did read a great book by Harvey Karp, a child psychologist, called The Happiest Toddler on the the Block and it helped. He had some great solutions for helping your child to express their emotions better.

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Hello J., Of course, your priority is keeping him physically safe. There must be a lot going on for your little guy for him to do this to himself. If you like to read, I recommend, "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Faber and Mazlish. This book offers lots of insights into and skills for understanding what is happening for our children. It can also support your overall family environment. ~T.

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tell him no or make him where a helmet

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