What Your Toddler's Head Banging Really Means
Does Head Banging Require Treatment?
Most children will grow out of this behavior on their own, as they are eventually able to replace the need for head banging with appropriate modes of reactions to their moods, desires, and the environment.
If My Child is Head Banging, What Should I Do?
Intervention in the form of a psychological evaluation is necessary only when linked with attention seeking, or if the cause of head banging remains unknown after eliminating all other possible reasons. If autism is suspected, a prompt medical examination might also be warranted. Otherwise, parents or caregivers should respond to head banging by following these tips from Dr. Sherman:
- Reward Appropriate Behavior: An increase in attention for non-head banging behavior should be given, when a child does so for attention. He or she will then learn that attention is only received for every “good” action.
- Ignore It: When escaping from following through with a parental request by head banging, treatment involves not allowing the child to get out of what was asked of him or her. Ignore the head banging and require the child to follow-through with the request.
- Refrain from Overreacting: Try to stay calm and be consistent with your reactions to your child’s head banging. Nothing should be spoken to or given to a child who continues to bang his head. The child should be transferred to a carpeted or safer area if necessary. Parents may have to eventually leave the room. Most likely, the head banging will temporarily increase, followed by a rapid decline.
- Offer Age-Appropriate (or Special-Needs Toys): Be sure that your child has toys that fit her level of development and be sure you are allowing enough time and space for self-expression and discovery. For under- or over-stimulated children, creative outlets that heighten their senses and occupy their time constructively will replace the need to resort to head banging. Parents may purchase educational and developmental toys for their child’s age range, removing outgrown toys.
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