Head Banging – Is this a Challenge with your kids?

Parents and teachers send me questions all the time. Hoping to figure out how to best respond to behavior. Today, I found myself emailing a mom back and realized that you may benefit from my answer.

Her question: She has a 19 month old who bangs his head every time he gets frustrated, tired or is in a bad mood. He does it repeatedly and cries every time he does it. She added more details but I am going to dive into my answer.

First, get to a profession in real life to see what is going on. Only so much can be explored over the internet!

Then here are my 4 suggestions to stop head banging:
Behaviorally, there are a few things you can do:
1. When you see him getting upset or frustrated, get close to him. The goal is to be close enough and ready, so that if he goes to bang his head you can stop/block him. 
2. When he does bang his head, do NOT make a big deal about it. Yes, it can be very scary but in the moment you don’t want to give him a lot of attention. He may like the attention. If you need to get close to stop him, absolutely do so. Don’t talk to him. Don’t engage with him. In that moment, just keep him safe but don’t make it playful or show him how distressed you are
3. At other times, show him ways he can move his body when he is frustrated. Aka – when playing say things like, “When i’m mad, I clap” then clap your hand with an angry face on. Have him imitate you. May sound silly and feel silly but he does need other ways to face his frustration. Since he is so young, words won’t be as powerful as your actions. Have him practice!!
4. It is possible that he likes the feeling on his head. So at other times of the day (NOT when he is head banging), give him a scalp massage, gently squeeze his head, give him bear hugs that include squishilying his head. If he gets the input in other ways, perhaps that will reduce or eliminate his own initiation of this behavior.

Did this help you? If so, share your thoughts below!

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