Head Banging in Children

Health Visiting Advice

Headbanging in Children

Tips and advice on tackling headbanging

Another common issue parents may face is Headbanging.

Again this is usually a phase that will pass and some of the advice already shared will help you with this also.


What is head banging?

Head banging is when a child knocks their head on a solid object (e.g. a wall or bars of a cot).

They may also rock their whole upper body at the same time.

It may happen when they are tired, in their sleep, or during a temper tantrum.


How common is it?

Head banging is very common. It is thought that up to 20% of healthy children head bang during the first few years. It is a normal developmental process. It usually begins towards the end of the first year. It can then peak between 18 and 24 months, and ease off by around four years of age.


Is it harmful?

It is unlikely to be harmful.

Children don’t tend to engage in habits to injure themselves. It is unlikely they will bang their head hard enough to cause pain or brain injury. It won’t affect their development.

It can look and sound violent. However, many experts suggest that head banging provides children with a sensation similar to what they experienced in the uterus (i.e. when they were constantly rocked and jostled). Toddlers love movement (e.g. jumping, tumbling, and being swung).


Why do children head bang?

Comfort: The rhythmic movement may be a comfort mechanism similar to rocking.

Balance: It can test brain systems and improve balance.

Stimulation: Children may head bang for stimulation.

Self-soothing and Relaxation: Head banging can be a way to release tension (e.g. to help sleep).

Distraction: Some young children may head-bang for relief if they are teething or suffering from an ear infection.

Attention: If your child is frustrated or angry, head banging may become part of a temper tantrum. The more attention they receive for doing it, the more likely they will repeat it.


What is the best way to deal with it?

As long as your child is healthy and developing normally, the best way to deal with head banging is to ignore it.

Keep your child safe for example move from any sharp edges ect.

Giving it attention will worsen the habit, especially if it occurs during tantrums.

Distracting them with a toy or offering a drink may stop them.

If it is occurring during a tantum  -  trying to nip in the bud with your distraction techniques.

If your baby sleeps in a cot, regularly check the bolts and screws aren’t being loosened. Attaching a piece of foam rubber to the wall will reduce noise. If your toddler sleeps in a bed, move it away from the wall.


Positive Praise

Positive paise (suitable from birth) is the best way to reinforce your childs good behaviours and this can really help reduce the unwanted behaviours; such as biting and headbanging.

Praise helps your child feel good about themselves.

Praise works better at encouraging the behaviour you want than criticising and punishing your child for problem behaviour. It helps your child feel good about themselves and feel good about you.

Praise is when you tell your baby, toddler or child what you like about them or their behaviour. Praise will also encourage your baby or child to learn new skills. When you praise your child or baby for positive behaviour or learning a new skill, then they’re more likely to repeat it.  

Giving praise also helps you build a good relationship with your child, which will make you and your child happier. Research has shown that children who are close, and have a good supportive relationship with their Mum or Dad have higher self-esteem and are more successful in school and beyond.


Make time for praise:

Video by Welsh Government / Llywodraeth Cymru


Useful links:

Toilet Training

Fussy Eating