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Head Banging
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Head-banging sometimes accompanied by rocking is a fairly common problem in infants and toddlers. While head- banging is not known to produce serious injuries to the brain, it is nevertheless distressing to parents. The very act of striking his or her own head against a bed or mattress or on the floor indicates that a child is being aggressive against himself. The head- banging we are talking about is not the kind that is associated with autism or severe disturbances. It is the kind that occurs with many children that are developing normally.

We have found that children often begin head- banging after some change in their usual routine. Parents often report that head- banging starts after a change in caretaker or the environment. In other situations, it may start when a child goes through a normal developmental change like learning to walk.

Sometimes head-banging can be traced to the loss of a familiar person or even a familiar object. One baby started banging his head at night after a favorite music box was lost. Children become strongly attached to certain objects, sounds, and toys, especially if these things are part of their bedtime routines.

It's always important to try to figure out what may be setting your child off. For example, toddlers typically become very involved with issues of control. At around a year and half they learn the word "no" and they love the power it brings them. Parents may not always feel so good about it, but this is part of normal development. Conflict about control may come up in different ways. It can be about eating or over toilet training or clothes and dressing. What is crucial is that parents try to back off and let their toddler be the boss so long as no harm results. Of course parents must intervene when safety is involved or when injury may occur as with head- banging. Usually the pressure to be the little boss disappears once a child feels he has some control over personal choices.

Head- banging may also be associated with temper tantrums, which are normal and are a young child's way to express frustration. Sometimes it is a child's reaction to feeling over controlled. It may be a way of releasing inner tension, and it can be a way of reacting to frustration or stress.
It is important for parents to think about what may have started the head- banging and to try to relieve the distress, but also to be very firm about stopping it. If your child starts to bang his head you must say firmly, "I'm not going to let you bang your head". He'll want to bang his head -so you'll need to be very patient and firm. It's important that he feel you are helping and comforting him and not punishing him if he squirms. You'll need to intervene physically to stop the head- banging. But there is an important message to your child in this, and that is that he's not being left alone, rather that you are there to help and comfort him. Remember head-banging signals the need for physical contact with you the parent. That's what your child needs when she is distressed for whatever reason.

We do not give medical advice but their is another possibility that you need to explore with your child's pediatrician. Sometimes head- banging may be associated with a chronic sinus or ear infection, which is very uncomfortable. Head- banging may release the nasal pressure in these situations. When the infection clears up, the head- banging stops.

Generally head- banging represents a child's way of soothing herself when she feels some kind of distress. This can be anger, frustration, loss, or even physical discomfort or a combination of these. But banging one's head is not the kind of self-soothing that calms a child in the way that thumb- sucking, or a pacifier, or holding a favorite object does. It is a kind of attack on herself and it closes the child off from the gentle reassurance and the help she really needs.

By firmly intervening and providing positive reassurance you can stop the head-banging behavior and give your child the feeling of safety and comfort that she seeks.

If you would like guidance on this or any other non-medical child development question, and you live in the Los Angeles area, you can call the Warm Line free of charge at 310-281-9770. A child development specialist will return your call within just a couple of days.


Articles:
>> Your New Baby
>> Choosing a Pediatrician
>> Toilet Training
>> The Security Blanket
>> The Hospital Visit
>> Head Banging
>> Enjoy Eating
>> Over Eating
>> Sleeping Well
>> Sleep Disruptions
>> Medical Emergency
>> Separation
>> Temper Tantrums
>> Sibling Rivalry
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