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Causes of Head Banging in Toddlers: What You Need To Know

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jul 20, 2022

    Causes of Head Banging in Toddlers: What You Need To Know

    Being parents of a toddler, you may have already experienced toddler tantrums of flailing arms, tears and crying, and screaming. Kids may throw tantrums as a way of expressing themselves. Similarly, one more way of expressing anger, frustration. or boredom in a situation is head banging. Toddlers bang their head quite often and it is very common. About 2 in 10 healthy children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years bang their heads. Know the causes of head banging in kids.

    Causes of Head Banging in Kids

    An answer to the possible causes of head banging is that your child is performing a self-soothing technique to comfort himself/herself. AHead banging episodes may last from 15 minutes to over an hour. Here are some causes of head banging in toddlers:

    To Soothe Themselves

    Although it may sound strange, many toddlers use head banging as a way to relax. Kids may bang their head on many occasions: as they are falling asleep, during their sleep, or in the middle of the night when they accidentally wake up. The head banging continues in rhythmic format and your kid feels this rhythm may soothe him/her just like how you or your partner usually rock your little one.

    To Relieve Pain

    Young kids usually bang their heads to relieve pain. The pain may be due to teething, ear infection, or any other underlying cause. Toddlers feel that a headache is better to handle than the current annoying nagging pain from the infections. 

    To Release Anger

    If you observe your child’s behavior when he/she is angry or frustrated, you may realise that your little one is simply trying to release all the strong emotions of frustration and anger. Kids do not know how to express their feelings and thoughts through words. Hence, physical acts of expression are their best choice. 

    To Draw Attention

    Sometimes, toddlers bang their head to get the attention from others. Kids are smart enough to realize that this kind of self-destructive behaviors can help them get your attention effectively. If you can tell they’re banging their head to get your attention, try not to make a big deal out of it. Your strong reaction could reinforce the behavior and make them more likely to keep doing it.

    Other Causes

    Apart from these causes of head banging, toddlers may bang their heads due to underlying problems in their developmental milestones. Head banging may signal autism or certain developmental disorders.

    As a general rule, if your child is healthy and doesn’t show signs of a developmental, psychological, or neurological condition — and banging only occurs before sleep — it’s likely a very typical rhythmic movement disorder. On the other hand, if other symptoms accompany head banging — like speech delays, emotional outbursts, or poor social interaction — there could be another issue. See your pediatrician to rule out an underlying condition.

    Head banging is a problem if the child bangs his/her head constantly even when hurt. If you feel your child’s head banging is getting worse and you are worried about it, consult your pediatrician immediately. Although rare, head banging is also considered to be a sign of autism or other developmental disorders.

    A child with autism will also show the following signs:

    • Tends to withdraw from a social relationship.
    • Does not have an interest in physical contact including those with parents.
    • A decrease in physical abilities, including speaking, reading or learning.
    • Being shy and an introverted.
    • Shows developmental delays during childhood.

    Key Takeaways

    The bottom line is that head banging is a common habit that can start as early as 6 months old and continue up to age 5. Your toddler might resort to head banging in order to self-soothe, to relieve pain, express anger, or draw attention.
    If you are concerned about your child’s head banging behavior, don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor. It may help to take a video of the child’s behavior to show your doctor as a reference.

    Learn more about Toddler and Preschooler Growth and Development here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jul 20, 2022

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