We’ve talked about tantrums before and I think at that time, I thought I was in the middle of the terrible twos. This horrific stage in development is called the terrible twos, but mind you, it begins closer to 18 months of age so really we need to come up with a term that is closer to accuracy. Errant eighteen months? Erratic eighteen months? Horrendous hour with a toddler? Atrocious age of an 18 month old? Those just don’t have the same ring as the terrible twos so I guess new parents will just naively continue to believe that they have a full 24 months before their world is turned upside down. You may be thinking to yourself that I’m joking here, but I promise, I’m not. Our world has literally turned upside down and I’m at a complete loss with these ferocious tantrums. Yes, they really do start around 18 months of age, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Welcome to 23 months of age and a whole new class of “tantrums”.

Lincoln is going to be two at the end of July. Over the last month I began to notice a major change in my son. We were already dealing with the uncontrollable outbursts, falling backwards on the floor, sprawling out like an eagle face first in the middle of the floor, beating on the table, hitting at our faces, refusing to move and crying like we had put a scorpion in his diaper, and head butting. We thought that was the worst of it. Hahahahahahahahahaha, hell to the no, we were dead wrong!

Our household is now subjected to all of the above plus Lincoln slapping himself in the face and banging his head against the wood floor, tile floor, carpet, wall, against his car seat, on the table, against the dresser, or anything other hard object he sees fitting at the moment to catapult his head against. And of course it hurts, because what hard wood floor isn’t HARD? And of course he cries even harder and looks at us like we’ve just told him there’s no such thing as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. All of this nonsense forced me to check in with good ole’ faithful, Google. And who would have thunk it, but as I was typing in “toddlers head banging”, Google began to recognize my thought in mid-type of “he-ad” and came up with an array of websites addressing this problem. I thought I would have to dig for some answers, but little did I know it’s a pretty common problem.

“Head banging is surprisingly common. Up to 20 percent of babies and toddlers bang their head on purpose, although boys are three times more likely to do it than girls. Head banging often starts in the second half of the first year and peaks between 18 and 24 months of age. Your child’s head banging habit may last for several months, or even years, though most children outgrow it by age 3.”

My first thought after reading this was, “great, I have to endure this for at least another year???!!!” Well the answer to that is “yes, most likely”. We’ve just come to the realization that eating out now consists of Chick Fil A, Whole Foods, and any other loud kid friendly restaurant. And really the best place to eat is the comfort of our own home with take out.




So here are some possible reasons why Lincoln and possibly your kiddo may head bang:

  • Self-comfort. As strange as it may sound, most toddlers who indulge in this behavior do it to relax. They bang their head rhythmically as they’re falling asleep, when they wake up in the middle of the night, or even while they’re sleeping. Some rock on all fours as well. Developmental experts believe that the rhythmic motion, like rocking in a chair, may help your toddler soothe himself. {Lincoln doesn’t fit into this reason…his is pure frustration.}
  • Pain relief. Your toddler may also bang his head if he’s in pain — from teething or an ear infection, for example. Head banging seems to help kids feel better, perhaps by distracting them from the discomfort in their mouth or ear. {This is a possible reason for us, but unlikely since he usually does the head banging when something hasn’t gone his way.}
  • Frustration. If your toddler bangs his head during temper tantrums, he’s probably trying to vent some strong emotions. He hasn’t yet learned to express his feelings adequately through words, so he’s using physical actions. And again, he may be comforting himself during this very stressful event. {DING, DING, DING!!! Nail on the head!}
  • A need for attention. Ongoing head banging may also be a way for your toddler to get attention. Understandably, you may tend to become solicitous when you see your child doing something that appears self-destructive. And since he likes it when you fuss over his behavior, he may continue the head banging in order to get the attention he wants. {DING, DING, DING, DING! Yes, this is us!!}
  • A developmental problem. Head banging can be associated with autism and other developmental disorders — but in most of these cases, it’s just one of many behavioral red flags. Rarely does head banging alone signal a serious problem. {Great, one more thing to worry about as a parent! Although highly unlikely considering his age.}

I guess the pro to this whole thing is that head banging is 20% common, normal for Lincoln’s age range, is at its peak, more likely since he’s a boy, and something he will eventually grow out of. Until then we will be THAT embarrassed family that has to deal with THAT kid self-inflicting pain by slapping himself in the face and banging his head. Awesome.

Do/Did you have a head banger? Did you simply deal with it, discipline, or ignore the problem? I’m at a loss here.


  1. This was extremely helpful- I was just about to look this up because just within the past 3 weeks my daughter does this- exactly like your son! It’s like a demon entered her body…thanks for this post makes me feel better, and I’ve really just kind of been ignoring it and walking away. I made her “time alone” spot the cry it out spot as well, when she starts I just set her down facing away from the corner until she calms down. Does it work? Pshhh I have NO idea, but at least she’s on the carpet and not giving herself a bruises on the tile right???

    • I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I mean Baby Center {the website I used for this article} told me I wasn’t alone, but I don’t know anyone else who has dealt or currently deals with this. It’s awful, right?! I try the ignoring thing, because honestly, I’m not sure how time out will work. Sigh, this too shall pass… I hope 🙂 Good luck to you!

  2. Don’t forget when he was at my house, after banging his head in the wood floor, he got smart and crawled over to the rug to bang his head! No one ever said he wasn’t a very intelligent little boy. 🙂

  3. My niece did this when she was little….my sister ignored it for a long time until she had enough. (my niece would hit her head on the floor and/or pull her own hair) During one of my niece’s fits right as she was about to hit her own head on the tile my sister very gently (don’t need people over analyzing this statement) pushed her head….the shock on my niece’s face was priceless, she couldn’t believe my sister did it. My niece never did it again. I don’t think that method would work on just any child though. My sister also did the same thing when my niece was about to pull her own hair, my sister beat her to it…got the same reaction and my niece never tried it again.
    None of my boys did the head banging thing. They tried fit throwing though. When P was at that age and wanted to throw a fit I always put him in my room and shut the door. He could throw a fit in there and get the frustration out but no need for the rest of the house to suffer 😉 I can’t do fits in public.
    Good luck! I hope he is out of this stage before 3!!

  4. Oh my goodness! Its good to know I am not alone. Gavin is almost 3, and let me tell you, I think I need therepy after going through the last year with him! His temper tantrums are so difficult…I feel like I’M the one doing something wrong when he goes through this. My dr said that children with high intelligence and less verbal communication skills are more likely to exhibit this behavior….so its totally normal but boy does it suck! Now, instead of head banging, its throwing, hitting and screaming. Oh boy! We usually put him in time out for the hitting or throwing. For screaming, we give him a giant bear hug until he calms down. Good luck!

    •  I tried the corner thing yesterday. He had no clue what I was doing and didn’t care either… he just crawled out of the corner. Sigh. This too shall pass 🙂

  5. I honestly don’t know how we raised kids years ago without google…I know you want like this but it can be cured in five minutes with a glass of ice water and a switch

    •  LOL, Dad! You’re right, I won’t be throwing ice water on him quite yet. Maybe in 6 months or so if it persists, but we aren’t there yet. And I don’t know how life existed before Google! I can’t even remember!


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