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Resources Centre / Twins Tips Introduction / Twins Tips / Twin Toddlers - Help for Head Bangers !
Twin Toddlers - Help for Head Bangers !
In toddlers. including twins. who are otherwise developing well and seem happy most of the time. the occasional bout of head banging is fairly normal. Head banging occurs most commonly between the ages of eight months and four years and peaks between 18-24 months.

It is estimated that up to a quarter of all children head bang and it is far more prevalent in boys than girls. It can be worrying for parents when their child(ren) begin to head bang but comforting to know that children are rarely damaged by it.

Children are all different and some children find head banging comforting and may bang their heads for a few minutes while others can continue for hours. Trying to find the reason for the head banging is worthwhile because it then can be dealt with more effectively.

Why do my toddlers purposely bang their heads?

Possible reasons your toddlers may bang their heads:

  • Self-comfort. As strange as it may sound. most toddlers who indulge in this behaviour 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.
  • Pain relief. Your toddler may also bang his head if he's in pain from teethingvor an ear infection. for example. Head banging seems to help children feel better. perhaps by distracting them from the discomfort in their mouth or ear.
  • Frustration. If your toddlers bangs their heads during temper tantrums. they are probably trying to vent some strong emotions. They havn't yet learned to express their feelings adequately through words. so they are using physical actions. And again. they may be comforting themselves during this very stressful event.
  • A need for attention. Ongoing head banging may also be a way for your toddlers to get attention and for twins and multiples. this is an on-going desire. Understandably. you may tend to become solicitous when you see your child(ren) doing something that appears self-destructive. And since they like it when you fuss over his behaviour. they may continue the head banging in order to get the attention they want. Try to make some time in the day for each child to get undivided attention as even a short period will help.
  • 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. Children who are blind. deaf. bored or lonely may head bang for stimulation. Rarely does head banging alone signal a serious problem

Head banging is not usually a sign of trauma or stress in a child. although for some children it is a way to release tension and prepare for sleep. If they are doing a great deal of it. or actually bruising themselves regularly. it would be best to have your health visitor or GP check him out. just for reassurance. Strange as it may seem to parents. children can find this practice comforting. perhaps because of the rocking involved. but most do grow out of it by the age of three.

Tips - How can parents help ?

1. Ask yourself the following questions "is my child in pain?". "is there any reason why my child is so upset?" Think about any other possible sources of stress in their lives. such as a new childcare situation etc

2. Don't show you're upset or make a great fuss. as this only gives attention to the behaviour. and may make it more likely to carry on. Pretend to act cool or even walk out of the room when they start it. Even if you can't completely disregard the behaviour. don't scold or punish them for it. They are too young to understand the situation. and your disapproval may only make matters worse.

3. Distract your child(ren) when the banging starts by giving a cuddle and making no reference to the head banging. Relaxing techniques e.g. stroking or massage can also work well. Offer a cuddly toy when you have removed your child(ren) from the head banging position. This will encourage conditioning to another more acceptable type of comforting. Always smile when you are introducing an alternative so that your children get the message of approval.

4. You can't force them to stop and. for most twin toddler behaviour. it's usually inadvisable to try forcing anything as it can make them more determined. You could protect their heads by adding extra padding. or move their cots to the centre of the room so they can't bang on the wall. The padding must be secure in order to prevent accidents e.g. your child(ren)"s heads getting caught in it.

5. Try to make sure your bedtimes are calm with a winding-down period. bedtime story or lullaby. so they don't go down over-excited. A warm bath. a calm rock on your lap. and a quiet story or song may help. You may want to spend a few minutes before bed rubbing their backs or stroking their forehead. Soft music in their bedroom can be soothing. too. This is much easier with two people helping out and each child also gets the one-to-one attention they need.

6. Provide lots of activities in the day where they can bang and rock to their heart's content. such as a small set of drums. swings. dancing and banging to music. Experts often recommend dancing. marching. and drumming or clapping to music together. You might also try putting a metronome in the room to give them the comfort of a steady rhythm. Make sure they get lots of physical exercise during the day. too. to help them burn off some of the nervous energy that may feed their head banging.

7. Your toddlers may get a bruise or two. but don't worry head banging is usually a "self-regulating" behaviour. This means your child(ren) is unlikely to hit their heads hard enough to seriously injure themselves. They know their threshold for pain and will pull back a bit if the banging hurts.

8. Try separating them for a while if possible so they sleep in separate rooms - this may or may not work depending on the space available. how many people are able to help with them but also how attached to each other they are.

9. Deal with each child separately if possible so you are not distracted during handling one of them. If two people to whom the children normally respond well to (ie if they are used to being cuddled and comforted by mum. dad. grandma) can work together in the same way on some of the suggestions above then this will help.

10. There are a number of products on the market for toddlers that provide protection for the head. These are basically soft head guards that give parents some peace of mind that at least when their children are head banging or evn just as toddlers are learning to walk that they cannot do too much harm to themselves.

11. If head banging continues after the age of three. the child(ren) should be seen by a doctor to check there is no developmental problem such as autism. to explain the behaviour.

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