Q: What information can I give parents about head banging? What can they do about it? At what point does it become a concern of safety or need for further intervention?
A: As is true for many aspects of behavior and development, any parental concern needs to be taken in context for how the child is doing overall with any other concerns you may have. However, in general, head banging is a common childhood behavior. Typically, this occurs when children are frustrated or overwhelmed. You can offer suggestions on how to prevent head banging episodes by telling parents to try to help prevent episodes by keeping kids well fed and well rested, and doing anything that helps with self-regulation such as labeling emotions, using transition objects and recognizing ways to soothe in advance. While it can be hard for parents to watch their little ones head bang, you can tell them to try to take a deep breath and respond calmly, redirecting their child with an alternative way to express frustration. Giving attention to the head banging itself or giving into the demands is likely to reinforce the head banging. You can comfort parents that children will not cause concussions or brain damage by the behavior but that they can help their child learn to self soothe and prevent self stimulating behaviors with strategies.