How to Stop Toddlers From Headbutting

You may think your toddler has it in for you when he's coming at you with his head in that threatening position, but the truth is he’s probably just trying to get your attention 1. Toddlers who are angry or frustrated sometimes resort to headbutting as a way to express what they’re feeling. It may not seem like soon enough, but once your child starts talking more and can simply tell you what he wants, his headbutting episodes should become less frequent.

Distract him. Parenting consultant Barbara F. Meltz points out that while youngsters this age don't intentionally try to hurt anyone, when your toddler is displaying inappropriate behavior, you need to redirect his attention to something else 1. Since his attention span is short at this age, distracting away from what he’s doing should work.

Remain calm. It won’t help if you get upset and start yelling at your toddler for behaving that way. In some cases, you may have to physically lift him away from you, another unwilling victim or a situation where he could hurt himself. He may protest but both he -- and his target -- will be safe.

Explain to your toddler that it’s not nice to butt other people with his head or that he could hurt himself banging his head against the wall or floor 1. Rather than standing above your toddler when you talk, get down on your knees so that you can make eye contact. He's more likely to listen to what you have to say if you get down to his level.

Ignore the behavior instead of feeding into it. Headbutting, whether the recipient is a person, the wall or the floor, is just another type of temper tantrum. Your child’s strange behavior may be trying your patience, but showing him that you're aware of it only reinforces the behavior. If you act like you don’t notice, your toddler may grow out of this unpleasant phase sooner.

Watch for when the behavior happens. For example, does jealousy of a younger sibling or mom being on the phone seem to play a role? Once you can identify the reason for the behavior, you can take steps to address it. You being busy with something else actually may be what sets your toddler off, according to the Ask Dr. Sears website.

Consult with your child’s pediatrician if the behavior gets out of control or if his tantrums continue after he reaches school age. Although temper tantrums are normal for toddlers, by age 4, your child should be showing some self control. Contact your youngster’s doctor, particularly if he shows signs of other developmental delays.

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