Toddler Hitting Head With Hand – 3 Proven Reasons

It’s no surprise that toddlers go through an array of developmental, emotional and physical changes before they turn 3 years of age.

A Toddler hitting head with hand can seem very strange behaviour at first.

Whilst the odd occasion can be trivial, more frequent occasions may be a cause for concern.

Although babies inflicting harm on themselves can be alarming, it’s typical and prevalent behavior. 

Mostly, it’s a strategy to fulfill the desire for physical stimulation or a self-soothing mechanism when stressed or tired.

Also, toddlers display a variety of complicated communication styles making it increasingly difficult to pinpoint the reasons for toddler hitting head with hand.

Consequently, this makes learning how to discipline a toddler even harder.

Related: Time Out For A Two-Year-Old

My Toddler Hits Himself In The Head

My Toddler Hits Himself In The Head

Toddlers express themselves in a variety of ways using both verbal and non-verbal commands.

When your toddler wants to communicate with you they will find a variety of ways to do it.

Unfortunately, these expressions can sometimes be misinterpreted.

This is only intensified with the changes in developmental behaviour and the inability to express emotions effectively.

This may cause unwanted emotional distress along with tantrums, biting and hitting.

Toddler Hitting Head With Hand Is A Way To Express Strong Emotions And Internal Tensions.

Toddlers have many triggers that can give you an insight into the reason they may hit themselves.

These can include temper tantrums, being over and under-stimulated or being too tired and too hungry.

Once you recognise a pattern you can take proactive steps to keep the disruption to a minimum for both you and your child.

But what can you do to stop your toddler hitting head with hand?

4 Ways To Avoid A Toddler Hitting Head With Hand

1. Safe Environment

First of all, creating a safe environment will help.

Keep any harmful objects locked away and limit activity to rooms that are not toddler-proof.

Install as much child-safe equipment that you can to keep your environment safe for toddlers to explore.

2. Get In The Way

Get In The Way

Next, you can physically get in the way.

Your baby cannot hit themselves if you are physically blocking them from doing so.

You should remain calm but be stern and repeat yourself with clear and concise words:

“Sweetie, Hitting is not an appropriate way to express yourself. I’m going to stay right next to you to keep us both safe”

Try to distract or diffuse the situation with a combination of other activities and politely explain the dangers of hitting others and yourself.

You can give your toddler another activity to do or ask them to vent their anger or feelings in a positive way.

Usually, a soft toy or a pillow to hit instead of themselves is a good way to do this.

3. Are They In Pain?

In some occasions, your toddler can be showing you they are in pain by hitting themselves.

This is particularly common for common aches and pains that all toddlers experience. For example ear or tooth pains.

It’s usually easier to notice this type of behaviour.

Look out for your baby hitting themselves on the same side and the same part of the face repeatedly.

4. Autism


In some rare cases, your toddler’s self-harm and toddlers hitting themselves can be linked to autism.

This is usually the case when the hitting isn’t linked to tantrums, frustration or anything pain related.

Toddlers with developmental challenges can self-harm to soothe or for rhythmic stimulation.

You may need to consult a paediatrician to get a professional evaluation.

It’s always important to learn your toddler’s self-expression tactics in depth so you can rule out any serious reason for self-harm and self hitting.

But remember If in doubt always seek professional help.

Toddlers Hitting Self: 3 Natural Reasons Why

It can be extremely disturbing seeing toddlers hitting self.

Many parents are surprised and generally, don’t know what to do.

Toddlers are exploring the world in different ways every day.

Most of this exploration is normal and forms parts for healthy and active minds.

However, In some cases, toddlers can exhibit frustration when faced with developmental challenges.

On the one hand, they are learning the rules of the world, and on the other, they have been restricted with the freedom independence to explore it.

It is within this learning framework that most toddlers face overwhelming frustration.

They crave independence, but cannot express themselves effectively with a limited vocabulary.

At this crucial developmental milestone, your toddler will begin to throw tantrums when their intellect outweighs their expression and it is here that the most common cause of toddlers hitting themselves can occur.

Expression is the most popular reason with developmental challenges and emotional challenges being at the forefront of toddlers behaviour.

1. Attention


Some toddlers will inflict self-harm to get attention.

As your toddler is yet to comprehend the different types of attention (attention from good behaviour and attention from bad behaviour) they will default to whichever is easier.

Unfortunately for parents, negative attention is much easier for your child to acquire, meaning you’ll see more tantrums, mini-meltdown and abusive behaviour as it gets an immediate reaction.

2. Self Discipline

Some toddlers inflict harm as a way to punish themselves for mischief or a mistake.

This happens frequently in younger children and is a way to show mummy or daddy that they have done something wrong and should be punished.

This is usually a way toddlers can express their disapproval of their own behaviour and used a deterrent to soften the blow for any more extreme punishments you may give them.

3. Rhythmic & Calming

Sometimes toddlers hitting self can be attributed to self-soothing

This is often linked with younger children mimicking the soothing feeling of being in the womb with Rhythmic knocking or banging of body parts.

While isolated incidents aren’t much to be concerned about long term behaviour can be linked with autism so it is always advisable to get a professional evaluation by a suitable paediatrician.

How To Prevent Toddler Hitting Head With Hand

How To Prevent Toddler Hitting Head With Hand

If your toddler gets particularly tired at a certain time of day then ensure they have a routine nap time.

If they are showing hungry signs before a major meal then keep them topped up on healthy snacks beforehand.

If they are too overstimulated through excessive play then try and relax or calm your toddler down with soothing activities before they have a tantrum.

A toddler will hit their head with their hand if they are frustrated and have difficulty expressing these frustrations in a framework you can understand.

This can result in your toddler hitting other people or themselves.

It’s a very logical way for them to express their discomfort whilst at the same time gain relief.  

Remember, It can be very difficult to cope with a toddler hitting head with hand, but with the proactive strategies above you will be more equipped to understand the reasons why.

Then after looking more deeply into the reasons behaving the behaviour you can provide the appropriate prevention measures to limit the behaviour definitively.

Ways To Deal With Toddler Self Harm

Once you understand the reason behind the self harm there are a few smart ways to deal with it.

Remember, every toddler is different and will respond to different strategies.

Whether you choose a more constructive way to deal with it, or naturally leave it to see if it stops by itself, we recommend you take these actions below to help keep your toddler safe.

  • Try to keep all sharp objects away from them once you feel an episode is coming on.
  • Put yourself physically in the way of the headbanging or head knocking to limit any long term damage
  • Try to distract your toddler back to safety with soft toys or soft activates
  • Keep a journal or diary of your routine and eliminate any triggers that may increase the chances of self-harm. For example, thirsty, hungry, tired, overstimulated and under-stimulated babies tend to revert to hitting themselves more often. Keep a journal of when this behaviour happens and ensure that it isn’t linked to any of these fundamentals

The Toddlers Hitting Self problem can be solved by knowing why they have decided to hit themselves in the first place.

Be proactive and you should discover the reason behind the self harm.

Then you can take practical steps to limit it or eradicate it altogether.

Also, read: Toddler Won’t Tell When Needs to Potty


A toddler hitting head with hand could signal several things. In most cases, your little one is trying to communicate to you, but when they keep repeating the habit, consult a professional to get a medical perspective.

It’s vital not to overlook such signs and, if possible, get in their way to help them discover the proper means to communicate.

Here’s a quick video on Toddler Hitting Head With Hand


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