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Does Your Toddler Head Butt?

Chris Jordan couldn't help but scream when her son Miles, 1, came at her headfirst. "He got me in the nose, and, my God, did it ever hurt," says the Norfolk, CT, mom.

It may seem alarming, but head butting  -- like biting or tantrums  -- is usually just another way toddlers show frustration or anger, says Pamela High, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Brown Medical School, in Providence. Other times it's the result of roughhousing gone too far.

Kids tend to stop butting once they start speaking and can get your attention with their words instead of by force. Until then, to curb your headstrong child:

Don't laugh, no matter how funny your kid can look charging headfirst; you'll only encourage him. Instead, let him know that it hurts by saying "No, that is not allowed" very firmly whenever he does it. Then, focus on consoling the buttee so your child realizes his action won't grab your attention.

Distract him. Direct his attention somewhere else.

Help him communicate in other ways. When Miles would head-butt, Jordan made an obvious show of trying to figure out what it was that he wanted. "If he was near the fridge, I'd hold up different foods until he stopped. That helped."

Banish bad influences. TV and siblings' video games can be rife with violence, so make sure the entertainment in your toddler's line of vision is age appropriate. Also, avoid physical punishment, which only teaches him that aggression's an acceptable way to handle a problem.