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John Rosemond is America's most widely-read parenting authority! He is a best-selling author, columnist, speaker, and family psychologist.

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2-year-old isn't talking, and headbanging

Q: Our 2-year-old isn't talking yet, and we're worried to death about it. He babbles, and it's obvious to us that he's trying to say words, but he doesn't say anything intelligible except "ma-ma" and "da-da". We've had his ears tested, and the doctor says everything's okay and not to worry. What should we do?

A: You should listen to your doctor. Stop worrying. If your son's hearing is fine, and he's attempting speech, then he'll talk in his own time. Indeed, your son's a bit behind the curve—a bit, mind you—in his speech development, that's somewhat typical of boys. The norm is established by counting in all the girls, and the average girl begins talking intelligibly about 3 months earlier than the average boy. If your son was not attempting speech, I'd be giving you a more cautious answer, but your letter raises no red flags for me.

You didn't say, but you may be worried that a delay in speech means your son isn't all there in the intelligence department. If so, you can put that neurosis to bed as well. While a significant speech delay in combination with little or no attempt at speech is likely to signal more pervasive developmental problems, a slight delay isn't a reliable predictor of anything. According to rumor, Einstein—yep, the one and only Albert—didn't talk until he was 3. My first grandson, who—it goes without saying—is gifted, didn't begin talking intelligibly until almost 3. He's now 11, and we haven't been able to get him to stop talking for eight years.

Q: When we put her in her crib at night, our 18-month-old daughter gets on all fours and rocks back and forth, banging her head against the headboard. It's a gentle but persistent banging until she falls asleep, which is usually within 10 minutes. Is this normal?

A: Depends on what you mean by normal. Most toddlers don't bang their heads as they're going to sleep, so from that perspective, your daughter's head-banging isn't normal. On the other hand, if a toddler who's perfectly normal in every other respect bangs her head gently to help herself go to sleep, then her head banging is normal.

The research differentiates between pathological and non-pathological head banging. Pathological head banging in children is usually associated with serious neurological, developmental, and/or emotional problems. In other words, an observant parent would know something was wrong even if the child in question wasn't banging his or her head. The bottom line: Don't worry about it.

Your daughter has discovered this rhythmic and gently stimulating activity helps her go to sleep. Lucky you, considering the alternative: i.e., screaming bloody murder for 30 minutes or more. (Remember, a toddler's head is quite soft, so gentle head banging is probably not the least bit painful to an 18-month old.)

The bottom line: Don't worry about it. Be grateful, even. After all, she sleeps, right?

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