Have you ever caught yourself rocking back and forth? Sometimes you may not notice the action until it is pointed out by people around you. It is a subconscious movement, and you are likely to do it more often than you think. It is very common in children and toddlers, but sometimes it happens for adults, too. The rocking back and forth can be embarrassing, especially true if you happen to do it in public! Then why does this happen?
What Causes Rocking Back and Forth While Sitting?
Rocking back and forth can be caused by different things. Here are some of the most common.
1. Self-Soothing Behaviors
Children will very often rock back and forth while sitting in order to soothe themselves. This happens often when they are upset. The repetitive motion makes them feel more comfortable and in control. It is especially common among children who do not receive much affection; sadly, they try to create that affection themselves, which leads to the rocking motion.
Keep in mind that rocking back and forth at a small child is not a serious problem. Many children do it. It is simply a way to release tension, get rid of built-up energy, and stay calm. They will do it most often before naps, at bedtime, or when they are developing rapidly and learning something new, like crawling or potty training. They might also do it when something in their life changes, like a move to a new home.
Other self-soothing methods for a child include:
- Rubbing. Children may run their hands over their bellies, ears, feet, or other body parts as they are preparing to go to sleep. They might also insist on touching the face of their parents.
- Head-banging. Though this can be alarming, some toddlers will do it before they fall asleep. They might also toss their head back and forth over and over until they fall asleep.
- Pulling hair. Some kids will pull on their hair or grab at their parent’s hair as they are falling asleep.
- Tics of all kinds. Small kids might twitch, shrug, make noises, move a certain body part (like flapping a hand around) while they drift off.
For some children, the behavior of rocking back and forth while sitting has a connection with autism. This is especially true if your child is in a trance-like state while rocking, doesn’t interact with you while doing it, and does it in a mechanical fashion. There might be other issues too, such as a very slow building of social skills or problems with language.
Children who do not communicate their needs in any way or don’t seek attention from you, might have an underlying issue. Children who don’t try to speak by the age of one, or have a very small vocabulary such as “Mama” or “Dada” might also have autism. Before you go to the pediatrician, make a video of the intense rocking back and forth so he/she can see what is happening with your child.
3. Relieving Tension
If people suddenly begin rocking back and forth while sitting, especially if they are in the midst of a stressful or upsetting situation, it might be the body’s way of trying to release an overload of tension. Stress can come from many sources, including emotional, mental, physical and even chemical. Rocking releases endorphins which in turn fight those stresses.
Another point to remember is that rocking stimulates the areas of the inner ear and brain that regulate balance; these are closely related to the part of the brain that manages stress or pain. Therefore, the rocking sensation might be very satisfying. It might also be tied to memory. Sometimes the act of rocking is a reminder of the days when you were a child and were held and rocked to sleep by a loving parent. Mimicking that motion as an adult can help calm you down.
What to Do If You Are Concerned with Body Rocking in Your Child
Rocking back and forth while sitting is often seen among children. If you suspect it might be related with autism, seek professional help.
1. Get Your Child Screened
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends autism screenings at nine months, eighteen months and 30 months. However, if you are concerned at any point, get your child screened by a professional with experience in autism.
2. See a Specialist
If there are possible signs of autism during the screening, it’s time to meet with a developmental specialist. These specialists are trained to spot the smallest indications of autism, and can conduct many tests that will help determine whether your child is suffering from autism.
3. Seek Early Intervention
The process of screening and meeting with a specialist can take a while; however, early intervention is the key to helping your child overcome some of the problems presented by autism. Seek intervention services the moment you suspect your child might have autism. Early intervention for kids with any sort of developmental delay can make a huge difference in their quality of life.
4. Develop a Strong Bond
The attachment bond between a baby and their parents is a very powerful intervention tool. That attachment bond has a strong influence on every part of a child’s development, especially a child who might have delays due to autism. Do what you can to foster love and trust with your child, including being very attentive to what your child is trying to tell you. A high-quality of attachment bond can make the child eager to learn and willing to trust others.