Self-Soothing Bad Habits
Nose Pickers Beware! How to snap habits such as thumb sucking and nail biting.
What You Need To Know
Habits like thumb sucking, hair twirling, nail biting, and nose picking may be responses to stress. They may be behavior left over from infancy (thumb sucking), or just genetic (nail biting can be hereditary). Most habits like these are simply developmental phases and will disappear without any fuss. However, some may be used deliberately to draw parents’ attention by children who feel ignored.
How You Can Help
Parents who want to do something about a habit, whether to stop an unsanitary behavior, or to prevent children for being teased, should consider these strategies:
- Tell your child calmly what you don’t like about the habit. Use this method instead of scolding or yelling. Think before you say, “Argh! Enough already with the nose picking. It’s horrible.” Instead, try, “I don’t like it when you pick your nose. It doesn’t look nice. Could you try to stop?”
- Try alternative habits. Buy a toy pony for a hair twirler and remind her (or him) to flick its tail instead of playing with her hair. “It’s time for Flicker.” Awareness of the habit may remind her how often she’s doing it.
- Reward self-control. If your child does manage to go through a day without biting their nails or sucking their thumb, give them a treat. Incentives can be a smart way to praise effort.
Parents need to involve children in the process. If your first grader comes home crying because peers teased their thumb sucking, use the moment to get them thinking. Ask, “Do you really want to stop sucking your thumb? How do you think you could cut back?” Ultimately, the most successful strategy is to convince your child to break their own habit.
For more information on your child’s habits, please see the full article:
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