Is your child a nose picker, a hair eater or a nail biter? Follow this guide to stamping out your kids’ nasty habits
Posted by: Sue Atkins
Kids can develop unsavoury habits.
They usually save them for those special moments like when they’re with their grandparents or in the school nativity play.
But experts say these seemingly unpleasant activities are part and parcel of growing up. In some cases, they can even be beneficial.
Here’s my advice in The Daily Mirror – click here
“A child needs an opportunity to explore,” says clinical child psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin.
“If that means having a good old dig up their nose then to a degree they’ve got to be able to do that.”
Dr Rudkin says parents need to work out for themselves which habits they can put up with and which they’d like to put a stop to.
“Parents have different boundaries,” she explains.
“You could say there’s no way we want our child to spit or swear but we don’t mind a bit of bottom scratching. Consistency is important.
“If there are things you really don’t want them to do, it has to be clamped down on pretty quickly.”
Whatever you do, don’t overreact.
“Be matter of fact – just say ‘Don’t put your hands down there’, or ‘It’s not nice to do that’,” says Sue Atkins, a parenting coach and author.
“Be consistent about that and praise the behaviour you do want.
“You owe it to your children to teach them the social niceties so that when they go to someone else’s house they don’t get told ‘Yuk, that’s gross’. It’s much better coming from you.”
The good news is kids will probably grow out of unpleasant habits.
“For most kids it’s a phase,” says Sue. “As they become older and more self-conscious, they become aware of things other people do.”
But if you can’t wait a decade for your child to stop picking their nose or eating their hair, here are some tips to help.
This can be down to anxiety and then it can become a habit. If a child has to stand up in class and read a story, they might bite their nail. If it becomes their default coping strategy, you have to help break it.
Does it happen at a certain time, while they are doing a certain activity? If they’re doing it because they feel insecure you can help them do something else instead, like tapping pressure points on the body to relieve stress.
“Give them something else instead. That could be having a piece of material in their pocket that they could play with or some Blu-tack they can twang and pull apart if they’re feeling nervous,” says Sue.
This can often be associated with relaxing, for instance sucking their thumb when they go to bed.
“It’s like when you hear music and it takes you back to a certain time. Give them a favourite toy to take to bed instead or let them listen to a story tape so they associate that with relaxing instead,” says Sue. It’s a question of breaking the habit slowly.
PICKING THEIR NOSE
With kids up to three or four it’s all about distraction. Don’t draw too much attention to it and don’t have the big chat every time they do it.
Otherwise they’ll think ‘This is brilliant. When Mum’s sitting chatting to her friend I’m guaranteed to get her attention!’ “Gently get their hand down and give them something else to do,” says Dr Rudkin.
“If they’re older, you can stand them in front of the mirror or even do it yourself and say ‘That is what people see when you pick your nose’.”
You can go for the practical solution of cutting their hair but it’s going to grow back. You’re better off scraping it back so that it’s not always hanging round the face.
“It can be comforting behaviour for a child, so again it’s a question of finding something else,” says Dr Rudkin.
You could suggest they twirl their hair instead and then after that give them something else to do and gradually move away from the habit.
HANDS IN PANTS
Boys often don’t even know there is a problem with it. You need to help them see that in life there are unwritten social rules and if you want to be accepted and fit in, you’ve got to abide by the rules.
“If you say it’s dirty, there will be a lot of shame attached, so you can simply say other people don’t find it pleasant, but you can do it in your room,” suggests Dr Rudkin.
Haircut cured my daughter’s habit
Susannah Dushaj, 42, an account manager, from Disley, Cheshire, has a daughter, Sunday, four, and a son Felix, two.
Sunday started sucking her hair when she was three. She seemed to have a piece of hair in her mouth all the time.
I didn’t know why. She’s a happy-go-lucky little girl so I didn’t think she was anxious. She had lovely long hair and at first I tried tying it back and telling her not to do it. But she carried on. I was worried it would become a permanent habit or that, because she was actually swallowing some of the hair, she’d become ill.
After three months, last February, I decided enough was enough. I took her to the hairdressers and had her hair cut short. I did feel a pang of guilt but her new hairstyle really suits her – and it’s stopped her from chewing it.
To listen to my Parenting Show Podcast here where we discuss ‘Thumb Sucking, Playing with Guns and Getting Your Little Darlings to Behave click here