Take a dictionary and look up the term HABIT.
HABIT, noun, a settled or regular tendency or practice, esp. one that is hard to give up.
As the definition says, habits are hard to give up. It is good idea to foster good habits as kids enter schools. When bad habits are formed they are difficult to break them.
Common annoying habits in children:
- Nail biting.
- Hair twirling
- Nose picking
These habits may even bother and worry you.
Relax, in most cases, these habits are just a phase in the normal developmental process and is not the cause for alarm.
Habits tend to occur in clusters. For example, usually 30 to 60% of kids and teens chew on one or more fingernails.
What causes a HABIT?
Habits may develop as entertainment for a bored child or more commonly, as a coping mechanism to soothe an anxious one. Next time you see a child doing such gimmicks, try to recall if your child has recently had a stressful experience? If so, the behavior might be your child’s attempt to relieve tension just as you would hit the gym.
Some kids do it when relaxed, listening to music. Some kids imitate you. Some do it to attract attention from mom and dad. Some to manipulate parents when they feel ignored or left out.
Good news is that bad habits such as these will disappear on its own as they age.
Some tips to wean these HABITS
- Calmly point out that you don’t approve of this behavior. Give them the reason why. This approach will help increase awareness of the problem. You can say, “I don’t like you doing this. It does not looki nice.” Most importantly, next time you see her doing it, don’t scold, lecture or punish. Punishment, ridicule or criticism could cause the behavior to increase.
- Involve your child in the process of breaking the habit. For example, your kid comes home crying that his classmates make fun of him for sucking his fingers, ask the child how he can leave his habit and how you can help him in that.
- Suggest alternative behavior. Instead of biting the nails, how about both of you can wiggle your fingers. This will increase awareness.
- Reward and praise him for self-control. You can give stickers or stars or a favorite cartoon for not sucking his thumb. Every time you see him not doing this habit there should a reward for him.
- Be consistent in rewarding good behavior. Your child will get motivated. He is trying to leave the habit and it takes time.
When the problem is chronic, physical or psychological then talk to your pediatrician.