As a loving mother, you work tirelessly to set your child up for a rewarding, healthy, and successful life. Because of this, you may find it frustrating when your children practice negative behaviors, such as nail-biting and thumb-sucking. To make your life easier—and your child’s, as well—check out these helpful ways to break your child’s unhealthy habits.
Hair-Twirling, -Pulling, and -Biting
Children who twirl, pull, or bite on their hair may suffer from anxious or depressed tendencies. This bad habit is most common in girls, but not exclusively. This aggressive treatment of their hair can cause hair loss, pain, and even injury. Furthermore, it’s a behavior that may distract your kids or others during school.
While most hair manipulators stop these actions as they get older, some children struggle with breaking the habit. When your children are young, encourage them not to pull their hair by distracting them with a different toy or activity. Gently release their hair grip while repeating “no”—this teaches them that this is not an acceptable behavior.
As your children age, begin implementing different, healthier methods for handling emotions like anxiety or depression. Find the alternative habit that works best for them.
Many adults still struggle with the habit of nail-biting, so it is entirely natural for your children to display this behavior. Like hair manipulation, this activity is usually the result of anxious emotions. Boys are more likely to practice this behavior as they age.
The best way to break this habit is to practice other calming activities when these emotions present themselves. Motivate your child by rewarding them when they go long periods without biting their nails. Lastly, never shame a child for biting their nails, as, again, this action stems from overwhelming emotions that they may not fully understand or know how to deal with.
Putting Things in Their Mouth
Unfortunately, this bad habit is widespread and potentially dangerous for a child. Kids will put nearly everything in their mouths, especially at a young age. These items could include their toys, finger or toes, and other inedible objects around them.
Repeatedly reinforcing to your child that “only food should ever go in your mouth” is the best way to break this behavior. Encourage them to explore items with touch rather than taste.
As for putting their own body parts in their mouth, this action introduces harmful bacteria into their immune systems and can cause serious injuries—there are many serious dental reasons why children shouldn’t suck their thumb, which is a prevalent habit. Work with your pediatrician to create the best plan to eliminate this behavior.
Knowing all the ways to break your child’s unhealthy behaviors is complicated for any parent—thankfully, there are many methods and resources available to you that will make your life easier. Remember that many bad habits stem from other internal issues, so remain patient and supportive when working with your child.