Breaking bad habits
Is your child a twirler, a picker or a biter?
It is normal for a toddler to develop bad habits. If you want them to stop, it helps to know why they develop. Your toddler might revert to habits like thumb-sucking to soothe him when he is tired or insecure.
Nail-biting, nose-picking and biting may appear when he is nervous, frustrated or unhappy. Most of the time toddlers outgrow their bad habits. A toddler may do one or more of these:
A few tips on handling bad habits
- Thumb and finger sucking
- Biting nails
- Head banging, head rolling and body rocking
- Nose picking
- Hair twirling
- Breath holding
- Ignore the behaviour and think about how you want to react.
- Offer her something else to do that will require her to get her thumb out of her mouth like blowing bubbles or playing a game together, but do this without mentioning her thumb sucking.
- Give your child more attention overall. Do not increase your attention only after observing the “bad” habit; to do so would just make the child associate the habit with getting more attention.
- Make the bad habit less pleasurable. For a girl who pulls her hair, try a hairstyle that makes it hard to get at her hair like a plait or ponytail.
- For the child who engages in raucous head-banging at bedtime, pad the headboard or crib. (Even though head-banging sounds anything but pleasurable to you, it is a tension reliever for the child.)
- Nail biting is another common habit: keeping the nails short and the cuticles softened and trimmed may help.
- Breath holding is a more serious bad habit and should be discussed with your paediatrician.