Little Bad Habits

Adults can learn to break bad habits when they want to, but what do we do when our children’s unconscious habits annoy us?

Cherylyn Feierabend
3-minute read
Episode #55

Hey there! You’re listening to the Mighty Mommy with some quick and dirty tips for practical parenting.

Bad habits – we all have them. Adults can learn to break bad habits when they want to, but what do we do when our children’s unconscious habits annoy us? No, the kids aren’t unconscious. They simply aren’t aware of what they are doing. Unfortunately, we are very aware of what they are doing and it’s bothering us.

Habits such as nail-biting, teeth-grinding, ear-tugging, hair-twirling, and nose-picking are all very common in children starting around age 3. While nail-biting and teeth-grinding seem to be the most destructive and annoying, there are plenty of parents going nuts from the other activities listed as well.

I decided to do some personal research on these habits and I’ve found that my daughter is often playing with her nose, while my son likes to chew on his nails. In both cases, if I gently move their hands away from the area, they both immediate put the other hand in its place. So, I discovered that the nail-biting isn’t caused by hand discomfort, but the nose-playing still baffled me. I notice that my daughter only fidgets with her nose when she’s relaxing or watching TV. Basically, if here hands aren’t busy and she’s awake, she’s playing with her nose.

Both of these activities can be easily rectified by handing something to the child currently engaged in the activity, but that doesn’t break the habit, it simply puts a stop to it for the moment. The thing to remember is most of these habits will come to an end on their own. It’s difficult to refrain from scolding your child when they start biting on their nails or tangling their fingers up in their hair, but it’s best if you can gently guide them toward a different activity instead. If you find yourself getting angry, raising your voice, or if you are considering painting nasty-tasting nail polish on your child’s fingers, stop and breathe. These habits are occurring without the child’s knowledge most of the time. Children don’t want to grind their teeth until they realize that it gets your attention. By calling attention to the bad habits, your child becomes aware and may use them to get a rise out of you.


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