Habits Your Kids Need to Break and How to Help Them Do It

Bad childhood habits can turn into adult problems if left unchecked. That's why these are the habits your kids need to break sooner rather than later.

Habits Your Kids Need to Break and How to Help Them Do It

Children don't tend to have an aptitude for being able to tell what is socially acceptable and what isn't. What an adult or a parent might consider a bad habit is, to a child, a natural thing to do. However, your kid can't grow up and still be nose picking in public as an 18-year-old. With your guidance, those habits your kids need to break won't be so tough to conquer.

Nose Picking

One of the grossest, most popular bad habits the majority of kids have is picking their nose. They don't care who's looking — they just do it. Other than the fact that it's off-putting, nose picking can also negatively affect your child's health. Diving for nose gold and then touching their eyes can cause them to get an infection. Your kid could also infect other children more easily because of the passing of germs, from nose to hand to playmate.

When you try to curb your kid's enthusiasm for picking their nose, be cautious not to use negative words. For example, even though we adults know it's a gross habit, you shouldn't be telling your kids that they're gross. That kind of comment could eventually make them feel overly self-conscious or have a poor relationship with their body. Instead, alter their behavior with suggestions and rules.

Make it your habit to tell your child to reach for a tissue every time you catch them in the act. Sooner or later, they'll adapt this new behavior and won't even think twice about it. When you think about it, it's similar to the process of potty training.

Hair Twirling or Pulling

Most people see hair twirling or pulling as an absent-minded gesture; something you do when you're daydreaming, or just not thinking at all. But when a toddler twirls and pulls their hair, it could be an indicator of stress. It could also be a sign of a much more serious habit disorder.

Trichotillomania, a condition classified by compulsive hair pulling, affects roughly 2.5 million Americans. This excessive hair pulling results in baldness in many cases, and can deeply weaken a person's self esteem. If you're worried that your child could be headed down this path, try some calming exercises.

Find out what soothes them and let this new routine replace the bad habit. You can also give your children another outlet for relieving stress, like more physical activity or play time.

Nail Biting

Nail biting is another one of the bad habits your kid needs to break as soon as possible, as it can easily result in infection. When a child constantly bites their nails due to nervousness or even boredom, they gradually wear down the skin around the nail bed. This can cause bleeding and problems with their cuticles. Keep in mind, a child of virtually any age can have or develop this problem.

It's time for a manicure!

As a parent, there are a few things you can do to try to deter your child from aggravating their nails. Cutting the nails short can hinder your kid's bad habit; less nail to chew, less chewing done. You can also get your child interested in manicures and adjust them to a nail care routine. For one, polish doesn't taste very good, and for another, seeing their nails looking nice might stop them from wanting to mess them up.

Thumb Sucking

Most children suck their thumbs, and there isn't usually much of a problem with that when they're toddlers, other than the obvious issue of cleanliness. It is when a child gets older, however, that thumb sucking becomes a habit that needs breaking as it can ruin your child's growing teeth. Another reason to put a stop to this habit is to protect their self esteem. Bullying is, unfortunately, a constant threat to a growing child, and sucking their thumb past a certain age will often result in teasing.

One potential remedy is to give your children an activity that is very hands on. If your child is able to make a hobby out of something that keeps their hands busy, then the impulse to suck their thumb will lessen. If the bad habit doesn't go away, talk to your child's dentist and regular pediatrician. A dentist will be able to give your kid something to physically reduce the negative impact of thumb sucking, while a general doctor could give your referrals to a child therapist.

Tech Addiction

Kids being born into this booming technological age are always surrounded by new gadgets. Because of this and the overall cultural dependance on social media, the age at which kids develop online profiles is getting younger and younger. The list of psychological problems this can cause is ever-growing, including issues with identity, body image issues, and an increased sense of peer pressure.

Engage your kids!

The bottom line is kids love and need to be engaged. If you don't supply your child with enough activity or stimulation, they will immediately reach for whatever device is on your nightstand or start having bad habits like hair pulling or thumb sucking to soothe themselves.

Make sure you give them a balanced childhood. Plan family activities, like going to an aquarium or an amusement park. Plan a family vacation, whether it's a week in Orlando, a weekend at the beach, or a day trip. Introduce them to the wonder of reading an actual book. Help your child solidify a sense of self outside of the internet.

Throwing Tantrums

Little kids throw temper tantrums if the slightest thing doesn't go their way. You want them to eat their food? Tantrum. You don't want to hand them your cell phone? Tantrum. Bedtime? Forget about it.

Kids throw tantrums when they don't get what they want or when they can't get their feelings across with words. When a child has a tantrum, it is almost impossible to console them. However, what you can do is distract and discipline.

Giving your child something else to focus their attention on means they will stop focusing on their foul mood. Put one of their favorite toys in front of them or show them how to do something new, like making a secret handshake. If you can turn their tantrum into something fun and engaging, you're a pro.

Don't be afraid to ignore your child.

Neglect is never something a parent should do, but ignoring your child when they are throwing a tantrum and screaming bloody murder is OK. Show them that their outbursts won't earn them a prize or attention. Once your kid is given space and time to tire themselves out, they will become more receptive to what you have to say.

Another harmless form of discipline is to simply be assertive. Warn your child that if they continue with their shrieking they will be put into a classic time out or that they won't get dessert after dinner. At first this might cause your kid to scream even louder, but it's your job as a parent to remain calm and determined. Don't give in!

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Read next: Understanding the Effects of Addiction on the Family
Taylor Markarian

"This might be more than a simple conversation." - Underoath 

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