Methods to Help a Child Overcome Bad Habits
As children grow, they begin to learn about themselves and their world. It’s a lot to process, and they find coping mechanisms to help them ease through life. Whether it’s reading a book, washing their hands, or learning to be honest about their feelings, growing up can bring a lot of good.
However, every child learns a bad habit or two that they might not even consciously realize they’re doing. Nail biting, nose picking, and hair chewing are all habits that may not be appropriate. So, here are a few methods to help a child overcome bad habits. Through patience and compassion, they’ll overcome a bad habit over time.
Learn About Their Habit
Suppose you notice that your child started chewing their cuticles or saying inappropriate words around the house. Where did this come from? Did they learn it from someone? Take the time to observe your child before lunging into action. Notice what their thought process is when they’re displaying the bad habit. If they have moments of anxiety or boredom, perhaps they’re using the habit to fill their time or comfort themselves.
Find Alternatives to Their Habit
A method to help a child overcome bad habits is showing them a healthier one. If they’re a nose picker, distract them with other activities, distract them with other activities to keep their hands and minds busy. In places where your child might get bored easily and fall back on those bad habits, like a long car ride, give them an entertaining or distracting toy to help deter bad habits.
Encourage other activities related to their bad habit. For example, if your child bites their nails, suggest using their hands for other activities, like playing with puzzles that keep their fingers busy.
Reward Good Progress
Children often respond better to praise rather than punishment. When you scold a child’s bad behavior, it creates a layer of fear and guilt when they go for a bad habit again, potentially creating mistrust and secrecy.
To avoid that outcome, reward them when they choose to perform a healthier habit. The reward can range from a sweet treat to a special privilege to verbal affirmation. If you know your child really enjoys playing outside, you might give them a new outdoor toy you know they’ll love. Children love validation from others, encouraging them to make better decisions.
Stay Patient and Remind Them
An essential piece of advice to note is that breaking a bad habit doesn’t happen in a day. It can take a week, month, or even a year, depending on whether your child heavily relies on it for comfort and relaxation. There are times when a child will unconsciously bite their nails or chew their hair. You need to expect that.
So, ensure that you work with them regularly on replacing their habit with a better one, and take a deep breath. It’s a lot of work, but it won’t last forever.
Photo – Mohamed Abdelghaffar