The following are the most common childhood habits. Below each habit you will find the four habit-breaking helpers.
Motivators: Point out sore thumb. Compare sore thumb with other thumb. Show buck teeth in mirror. Run fingers over protruding teeth. Busy bored hands.
Relaxers: Play soothing music, have cuddle time, read together (child holds book).
Substitutes: “Hide thumb” by making a fist, squeeze thumb, suck tongue.
Special helpers: Dental appliance, distasteful reminders – paint-on products, Band-Aid, tape, tongue-blade splint, wear mittens.
Motivators: Keep hands busy. Keep both hands on book. Put hands in pockets watching t.v. Compare with unbitten nails.
Relaxers: Dangle hands, let fingers go limp. Lay in bathtub and let hands float. Massage hands and fingers.
Substitutes: “Hide nails” by clenching fist, clasp hands together, grab sleeve, clasp chair arm rests. Carry nail clipper in pocket, use when urge to bite is felt.
Special helpers: Wear mittens, manicure to keep nail and cuticle nice. Consult pediatrician for signs of damage to cuticle or infection.
Motivators: Relax child before bedtime. Reduce sleep separation anxiety — sleep close to child. Show teeth damage in mirror. Run fingers over damaged teeth.
Relaxers: Relax jaw — let mouth drop open. Massage facial muscles. Give before-bed massage. Breathe deeply with open mouth.
Substitutes: Smile instead of gritting teeth – daytime. Open mouth at urge to grind. Put tongue between teeth.
Special helpers: Consult dentist; teeth guard appliance. Consult allergist; treat nasal allergies, environmental (bedroom) allergies.
(e.g., blinking, facial twitching, shoulder shrugs, head jerks, forehead wrinkling, throat clearing, sniffing, neck stretching)
Motivators: Remove triggers and stressors. Watch self twitch in mirror. Ignore and distract when it happens.
Relaxers: Practice touch-relaxation: urge to twitch, massage muscles involved. Take deep breath and let muscles go limp.
Substitutes: Rotate head and stare at horizon. Tighten opposite muscles, e.g., shoulders. Take a drink of water. Shrug both shoulders together.
Special helpers: Consult child’s doctor to exclude medical causes.
Motivators: Show child sore edges of mouth and cracked lips. Have child keep lip balm in pocket to use instead of biting.
Relaxers: Take deep breath, open mouth, keep tongue inside. (Sighing- type of breathing can itself become a habit.)
Substitutes: Suck frozen juice bar, drink water, talk, take a deep breath.
Special helpers: Apply emollient to soften lips. Consult doctor if skin infected.
Motivators: Remove child from banging area. Pad crib. Remove bed from wall.
Relaxers: Play relaxing music. Rock child in rocking chair. Carry infant in sling.
Substitutes: Dancing to music, “gentling,” and physical contact.
Special helpers: Causes no harm and is self-limiting, but suggest child needs to learn healthier emotional releases.
Motivators: Show sores in nose. Relate picking with nose bleeding. Direct child to use tissues instead of finger in presence of others. Relaxers.: Deep breathe; teach child to stroke nose from bridge to tip, over and over slowly.
Substitutes: Rub nose with arm; rub hand with picking finger; pick on a pocket.
Special helpers: Consult doctor to determine nasal irritants, humidify air; apply moisturizing ointment in nostrils. Remove allergens.
Motivators: Show child pretty hair and bald spot.
Relaxers: Reduce stressors. Deep breathe; teach child to stroke hair or eye lid.
Substitutes: Pull hands, fingers, any safe alternative.
Special helpers: Consult doctor if child swallows the hair he pulls.
Motivators: Video/audio tape, replay for child to watch and hear.
Relaxers: Teach child how to take slow deep breaths.
Substitutes: Talk or sing when gets urge to make noises.
Special helpers: Naturally self-limiting if ignored. Consult physician if persists.