How Do I Cure My Child of a Bad Habit?

I bit my nails as a kid. Even now, when I get stressed I find myself drawn to this old habit without even thinking. Habits are such a bother! Like a dysfunctional relationship, you don’t want them around and yet you indulge them again and again. Habits with kids are another level of infuriation for the diligent Mama. You might have a thumbsucker, biter, hitter, liplicker or teeth grinder. Or, if your child is older you may be dealing with yelling, bad language, a phone addiction or blatant rude behavior. Here are some practical ideas for moms asking, how do I cure my child of a bad habit?

Every Child is Unique

Every single one of my babies was an avid thumbsucker. I LOVED this at first. It meant more sleep for baby, as they were self-soothing. However, once they were past that baby phase, this habit was simply no longer useful. I had to wield a variety of strategies for my kiddos. My 2nd child developed an infection because of the excessive sucking, so we had to wrap her thumb in a bandage. She was only 10 months old, and I decided to just keep wrapping that thumb and VOILA, she was cured.

What Works for One Won’t Work for the Other

Ending thumbsucking was not so easy for my others partly because I was more relaxed and waited longer. We had to improvise and create what we call a “Thumb Thing” to attach to their thumbs at night. This did the trick with one child. Her sister, however decided to pull it off some nights. Not only this, one night when she was sleeping next to her sister she tried to suck her sister’s thumb!! Ugh!

Model Model Model

To my great chagrin, I have noticed that my kids COPY all my habits, good or bad. Here is an interesting article describing some of the most common habits we teach our children without even thinking about it. That famous saying, “Values are caught, not taught”, goes for habits, too! As my kids have moved out of the toddler years and into school age, this has become all too apparent. When I’m on my phone, they want the same. When I’m short-tempered…somehow the whole family is snappy.  Yet, on the flipside if I ask politely if my oldest daughter would like me to help her with her chore of emptying the dishwasher…I will notice she MIGHT just offer help to one of her younger sisters later that day in the same manner!! Woah — amaaaaazing!

Here are a few tips for breaking bad habits around your house:

Baby Biting While Nursing

If baby decides he needs to use your breast as a teething toy, act fast! First, give him a nice firm “No”. For my sweet, sensitive girl babies this did the trick! If your baby has more tenacity, you will have to stop nursing the second he bites you. Clearly tell him why he has to stop breastfeeding and cue him in with the same sound or phrase each time it happens. It could be something like, “So sad, looks like we have to stop nursing because you bit me. So sad.” No need to be angry, yell or do anything harsh. Just be consistent. Do not offer your breast again until the next feeding. Baby should be cured after just a few times. Babies are ever so smart and don’t like to miss out on the comfort of breastfeeding!

Pacifier

A brilliant idea one of my mom mentors shared with me is the following. When you are ready to say goodbye to the pacifier and it has served its purpose in your household long enough, simply grab a pair of scissors and cut it in two pieces. Leave it out for your baby or toddler to find. When he comes across it and plugs his mouth say something like, “Oh, this is really sad. Your pacifier broke. Looks like we need to throw it away now.” Because the nipple is no longer intact, the experience is entirely lost and baby will no longer want it. Be sure there are no extra pacifiers lying around the house!

Thumbsucking

Here are a few ideas that have worked for us, as every child in my house has been a thumbsucker! If your baby is under 18 months you could do something as simple as wrap his thumb in some large bandaids. This works brilliantly for very young ones. It might only take a week or so of wrapping that thumb at night and during naptime. If your child is older, offer thumbsucking as an activity that can only be done in certain places: in your bed, in the car seat and in the special rocking chair at home. Once you have weaned it down to these times, move to only during sleeptime. Finally, wield a thumb-shield of some sort during naps and nighttime. You can find an assortment online that will lock the thumb away from inadvertent nighttime sucking. Remember to use these as long as you need to. You will know your child is cured once his thumb is smooth and has no more callouses from sucking.

Tell Us Your Creative Habit Cures

We’d love to hear from you on what bad habits you have cured in your home and how. Or, if you are struggling with finding a fix for your baby’s habit, reach out so we can do some treasure digging for you. We will get to work finding an answer for you!

Mommy Medicine is a group of moms who have been and most STILL are in the trenches. We have been there and done that and love sharing our tricks, tips and strategies with our fellow moms. Contact us here to ask us a Mommy Question!

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (3/27/2018) Byron and Tamara (Flickr)

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