Biting, thumb sucking and nose picking can be hard habits to
break. Often, parents get frustrated and don't know where to
Here are a few tips to try-and a few things not to do-to bust
those bad habits.
This article is not intended to provide medical
Biting is very common among kids between 18 months and 3 years
old, often because they can't express themselves well with words
and biting quickly gets a message across. Most biters stop, but
here are some tips for the child who makes it a habit:
Try to find a pattern. Is it a certain location, time, person or
In a stern voice say, "It is never OK to bite. Biting hurts.
See, Ashley is crying. I cannot let you bite another person."
Allow the biter to see that the injured child is being helped
and to assist in helping.
Ask the biter to apologize.
DO NOT bite the offending child to show that it hurts. This
only models unwanted behavior.
Biting is usually not a sign of future behavior problems, but if
your child continues biting after age 3, discuss it with your
Infants are naturally soothed and comforted by sucking, and most
babies suck a thumb, finger or pacifier at some point. Most kids
will stop without any help from a parent, but for some kids, thumb
sucking persists and eventually can lead to dental problems. Even
when a child wants to stop, thumb sucking can become a mindless
Here are some tips to help your child stop:
Try to get buy-in from the child. It may help to use examples
they can relate to: "Does Barney (or other favorite character) suck
Try to replace the thumb or fingers with a blanket or stuffed
animal to hug.
Give reminders: Ask "Do you know you are sucking your
thumb?" or apply tape or a Band-Aid to the thumb as a
Give a star for every day (or hour) without thumb sucking. Then
allow the child to buy a special toy with the earned stars.
If all else fails, teach your child to limit thumb sucking to
the house or the bedroom.
DO NOT be too restrictive because it can cause anxiety and have
the opposite effect.
Kids with allergies tend to pick their noses the most because a
heavy flow of mucus can dry and crust inside the nose, giving them
a "something's up there" feeling. Nose picking can cause nose
bleeds and also spreads germs. Try these tips to break this bad
Address any allergies.
Have your child drink plenty of fluids to avoid the build-up of
Keep nails trimmed so that dirt doesn't build up behind
Encourage hand washing.
Keep plenty of tissues available and encourage nose blowing and
If all else fails, teach your child that this is a private
activity and not to gross out other people by doing it in
DO NOT publicly call out your child for picking his