Bad Habits-Go Hardcore or Ignore? by Dina Ramon

My daughter has a new habit. It’s not something sweet like singing in the shower or hugging her stuffed ‘Wolfie,’ which would be more typical of her disposition. I’m not sure I would call it ‘bad,’ but rather strange or awkward, and definitely undesirable. She cracks her hands. Yes, her hands not just her knuckles. She overtly pushes her hands against the side of her face until her fingers crack. The frequency of this routine has been building for the past couple of months and now I catch her doing it a lot. And it is annoying me – a lot. Why is she doing this? How did it start? How do I make it stop? Apparently it is pretty normal for young children to develop these kinds of habits at her age and they can stem from any number of reasons. To me the obvious reason is our move this past September. The hand-cracking was probably a way for her to manage the stress of adapting to a new environment and missing her friends. Once she settled in, found her place and made new friends, some friend drama evolved and that has likely fed the bad habit. All I know is that it’s starting to drive me a little crazy. At first I nagged her to stop every time I saw her doing it; so did my husband. Then I started feeling guilty about nagging her because I have a bad habit too, and she scolds me whenever she sees me doing it. I admit, I pick the skin around my fingernails; I know, it’s icky and unsightly. The point is I know how hard it is to quit a bad habit. So, lately I haven’t said anything to her. I did some ‘mom-search’ (mommy research) on this but am not sure which of the ‘experts’ suggestions (that I found at More4Kids) is the best approach? One is the ‘carrot not stick approach.’ In other words, a bribe…with praise (when progress is made). We may not like it but we know it works. Another is the ‘calm, clear and firm’ approach; explaining to your child in a serious way how the habit can have repercussions like being the target of other kids’ teasing. Or I could try forming a ‘partnership’ with my daughter. This means giving her ownership of breaking the habit and working with her to solve it. That could be a tough sell. Then there’s the ‘patience and perseverance’ approach, which to me really means ‘wait and see,’ and hope the habit is one she will eventually drop. Finally, ‘diversionary tactics’ are an option to consider; in other words, I should encourage my daughter to adopt a new hobby or interest that would replace the bad habit. For me, that’s a long shot. She has a bunch of hobbies already and may not eagerly adopt another one. I’m still evaluating these before I select my strategy. In the meantime, I should probably set a good example for her as a mom and work on quitting my own bad habit.

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