Habit breaking

Tips on how to help your little ones break nervous habits

Q: My four-year-old daughter likes to rest her hand inside her underwear, even when she is just walking around. I’ve told her that isn’t something we do in public and that she needs to wash her hands, but she still does it all the time. I don’t want to embarrass her, and I’m not sure what to do next.

A: Many children have inappropriate nervous habits — some kids twist their hair, pick their noses or bite their nails. Often they choose a behaviour because they tried it once and it felt good. You have told your daughter that it’s inappropriate. Now help her to find a replacement activity. What about giving her a stress ball that she can put in her pocket and squeeze any time she wants? Try to notice if there are certain times when she’s more likely to rest her hand in her underwear so you can quietly remind her to change her actions before they start.

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