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How to Break a Bad Habit

Every person has some sort of idiosyncrasy they consider to be a “bad habit.” Many bad habits stem and develop during childhood. What do you do if you notice your child starting to pick up one? From swearing, to fidgeting, to picking your nose, it can be easier said than done to stop a bad habit on the front end before it becomes routine.

While many childhood habits are harmless, some could affect your child emotionally or socially in the long run. Here are some steps on how to help correct your child’s bad habit.


1. Identify the problem

Figuring out what is triggering the issue is the first major step in the process. If your child is biting or hitting, they may not know how to verbally express their emotions. If your child is having trouble falling asleep, they may turn to thumbsucking to help them feel more secure. Investigate into the root of the problem by closely observing your child’s behaviors. Are they nervous? Anxious? Do you need to contact a pediatrician? Ask your child questions. They will tell you more than you might think.


2. Offer a better alternative

Once you understand why your child is turning to their habit, you can offer something better for them to do. Find a new habit that provides a similar benefit. If your child reacts to stress by picking at their nails, buy them a stress ball to help them cope with their nerves. If your child is headbanging to relax, a rocking chair may be a good investment to put them at ease. As long as the substitute  is beneficial to your child, there endless possibilities for alternatives to bad habits.


3. Motivate and reward for better behavior

Praise is an especially good reinforcement for changed behavior – just remember to praise actions rather than using general statements like “good girl” or “good boy.” Another great use of motivation is rewarding for self-control. For example, allow your little girl to use nail polish if she lets her nails grow. Or every time your son refrains from sucking his thumb, reinforce the positive behavior by praising him and giving him a sticker or other small prize, according to KidsHealth.


There is good news: most childhood bad habits tend to disappear on their own. And while they can be difficult to break, the right attitude will help you along the way. If you’re consistent, firm but understanding, you can absolutely help your child break their bad habit.

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