Children’€™s Habits! Thumb Sucking, Nail Biting, Stammering


Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

We are all individuals and experts believe our ג€˜temperament’ is already established at birth and develops within the first few months of life. Our characteristics and behavioral traits can be judged neither ג€˜good’ nor ג€˜bad’, but they make us who we are. But some of a child’s behaviours become worrying for parents, although the following common habits are traits that will present for a while, and then may just stop of their own accord.

Thumb Sucking

Even an unborn baby can be seen sucking their thumb, so for humans thumb-sucking is normal. It is a comforting oral action for a baby and quite simply, some children need more oral comfort than others.

Sucking on your thumb, fingers or a dummy has the same soothing effect. However the advantage of using a dummy is that it can be removed or ג€˜lost’ at a later stage making the habit easier for a child to break.

If thumb sucking persists in a child, dentists will agree that it will only cause damage to emerging adult teeth which doesn’t usually happen until a child is five years old. So at this point, rather than ignoring the behavior, positive encouragement and distraction should be used to deter the child.

Nail Biting

Nail biting is a common habit in children with usually no obvious reason, although there is evidence to show it may run in families. Although it can result in an unsightly nail bed and some cuticle damage, it is not really harmful unless the skin around the nail becomes infected.

However, the more children put their fingers in their mouths, for nail biting or for thumb sucking, the more likely they are to be transmitting infection to themselves and others.

Some children will decide to stop biting their nails by themselves but for those children who persist, there are bitter solutions to paint onto the nail which act as a reminder to deter the child. But in most cases, repeatedly distracting the child and using positive encouragement with, for example, a Star Chart should eventually deter the child.

Stammering

Stammering is quite normal and affects five percent of children between the ages of 2 and 5. It is three times more common in boys that in girls and there is also evidence to show it may run in families.

There are a number of ways in which you can help your child. Allow time for your child to finish what they want to say without interrupting them, and try not to prompt and correct them. Help them use non-verbal actions to support their communication, and make sure that you are modeling slow, clear speech. Provide your child with a range of non-verbal opportunities for expression, perhaps using art, music and movement in dance or sport.

The causes of stammering are unknown, and professional help need only be sought if the child is obviously anxious and frustrated, or is avoiding situations where they are required to speak.

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