How to break annoying habits in kids

Some habits children exhibit can be seen as annoying to their parents. These annoying habits are often a coping mechanism that can offer relief from anxiety, boredom and stress or even provide comfort. Habits generally tend to be outgrown overtime, and are not serious or health threatening. However, they can be annoying, which is why parents look for ways to break the habits their children display.

Here are some ways of breaking annoying habits in your kids:

Does the habit need breaking?

Decide if the habit can just be ignored, or if it needs to be broken. If the habit is just annoying, but is not causing any problems it can be left. Habits that go unnoticed are often outgrown and forgotten without any repercussions. In fact, in many instances, habits that are ignored can be more easily outgrown, as no attention has been drawn to the habit. Consider if it is something that can be outgrown, or if it needs to be eliminated.

The reason behind the habit

If the habit is used for comfort such as thumb sucking or hair twiddling, this is a strategy that helps the child to relax to gain a sense of calm. Self-soothing is common for young children, and is often outgrown before long. If, however, the habit is more stress induced such as biting nails, grinding teeth or head banging which can be seen as annoying and damaging, the cause needs to be established. Once the trigger for this unwanted habit is found it can be stopped.

Finding the trigger

If the child is biting his or her nails or pulling on their hair take notice of what events are occurring during these times. Certain situations or environments could be causing undue stress. Once the trigger is believed to be established, change the setting or activity to remove the anxiety. Once the trigger has been removed the habit should slip away. However, a little dissuasion and intervention may be required if the habit has been ongoing for some time.

How to break annoying habits

It is important to not draw attention to the habit, as this can have the opposite affect and increase the intensity and frequency. Instead, it is better to let it go unnoticed by ignoring the habit. When the child displays the unwanted habit simply stop him or without giving attention in the form of eye contact and keep communication limited. Use an assertive but calm voice, and direct the attention elsewhere. Offer a distraction, as this takes away the focus from the habit.

Find alternatives

If the habit is unwanted and is difficult to break, find alternatives. Offer a different option such as a comforting toy, or for anxious children that display nail biting, teeth grinding or head banging offer a stress ball or fidget toy that can keep their hands busy. Alternatively, get them involved with whatever is happening at the time and delegate tasks for your child to help. A fun activity could be enjoyed together to give precious one-on-one time to help ease their anxieties and boost their spirit and confidence.

It is imperative to remain positive and calm, no matter how stressful and annoying the bad habit may seem. Children are likely to rebel if they are reprimanded for their habits. Find and remove the cause if possible, otherwise gently stop the habit and move onto something else with the child to divert their attention elsewhere. Keeping children busy and occupied can prevent them from performing annoying habits.