For kids bad habits are a kind of necessity, comfort, entertainment and luxury. However, kids need to be told that their habits, apart from being annoying to their parents, can cause harm to them also. In some rare cases they may even go on to leave a mark in their adult life. It is, therefore, important to help break into your kids' annoying habits and stop them before they tinker with your child's growth and development.
The most common bad habits of kids that parents want to tackle are: (i) Nose picking, (ii) Biting nails, (iii) Thumb sucking, (iv) Hair twirling or hair pulling, and (v) Holding the breath to register a protest.
Before you try to break bad habits of your kid, you must understand that for kids bad habits are nothing but a strategy to cope with situations involving stress, boredom, insecurity, fatigue, and frustration or unhappiness at their wish not being fulfilled. Many of these bad habits, however annoying they may be to the parents, are calming and soothing to the child. And because such habits are something that kids engage in their formative years without thinking, you must not try to break them using harsh methods like reprimanding and punishing. Children when treated harshly tend to rebel and develop a feeling of animosity towards their parents.
On the other hand, if you adopt a cool and friendly approach, most bad habits can be tackled. Moreover, these bad habits are merely passing phases in a child's life – not any kind of medical problems – so, sooner or later the child will outgrow them. Here are some practical tips on how you can go about breaking kids of bad habits:
- The Carrot (and no stick) Approach: All kids love freebies, and to them, freebies are like hidden booty. Now, freebies can be in the form of presents or rewards or whatever you want. So, tell your child that if he doesn't do such-and-such-a-thing he will be rewarded. Two things here – you have to be consistent with your rewards, and you have to reward them with meaningful things. If you reward them with chocolates or Pizzas, then you are only spoiling them. Books, stickers, sugar-free candy and a trip out to the movies are examples of good rewards. Okay, along with the reward, do not forget to heap praises on the child – praising him will positively motivate him to try harder!
- Calm, Clear and Firm: When your kid gets into his bad habit groove, you have to calmly, yet clearly firmly, tell him what could go wrong if he keeps going on at it. Explain to him how his behavior will have an impact on his physical appearance and could also damage his psyche if his friends make him the butt of their jokes. Also, inform him that his bad habit annoys you. Remember once again: do not be harsh.
- Form a Partnership: Another neat method of breaking bad habits is to involve your child in the breaking process. Make him your "partner in crime" as you break into his bad habits and destroy them. You can start this off by asking your child about his bad habit and whether he has faced any embarrassing moments because of them. Then, let him know that from now on both of you will be partners in making sure that the bad habit is finished off. This involvement will give the child a feeling of adventure and will motivate him to get rid of his bad habits – plus, he will learn to contribute ideas and learn what brainstorming is all about!
- Patience and Perseverance: Kids are born flexible, but they can become very stubborn when they want to. Sometimes, all your motivation and firmness and rewards will bite the dust as your child refuses to back off from his bad habits. In situations such as these, patience and perseverance is the key. So, don't give up or turn impatient. Also, do not try to break all his bad habits in one go – keep going and keep trying, and one day the results will show.
- Diversionary Tactics: Try to involve your child in some hobby in order to kill the monotony of his routine. Many kids develop bad habits because they have nothing else to do. So, if you clue your child on to an interesting hobby, not only will he get rid of his bad habits, he will end up learning a useful thing or two!
These were some of the ways you can go about breaking your child's bad habits. In the end, remember that bad habits must not get your alarm bells ringing and put you in panic mode. They are a transient chapter in your child's life and will phase out with time as your kid grows. Just relax and stay calm as you go about breaking your child's bad habits. Good luck!