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Any resources on helping a 3.5 yo stop bad habits?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I have no idea how to help a young child stop bad habits. My daughter has two. The first is pretty common. She's always asking "why?" I don't mean when she wants to know why. I mean that it has now become a habit. She used to ask why when she wanted to know. Now it's her automatic reaction to every single thing a person says. She doesn't even realize she's saying it. Every sentence uttered is punctuated with her "why?" I have tried ignoring her, but because it's such an ingrained habit for her now, she still automatically does it, even if she doesn't get an answer.

 

Also, she has started putting her hands in her mouth all the time. She never did this when she was younger. This past month, her hands are ALWAYS in her mouth. Every second. If there isn't food going in or words coming out, her hands are in there. She wipes spit all over everyone and everything. She's not chewing, she's licking. Her hands are always soaked. It's pretty gross. :P I'm taking her to a dentist, but I don't suspect there's a problem and she says that her mouth and teeth are not hurting. She has never sucked her thumb. She has all 20 baby teeth and isn't teething.

 

Any ideas? I talk to her about it all the time and tell her to stop each time she does it, but it has no effect at all. The why comes again five minutes later and the hands are back in the mouth the second she forgets about it.

post #2 of 5

I think there's always a reason for a child's behavior, and even though we can't figure out the reason, there's still a reason. "Habit" isn't really a reason; "habit" is what we say when we can't figure out the reason.

 

Putting her hands in her mouth to me seems comfort-seeking. It sounds like its become a problem, if she can't play with toys or do other activities because she has to keep one hand in her mouth. This could seriously impede her development and the skin will start to break down, making her hands red and peeling, prone to infection. I wonder if its comfort-seeking, what's going on that is making her seek comfort at the price of being unable to fully participate in things that require two hands? Maybe its only happening when she's bored. Or maybe you've noticed a pattern in which it happens more often towards bedtime, when children tend to feel more fragile and vulnerable.

 

If you can't find a pattern or figure out if its self-soothing behavior and you give up trying to find a reason and just want the behavior to stop because its slimy, maybe you could try redirecting her to a chewie: http://www.especialneeds.com/speech-language-oral-motor-tools-chewy-toys.html. They tend to be more sanitary. I really wouldn't try to just stop a behavior without finding another way to meet the need behind the behavior.

 

As for "why?" I have to ask "why?" Because its annoying to others? I think that's a valid reason, but I suspect that any plan you implement to stop the whying will start to be successful about the time she would naturally stop the whying on her own. Her verbal and auditory processing skills will continue to improve and she'll eventually want to have conversations that are more meaningful and interesting. I'd just ignore it, really, and chalk it up to an annoying but common part of childhood.  Or you could say, "why not?" in a friendly voice every time she says "why" and see where that leads. My daughter got tired of answering "why not?" and it made her more thoughtful about her whys.

 

Are you seeing any other behaviors that are normal but taken to an extreme could be indicative of compulsive behavior? Like in OCD kinds of behavior. If so, that's a much longer conversation.

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

It may be comfort-seeking.

 

She doesn't do it when her hands are otherwise occupied. If she's playing with toys, painting, etc., she doesn't do it. During story time or reading, in the car, watching something with me, drawing with one hand, etc. Anywhing else and the hand is in the mouth.

 

Thanks! I'll try asking "why not?" and see where that goes. :)

post #4 of 5

FWIW both my ds and dd, who were never big put-things-in-their-mouth toddlers, both got into a hand/finger sucking thing at that age.  They both outgrew the habit which peaked at around 3.5yo.  They also (ds especially) went through an intense "why? why? why?" phase at that age, which lasted a good 6 months and then tapered out afterward.  So, IME, what you describe sounds normal, and I think waiting it out may be your only answer.

post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thanks for telling me! That actually makes me feel loads better. joy.gif
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by pianojazzgirl View Post

FWIW both my ds and dd, who were never big put-things-in-their-mouth toddlers, both got into a hand/finger sucking thing at that age.  They both outgrew the habit which peaked at around 3.5yo.  They also (ds especially) went through an intense "why? why? why?" phase at that age, which lasted a good 6 months and then tapered out afterward.  So, IME, what you describe sounds normal, and I think waiting it out may be your only answer.



 

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