Handling Habitual Nose-picking

Are you grossed out by nose picking? Can’t stop your child from "mining for nuggets"?  Yuck! Here is some information you are going to need to stop the picking and move to better hygiene  habits.

Why Do They Pick?
I was surprised to learn that children are born with very tiny sinus cavities, that grow as the child grows and don’t  reach full size until  about age twelve. That means that toddlers don’t have a nice "holding tank" and any mucus that is produced only has one place to go.

Children discover their noses pretty early in life and find it is an  interesting cavern with interesting feelings, textures, and tastes (sorry).  For some, picking can become a bit of boredom buster, for others it is a form of self soothing, and it can just as easily turn to habit.

What should you do if your child has made picking a habit?

TTFT – Take Time For Training
We always start with training. In the famous words of Dr Rudolph Dreikurs "You will spend more time correcting a child than training them properly in the first place".

Training has both educational and skill components.

Education
Let your child know that the stuff that comes out of their body is nature’s wonderful dirt and germ trap. It is leaving their body so it gets rid  of that yucky stuff and they don’t get sick. Eating it is putting back  what their body told them it doesn’t want, and that can’t be good.

Skill
Show your child where the Kleenex is kept and how to grab hold and pull one out of the box. Show them how to hold it over their nose and blow out big while kind of pinching the Kleenex in place. Let them go first, you go second and get any remains. Show them that the Kleenex then needs to be carried to the garbage. You can also show them how to wrap Kleenex around a finger if they are really clogged up. Explain that  this is something that requires privacy as the public does not want  to see those self-care functions (like nail clipping and cleaning) and so the bathroom is the best place for that kind of activity. Explain that hands need to be washed after if things are messy since germs  may now be on their hands.

What Not To Do
If you getting overly involved in "breaking this habit" or start to nag about their nose picking, your child may decide to do it  just to get your attention. You don’t want to create a power struggle or support attention seeking behavior so you have to be calm and collected about this issue.

Make sure you always separate the deed from the doer. "Nose picking is gross" speaks to the behavior and behavior can be changed in  a heart beat. "You’re gross" refers to one’s character and this is more fixed and becomes a label that hurts one’s self-concept.

Caught In The Act
What should you do if you see your child picking their nose after you've taken the time to train them? Try one of the following:

  • Ignore it – it will go away without intervention  if they have been nose picking to get your attention.
  • Act, don’t talk – simply hand them the Kleenex box.
  • Act, don’t talk – simply walk them to the bathroom for  privacy. They know why you are leading them there.
  • Offer choice – "Would you like a Kleenex or to excuse yourself to the bathroom?"
  • Use "I messages" – "I feel grossed out when you  pick your nose in front of me. I’d prefer if you did that in the washroom".
  • Offer choice – "I am not willing to watch while you pick your nose. Can you stop or shall I go?"
  • Be firm and friendly – if they keep picking, leave without getting upset.
  • If one doesn't work choose another tactic from the list. Keep working until you get success.

What If Nothing Works?
In closing, let me remind you that somehow before adulthood most people  do learn this social convention. The best teachers of social convention will often be peers on the schoolyard who will give them a hard time  about this habit, motivating the picker to abandon the habit. At times  peer pressure can be for the good!

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t MIsbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

Picture of Alyson Schafer

Author: Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine. Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”. She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at http://alysonschafer.com/

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