Thumbsucking? Nail biting? These are tough habits to break. How can you get a child to give up a bad habit? Answers on how to break a bad habit from Good Morning America Parenting Contributor Ann Pleshette Murphy.
DENISE: Does your child suck his or her thumb? Hi there, I'm Denise Richardson from howdini.com. We’re talking about that right now so pay attention. We have a great guest, Ann Pleshette Murphy, who is the author of Seven Stages of Motherhood and is a parenting contributor to Good Morning America. Every child for the most part sucks their thumb.
ANN: Or it sucks on something. Sucking is actually an instinct and a need that’s separate from feeding and a lot people think they suck because they’re hungry. No, it’s actually a separate need, of course, it’s something that’s very soothing. They release all kinds of brain chemicals when they’re sucking and so it’s not something that’s necessarily a bad thing, except that, of course, you know it’s very hard to break the habit.
DENISE: So, as soon as the thumb goes into the mouth, do you replace it with a pacifier?
ANN: Well, you can’t. We can actually see fetuses sucking their thumbs in utero, so it’s something that some kids do and some kids don’t. The ones who don’t, again parents find that a pacifier is a wonderful soother, the trouble is, you then have to have a big supply of them. But, it’s much to break a child of a pacifier than the thumb because my recommendation for getting rid of the pacifier is that at a certain point you can restrict the pacifier to certain times of day, you know, when they’re going to take a nap or when they’re going to go to bed. You can also do something that sometimes works is to snip a little bit of the pacifier off every few days so at a certain point, there’s nothing to suck on. That has sometimes worked for friends of mine that I know whose kids were addicted to their pacifiers. You can also have a rich, a big pacifier purge, you know, where you get a lot of other kids who use pacifiers and they all throw their pacifiers in the garbage together. That sometimes works, but you can’t do that with their thumbs.
DENISE: So, we all say, bad habit, how do you change a bad habit? How long does it take or does it depend on the individual?
ANN: Well, it depends on the individual. But, I wanted to start by saying that if the habit is part of a whole ritual of behavior or if it seems to be interfering with the child’s life in some way…they can’t socialize, they do it in really kind of an obsessive way, then I would talk to your pediatrician because it may be part of what we call obsessive-compulsive disorder, there’s some habits that seem to be associated with that. But, if you’ve got a nail-biter or if you’ve got a thumbsucker, chances are that their peers are going to shame them out of the habit. A girl who suddenly has a boy go “Ugh, you’re nails look disgusting,” is never going to bite them again. Um, that may not be until she’s ten, eleven, twelve, but that is often what happens.
DENISE: But the parent may say, well I’m really hoping that it’s friends that tease them out of that stage, but maybe they won’t.
ANN: Yeah, maybe they won’t, and you don’t really want your kids to be shamed into something, you hope that you can deal with it sooner. And one of the ways of dealing with it is, again, to do some detective work and see when they tend to do it. When kids are tired, when kids are watching television, or when they’re, you know, bored, or whenever they tend to, that’s when the thumb goes in the mouth, or you know, when they’re feeling anxious. So, then you can help a child who’s old enough to have the habit be broken. So let’s say the kid’s six, seven, eight years old, you can say I’ve noticed that when you’re watching TV you often pull your hair or you bite your nails, so I want you to really be aware of that. And you can give kids fidget-busters, or nail-biting busters by giving them something to play with so that when they’re bored or distracted and that’s when they tend to put their thumb in their mouth, give them silly putty or you know, give them something tactile that they can hold in their hands so that they’re not putting their hands in their mouth.
DENISE: And, bottom line: don’t beat up on your kid for that.
ANN: Yeah, and certainly these things with painting their thumbs with something that tastes disgusting is really not a good idea. I mean there used to be these kind of Draconian measures parents would take to quit, you know, to rid their kid of bad habits. Those are not a good idea.
DENISE: Thank you so much. Good information.
Howdini is life’s little instruction manual, in HD. We’re all about bringing together the top, most respected experts in their fields to help us be the best we can be at all of the little and not-so-little challenges of our complicated lives. Howdini is the place to be for the know-how you want, when you need it. Or maybe it’s the know-how you need, when you want it. Whatever. We’re here to help. So come in and look around, won’t you?
We think you’ll love finding everything you want to learn about in one convenient place, and as we grow and add more categories and more Howdinis, you’ll be doing less surfing and more learning right here. And unlike television, Howdinis aren’t limited by time—we don’t have to break for commercials, and we’re always on.
Who is Howdini?
People often ask us, is there an actual person who is Howdini? And the answer is, it’s kind of like Lassie. Just as there were many Lassies, there are many individuals who are called Howdini. In fact, each of our experts is a Howdini, and, like all those Lassies, they really know their tricks. (Although so far there is no ‘How to tell your master that Timmy is trapped in the old abandoned mine’ segment)
Our gurus are people you know and trust because you’ve been getting advice from them for years, at places like Good Morning America, The Today Show, Money, Prevention, and Food and Wine (to name just a few). Many are best-selling authors. Others, like our medical experts, are respected leaders in their fields.
The first Howdini was Joanna Breen, who left a comfortable career at ABC’s 20/20 to create a how to video website after one too many frustrating experiences with handymen who weren’t that handy. Joanna had traveled the world reporting with Barbara Walters and others on injustice, outrage, and tragedy, but now it was time to turn her talents to dealing with crises closer to home, like what do you do if you drop your diamond ring down the drain. Joanna is the quintessential can-do girl, so she didn’t find the prospect of launching a gigantic website the least bit daunting. (Ok, that last part isn’t entirely true.)
Joanna convinced an old ABC News buddy, Shelley Lewis, to join her. Shelley had supervised roughly 9.7 million helpful how to segments during a long career executive producing television shows like Good Morning America and CNN’s American Morning. A self-described “info-pig” who loves all kinds of information programming, she is never happier than when she’s learning an amazing new tip that she can annoy share with everyone she knows. Needless to say, Howdini was a dream gig for her. A career woman, a wife, a mother, and author of two books, Shelley considers herself equally challenged by all the facets of her life.
Joanna and Shelley were introduced to marketing executive Alison Provost by a mutual friend who knew that Alison had what they needed - entrepreneurial experience, patience, and a checkbook that still had checks in it. Joanna and Shelley could see right away that Alison should join Howdini. They figured that they would take care of the programming, and Alison would bring trustworthy sponsors to help pay the bills. It took Alison significantly longer to be convinced, maybe because she was crazy busy running a marketing firm called PowerPact, which she continues to oversee while serving as the biggest of big cheeses at Howdini. But whether it’s playing Suduko or launching a new business in a field she knows little about, Alison loves the challenge of a good puzzle, It wasn’t long before she began dropping obscure internet terms like “user-interface” and “googlebot” into casual conversation.
What’s Next for Howdini?
Our goals are modest. Complete and total domination of the internet, crushing Google, Microsoft, and any other punks who get in our way. (Hey, it’s a just a goal.) But until then, we will content ourselves making the best, most professional, most credible how to videos you can find anywhere. We want to help you solve your career issues, your parenting problems, your money troubles. We want you to be more glamorous, healthier, and less stressed out. We want you to check Howdini every day for fun, interesting, useful advice from experts you know and trust.
We want to make Howdini the community you love to be part of every day, To do that, we need to hear from you. Please share your suggestions, rate and comment on the Howdini videos, and the blog, (The Howdini blog). Tell us what you’d like us to create for you.
And then, when we’ve achieved that, it’s back to working on complete and total domination of the internet.