Almost all children at one stage or the other suffer from nervous habits. Nervous habits reflect inner tension. When a child feels nervous either about her acceptance or her ability to handle a particular situation, her emotions may be expressed in nervous habits. Nagging, public humiliation or punishment will make the child feel even tenser and insecure, and therefore she will be in a greater need of continuing that habit, which the parents are trying so hard to eliminate.
The only way to break a child’s nervous habits is to get to the root of the trouble, which is causing her to suffer due to these habits and try to alleviate the causes as far as possible. The parents can also help her through sympathetic reminders, praise for efforts at self-control and showing an understanding of how difficult the process of breaking the habit is even for a determined youngster. Some of the common nervous habits are:
Thumb sucking is more common in bottle-fed babies than in breastfed babies. The breastfed baby usually gets most of her milk in the first 5 minutes and the rest of the time she satisfies her sucking instinct, although she is getting only little extra milk. On the other hand, a bottle fed baby gets milk more quickly through a battle and is not fully able to satisfy her sucking urge and therefore resorts to thumb sucking.
An older child sucks a thumb because she is not contented with her home life, has nothing to occupy herself and is not well fed. On the other hand, if a child has a happy and interesting life at home, lots of friends and playthings to keep her occupied, then she will find no time to suck her thumb. Sucking a thumb for a little while when falling asleep, or when the child is tired should be allowed. This habit usually disappears before the child enters school.
Nail biting usually comes in the wake of thumb sucking. This habit usually stops when a child enters adolescence, due to the growing pride in appearance.
Nose picking usually stops after a child begins to go to school as a result of comments by teachers and classmates.
Tic is defined as an uncontrollable muscle spasm. Some of the most common types of tics are blinking, squinting, throat clearing, dry coughing, hair twirling, leg swinging and stuttering. Tics are more common intense children with fairly strict parents, who show constant disapproval or set standards that are too high for the child, or providing too many activities as music, dancing, swimming etc. and they want her to excel in each of them.
The child is too afraid to rebel against her parents, and therefore she bottles up her irritation and it keeps backfiring in the form of tics. The child should not be scolded or corrected on account of her tics, because they are not in her control and the less attention paid to them the more likely are they to vanish eventually. Besides, the parents should see that both her home and school life is happy and satisfying, relaxed and agreeable.