Let’s be honest: Kids do all kinds of gross things sometimes, from nose-picking to nail-biting. There may be something primal about each of these activities, but they’re generally un-hygienic and not socially welcome. That’s why the sooner you can break your kids of these bad habits, the better for them and for everyone around them. Some common bad habits include:
Nose-picking: If your child is a nose-picker, he or she is not alone. It’s one of the most common bad habits that kids pick up. Nose-picking is unhealthy because little fingers can introduce all kinds of bad germs into a child’s nasal membranes. For both little kids and big kids, it’s good to keep their hands busy with toys or books or activities so that they’re not tempted to go “digging.” You can help your little ones by keeping their nasal passages moist with a saline solution, with your doctor’s OK. Also, as soon as you see your kid reaching into his or her nose, immediately hand them a tissue. (If you teach them that nothing should go up their nose, this may also prevent future episodes of getting a tiny toy stuck up there.) If you haven’t cured them of nose-picking by the time they go to school, it will probably cure itself: Kids make fun of other kids who pick their noses, and the peer pressure will generally put an end to it sooner or later.
Nail-biting: Nail-biting is another habit that comes from having idle hands. Give your little nail-biter something to do to keep him or her occupied, whether it’s crayons for drawing, a little hand-held game, or a squishy lump of Silly Putty. If you’re OK with polishing your little girl’s nails, you can make a big deal of giving her a manicure. For both boys and girls, try to keep their nails clipped down so that they’re not tempted to chew on them in their down time.
Drinking bath water: Grownups wouldn’t think of drinking soapy, dirty bathwater, but some kids see it as an all-you-can-drink opportunity. While it’s not poisonous, bathwater could give your little ones a bad tummy ache. Divert their attention in the bathtub with bath books, bath crayons, or any other toy that can’t be filled with water. If they’re thirsty, hand them a cold drink of water in an open plastic (“big-kid”) cup. You won’t mind if they spill it, and they can pour the leftovers right into the tub when they’re finished.
Playing with their genitals: As soon as babies realize that it’s pleasurable to touch themselves, it’s only the diaper that holds them back. Toddlers and even young school-aged children may continue this behavior as well. Whenever you can, try not to stigmatize their actions and make them think that it is bad or dirty to touch themselves. However, you must insist that it is a private activity that they do in their bedrooms and away from other people. Special note: If it appears that they are touching themselves out of discomfort, have them checked for a bladder or urinary tract infection.
Coughing/sneezing without covering their mouths: This could be the dirtiest habit of them all, because the tiny droplets that they spray can spread germs that make everyone sick. Stay on top of this habit by insisting that they sneeze or cough into a tissue or the crook of their elbow, and praise them generously when they remember to do it.
Above all, don’t forget that you’re the best role model for all of these behaviors. So don’t forget to keep your own bad habits in check while you’re trying to cure your kids of theirs. If you can get everyone to follow the rules for good hygiene and good manners, you’ll have a healthier, happier household.