When to worry about a child's tumb sucking or nail biting

Child Psychiatrist, Joshua Sparrow, MD, shares advice for parents on when it is appropriate to begin worrying about your child's bad habits and how to help your child break the bad habit
When To Worry About A Child's Thumb Sucking or Nail Biting
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When to worry about a child's tumb sucking or nail biting

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Parents often worry when a child has a habit like thumb sucking or nail biting. And there are a number of reasons why they worry, one is that in a certain age these no longer socially acceptable and also parents worry that there maybe something bad to happen as a result worry about whether the child will need braces or about those nails getting bitten down to the bone. Usually though, these habits are serving the purpose of self soothing and self coming. And if we try to take them away from the child without giving the child any other way of handling their feeling of stress or boredom or upset, they will just hold on to them harder. So even though we worry and sometimes have reason to worry, it just does not work to go head on and try to make them stop. So, in order to help children with habits like thumb sucking and nail biting, there are 2 important things to do. The first is to look around for sources of stress and pressure on the child and distress and see what's within your power to reduce. And the second is to help the child to learn other ways of self soothing and self coming. And that will depend on your child temperament, active child may find it helpful to move heavy things around the house so let them vacuum the floor, some children may feel better when they can run around the house, quieter children may find it helpful to have a soft blanket to twirl and quiet book to listen to or a song a to sing. But look for other ways soothing that fit with what your child is really like. And you won't be able to take with his habits right away but the more they can rely on these other ways of soothing themselves overtime the less they need to hold on to these habits that are concern to you.


Child Psychiatrist, Joshua Sparrow, MD, shares advice for parents on when it is appropriate to begin worrying about your child's bad habits and how to help your child break the bad habit

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Joshua Sparrow, MD

Child Psychiatrist & Author brazeltontouchpoints.org

A child psychiatrist, Dr. Sparrow’s care in the 1990s for children hospitalized for severe psychiatric disturbances, often associated with physical and sexual abuse, and for developmental delays aggravated by social and economic deprivation, prompted his interest in community-based prevention and health promotion. At the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, his work focuses on cultural adaptations of family support programs, organizational professional development, and aligning systems of care with community strengths and priorities, and has included collaborative consultation with the Harlem Children's Zone and American Indian Early Head Start Programs, among many others. He has lectured extensively nationally and internationally on related topics and has consulted on media programming for children and parents, including PBS’s Frontlines and Discovery Kids. Co-author with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton of 8 books and the weekly New York Times Syndicated column, “Families Today,” Dr. Sparrow has also served as a contributing editor to Scholastic Services’ Parent and Child magazine. In 2006, he revised with Dr. Brazelton Touchpoints: Birth to Three, 2nd Edition and in 2010, co-edited Nurturing Children and Families: Building on the Legacy of T. B. Brazelton, a textbook on the ongoing generativeness of Brazelton’s seminal research in a wide range of fields. Dr. Sparrow has authored numerous other scholarly works, teaches and lectures nationally and internationally, and is frequently called upon for his expertise by national and international media. Prior to attending medical school, Dr. Sparrow worked for several years as a preschool teacher and journalist in New York City.

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