In fact, many people have ‘bad’ habits that they wish to overcome, and this is just as true of children as it is of adults. Children’s habits, such as thumb sucking, nail biting, hair twirling or nose picking are typically not harmful but can cause issues when they are highlighted in a social situation. If you’ve tried to break a bad habit as an adult you will know just how difficult it can be. Your enthusiasm and motivation start very high but a few days into eliminating your ‘bad’ habit, you realise that it may not be quite so easy!
Unsurprisingly, children face the same difficulties when they want to break a habit and simply being told to “stop sucking that thumb” is not a good incentive to help them. In therapy, we would look at an integrated approach to get rid of a bad habit and provide your child with effective tools to assist with the process. Key to the process is identification of the triggers and anchors that are associated with the habit. A trigger is an event or situation that immediately precedes the habit and an anchor is an association between two things – for example when I’m bored I pick my nose. Using therapeutic tools we can ‘collapse’ the negative anchor linked to the habit and replace it with a new habit that is healthier or more acceptable.
In my 1-2-1 sessions, when I work with a child on stopping a ‘bad’ habit, it is important to set achievable goals, to identify the triggers, and to get your child prepared and organised. I will find ways to make the process fun, and we will be discussing the importance of positive repetitions, as well as working on collapsing negative anchors and replacing these with positive anchors, and so much more. It is all good fun, and your child can quickly learn how to stop picking their nose. After all, a bad habit is allowed to continue because you keep doing it over and over again, the first step is to break the pattern.