Parenting Tips for Child Bad Behavior

By | November 2, 2013

Children can pick up bad habits from peers or from other family members, or develop them on their own. Regardless of how the child has learned the bad habit, it can be annoying to parents, school teachers and caregivers, and distract other children. Remember that child bad behavior is often self-calming or soothing, or resorted to when they feel insecure, scared, worried or sleepy.

Common Child Bad Habits

  • Nose picking: Parents find this child bad habit one of the most annoying mostly because of the risk of transmitting germs, and also because it is socially frowned upon. It could begin because of encrusting inside the nose due to a cold, and then become a habit. When children pick their nose and put their fingers in their mouth or eyes, or touch other children, infections can be passed on. Dirty or sharp fingernails can irritate the sensitive lining of the nose and create bleeding or oozing cuts inside the nose.
  • Sucking thumbs and fingers: Children indulge in sucking their thumbs and fingers when they need comfort. While most outgrow this form of child bad behavior, it can last for some others till past five years of age. This habit should be discouraged because it can cause teeth to grow unevenly or create speech defects. The child bad habit can extend from thumbs or fingers to objects like pacifiers, blankets, or favorite toys.
  • Teeth grinding: Bruxism, or grinding teeth is a common child bad habit. Usually infants grind or clench their teeth when milk or permanent teeth are pushing through the gums or in their sleep. Children who grind their teeth at other times are likely to let this develop into a bad habit. This form of child bad behavior can cause defects in the teeth or in the jaw joints and should be stopped.
  • Nail biting: Biting nails could be caused by many factors, but the concern is that dirt and bacteria lodged under nails is transferred directly into the mouth through this child bad behavior. It could also lead to infected or bleeding cuticles that are very painful. Some of the same methods used to stop the bad habit of thumb sucking can be used to stop nail biting – using bitter liquid on fingernails, distracting the child when he or she is biting nails, and providing an activity to keep hands busy.
  • Holding breath: Children hold their breath because sometimes they feel it is the only thing they can control. It could carry on for enough time that they lose consciousness. This child bad behavior can be the most frightening for parents. It is best to consult a doctor when this happens, to rule out medical complications that have caused this.
  • Touching genitals or masturbation: Children explore all parts of their bodies and are fascinated by their own discoveries. It is a natural urge to explore their own genitalia as much as exploring their own hands and face. When children explore their genitals it gives them pleasure, causing them to repeat the child bad habit again. They do not realize the sexual connotations of this behavior but can cause a great deal of embarrassment to the parents.

Children enjoy any kind of attention and if a bad habit brings them parental attention even in the form of reprimand, they will repeat this child bad habit. It takes patience, understanding and creativity to help a child give up a bad habit.


  1. Bad Habits/ Annoying Behavior – University of Michigan Health System
  2. Hair Pulling, Head Banging and Other Bad Habits – Keep Kids Healthy

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