Habit disorders in children

Over the next few weeks I am going to give you some information about common behavioural problems and the possible causes of them.  This week I have chosen  habit disorders in children so that we can explore what is a phase of repetitive behaviour that most children display at some point in their development, and what can be considered as a habit because of its persistence and frequency.

The following are some common signs of possible habit disorders in children:
Holding their breath

  • Pulling their own hair
  • Swallowing air
  • Biting their nails
  • Repeating the same word or phrase over and over again
  • Punching, slapping or biting themselves
  • Rocking their body
  • Banging their heads on objects, walls or floors etc
  • Tics
  • Sucking their thumbs

Habit disorders in children reduce stress
If your child has any of these symptoms that appear to be habitual you should understand that many of these activities are your child’s way of reducing stress. For example: 

Sucking thumbs – this is perfectly normal for a baby but if it continues beyond early infancy the alignment of a child’s teeth may be adversely affected.  Sucking a thumb provides comfort for a child and it should be ignored during early infancy. As your child grows and develops you should encourage and reassure your son or daughter in their other activities so as to reduce the necessity for this type of comfort.

Stuttering is not one of the habit disorders in children
Something that cannot be classified in the habit disorders in children category is stuttering.  5 per cent of children stutter when they are learning to speak.  Around 20 per cent of these children will continue to stutter as adults; more boys than girls are prone to stuttering. The best way to deal with stuttering is to initially ignore it since in most cases it will naturally stop without the necessity of therapy.  However, if the speech impediment persists and you are worried about it, you might want to consider speech therapy.

Remember I am always available to discuss any aspect of your child’s behaviour, habitual or otherwise.

Your Family Coach