Stop Picking Your Nose!

Elizabeth Pantley

Question: This is embarrassing to talk about, but it's an annoying habit. My child picks her nose. I don't even want to tell you what she does with the stuff she finds in there. I can't stand to watch her do this, and I've been tempted to tell her to put it back in her nose where it belongs!

Think about it: Nose picking is often done to relieve anxiety and bring comfort. Because the nose is always at hand (excuse me, I couldn't resist!), it's an addictive habit.

Solution #1: Nagging or reprimanding your child won't stop the habit and will just embarrass her. Have a talk with your child and bring her attention to the habit (she may not be aware of how often she does it). Explain the reasons you'd like her to stop. Have her watch herself pick her nose in a mirror so that she can see how offensive it looks. Agree to a subtle, gentle reminder that you'll use to ask her to stop, such as a tap on her arm, handing her a tissue, or the use of a code word.

Solution #2: Notice the times your child demonstrates the habit most, such as when she's sitting in the car, reading, or watching TV. During those times, give her an alternative object to keep her hands busy, such as a string of beads, Silly PuttyTM, or a smooth rock.

Solution #3: Enlist your child's cooperation by talking gently with her about the habit. Once she has agreed to make an effort, your encouragement and consistent, gentle reminders will do more good than nagging or embarrassing her. Use a subconscious "trigger" to help your child. Have her do this: reach for her nose, then say "NO" as she quickly clasps her hands in her lap. Repeat this ten times, then repeat several times during the day. Surprisingly, after practicing, this "trigger" will then initiate itself without your child realizing it (like a habit!)

Solution #4: Set up an incentive for abstaining. Agree to a specified time period and a specific behavior modification. One plan is to give your child ten nickels (or pennies or dimes, depending on your child's age) first thing in the morning. Tell her that any time you see her picking her nose you'll ask for a nickel. At the end of the day, she can keep any of the nickels that are left.

Solution #5: Check with your pediatrician to make sure your child isn't bothered by sinus or other breathing problems that may be causing a nose-picking habit.

(Excerpted with permission by NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group Inc. from Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips by Elizabeth Pantley, copyright 1999)

Elizabeth Pantley is a parent educator and the author of many parenting books.

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