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Mom to Mom: Breaking Bad Habits

Mary Parra, Mom to Mom Mary Parra, mother of four    

Some people are born athletes; some are born winners. I was born to fidget. I don’t know why some people develop bad habits, but I sure did.

In middle school, I started popping my knuckles. I doodled my way through junior high and twisted my hair through high school. Now, even as an adult, I have a horrible habit of picking my cuticles (and yes, unfortunately, I still pop my knuckles). My hands just cannot stay still (keep in mind I am half Italian). Whether I’m at a stop light, talking on the phone, or waiting in a doctor’s office, the first thing my hands start to do is pick those darn dry cuticles! Even while writing this column, my hands take a break from the keyboard and start attacking each other. I’m sure you’re thinking I should just buy cuticle cream. I have. Burt’s Bees, Mary Kay, Sally Hansen and LaSource by Crabtree and Evelyn are all in my nightstand. Do you think I bother to put them on at night? I know the creams would help, but it’s almost like I’m in denial. If my cuticles get fixed, what else could I do? Yet sometimes I wonder how much time I have wasted picking at my cuticles. 

So – has your child (or children) developed any bad habits? One of our kids is following my fidgeting footsteps. He picks at his nails or his scabs, and sometimes he sucks on the collar of his t-shirt. I don’t get on him much for these because I think they are minor habits and they won’t be lifelong habits. 

But what about the kids who suck their thumbs late in life, still use a pacifier or bite their nails? What do you do? I can’t answer that question, but I have heard many stories! One of my good friends had her son give his pacifier to the “binky fairy.” He said goodbye to it and tucked it under his pillow, and the fairy came during the night to take it away. I’ve heard of moms going as far as putting hot sauce on their daughter’s nails to get them to stop biting. I read stories about some people who have turned to hypnotism to put an end to a habit. The thought has crossed my mind.

I think we as parents just hope kids will outgrow their bad habits. Sometimes they do; sometimes they don’t. My sister has bitten her nails since she was a child. She still does it. She and I know it’s not healthy and her hands aren’t very pretty, but like me, she just can’t stop. Yet my daughter’s best friend in middle school just recently stopped biting her nails. She worked hard all summer to break the habit and she was able to grow out her nails a little. Imagine the great accomplishment she must feel! Now she can start the new school year showing off her fingertips with pretty nail polish and feel good about it!

A bad habit is a negative behavior pattern. Some people might feel comfortable with their habit, but others might want to break the cycle. If you have a bad habit or have a child with one, analyze it and ask yourself if it is really something that is bothersome to your child or those around him/her. If so, then it is time to take action. If not, just let your child outgrow the offense. I’m sure we’ll have much bigger battles to fight along the way! Good luck!  
 Mom to Mom is a column written by Mary Parra, an Ahwatukee mother of four and a local journalist.

Cardon Children's Medical Center
1400 S. Dobson Road
Mesa, AZ 85202
(480) 412-KIDS (5437)
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