A parent’s love for a child is unconditional, but kids (like some adults) are known to have some of the most irritating and hair-raising habits that can drive parents to distraction. Apart from being downright annoying, some of the common habits can be rather perturbing and parents may ask themselves -Is this normal? . The good news is that most of the common childhood habits are very normal and a lot more common that you’d think.
1. Ever heard of bruxism? This is a term for teeth grinding or clenching and if you thought the sound of nails down a school blackboard was bad – bruxism, undoubtedly is one of the most toe-curling of all childhood habits. Teeth grinding is a habit that is practised by as many as half of all infants during normal development. It typically starts at the age of about six months, just as the baby becomes aware of their teeth, it then vanishes and may start again at the age of five when the child’s permanent teeth start to come in. Teeth grinding is quite often heard when the child sleeps and most kids eventually outgrow this peculiar habit, however in some cases bruxism can continue into adulthood. Parents should be concerned if the habit of grinding or clenching teeth is causing dental problems but this is not common in kids. If the habit continues, it may indicate a disorder of the jaw joint and this will need to be assessed and evaluated by a dentist. In general, children do outgrow bruxism and the sound of teeth grinding against teeth is not heard again – thankfully!
2. –Digging for diamonds is a euphemism for nose picking which is probably the most awkward of all behaviours, as it is one of the least socially acceptable. In saying this, nose picking is the most common habit among children and even adults. The child may be picking their nose because of an allergy or they may just be curious to see what they can find. If this habit is too much to bear, try to keep your child’s nose moist by using a saline spray. It is also important to try to get kids to wash their hands regularly, especially when you see their fingers in the nose or after blowing their nose.
3. Tics refer to sudden twitches or movements that are frequently repeated. The movements may involve any body part such as the eyes, mouth, toes, etc. A facial tic like the constant blinking of the eyes is very common. Tics describe quick repetitive, non-rhythmic motor movements or vocalizations and some tics cannot be seen like continual abdominal tensing or toe crunching. Temporary tics tend to start in childhood or in the early teen years and the strange behaviour may last for a month or for a year. No matter how hard a child tries, they are unable to stop the repetitive movements.
The other common tics include, throat clearing, nose twitching, knuckle crunching or tongue clicking. In very rare cases, the vocal tics or the tics that are more complex may suggest a serious disorder that is known as Tourette syndrome however this is very rare. If the tic continues for longer than a year it may be advisable to consult a doctor.
4. Breath holding has got to be one of the most traumatic and frightening of all habits. Breath holding is when a child holds their breath and since they are not receiving oxygen the child loses consciousness. An episode of breath holding can last for a few seconds or for a minute and the first breath holding episode can start from 18 or 24 months and the holding of breath may only end at the age of five. Breath holding is divided into two different categories, one being cyanotic (where the child turns blue) and pallid (where the child turns a deathly pale). Typically, kids hold their breath as a means to gain control and it’s often seen when a child does not get their own way.
At first unsuspecting parents may confuse the bizarre act of breath holding as being a seizure (the child’s first breath-holding spell should be evaluated by a doctor as it could be an indication that the child is suffering from anaemia). If anaemia is ruled out, when this frightening habit occurs, it’s important for parents to try to calm the child down and protect the child from any possible injuries. Children who have lost consciousness because of breath holding show no sign that they are at in increased risk for seizure disorders. The most serious complication that can arise from this terrifying habit is that the child can suffer from a head injury due to a fall during an episode.
5. Masturbation; another common childhood habit, and most kids of both genders play with their genitals. Many parents are understandably shocked to find their young child engaged in such activities but sexual development is a normal part of growth and development. Masturbation or play is a common childhood habit and children (both boys and girls) start to masturbate by the age of 5 or 6 years. Since toddlers do not have developed social skills, some kids may masturbate in public as they are unable to see it as being a -private’ behaviour”.
For a toddler, playing with their private parts is no different from playing with their fingers or picking their noses! Parents must not make a big deal out of the act as kids thrive on both negative and positive attention. A parent should also not punish or humiliate the child as this may have long-lasting effects on the kid’s self-esteem. Parents need to find positive methods to help the child to understand that playing in public areas is not acceptable!
Genital play in both sexes can also include the rubbing with hands or rubbing genitals against objects like pillows, stuffed animals, etc. The habit may increase when a child is bored or has difficulty falling asleep, it may become more common when a child is stressed or traumatised – such as starting school, the loss of a pet, etc. Children don’t associate this activity with sexuality until later in childhood, usually by the onset of puberty. In most cases genital play is just a form of self-comfort.