Helping Children Break Habits Using Gentle and Respectful Approach

We are all creatures of habits. In some way, habits form our personality. Children often can pick up undesirable habits that are quite harmless which, with time, disappear without our intervention. However, certain habits can cause psychological and physical harm.

For example, when a child is being teased as a result of twitches or unintentionally hurts themselves by continuously holding their breath. Habits are created by repeated patterns that are connected in the child’s brain to circumstances that trigger them. You literally have to “break” those connections to get rid of actions a child does when certain events occur.

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For many children, habits are their safety and comfort zone. Nagging them to stop and shaming them is not going to solve the issue, but potentially bring more harm than good. At the end of the day, we all have done that at some stage in childhood – nose picking, snow eating, hair or clothes chewing.

When I was a child I ate snow all the time in winter until I got really sick. That broke my habit for good. But as parents, we do not want to watch our children suffer from unnecessary hard lessons in life.

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I found myself in a position where I had to take action when my daughter started to chew her hair. She normally did it when she found herself in an unfamiliar situation or when she was deeply in thought. This is probably something she saw me do once.

Cheeky monkeys see – cheeky monkeys do. Aside from having little icicles hanging off her hair all the time, I did not see any harm and did not worry too much about it. We went through the nailbiting stage and it simply went away after a while.

However, this time I realized it can lead to dangerous consequences if left without attention. Hair chewing can cause health issues when chewed-up hair gets accumulates in the stomach.
It was time to deal with hair-chewing habits but use a gentle and respectful approach. We took simple steps that resolved this issue without causing emotional damage.

  1. I acknowledged the problem and talked about it as a matter of fact without criticism:
    “Oh, I have noticed you like to chew your hair sometimes. Does it help you think and concentrate?”
  2. I shared my honest concern and helped her to be aware of dangerous consequences by telling her a story of a girl, who loved chewing her hair until she got severe pains in her stomach and could not eat or walk because her tummy was filled with her own hair.
  3. I was not necessarily going to stop her from chewing. The next step was finding a good substitute for her to chew on. Some say that chewing helps people concentrate and benefits their brains. I chose to say “no” to bubble gum due to its horrible compounds. I had to find something safe and small for her to put in her mouth, and also something handy to carry around.
  4. I decided to seek advice from professionals in this field and was determined to offer my daughter a safe, practical but fun alternative. This is what I was so excited to find – jewelry designed especially for chewing – I decided to go with Chewigem. The greatest gift they offered me – was peace of mind.
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This jewelry is safe, looks gorgeous, by the way, and is perfect for fulfilling the need to chew. My daughter loved her Miller Heart which had a firmer feel with a gloss finish for moderate chewing and was a good fidget, as the hole was easy to grasp and squash.

She also got the Cat, which had a soft matte finish, was flexible with bumps on the reverse, making it great as a fidget aid, and was great for mild chewing and sucking.

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One very handy fact about Chewigem is that they have locations in several countries around the world, which makes delivery very fast and affordable. You can check out their website to find the store closest to you.

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Since we follow Montessori inspiration in our household when it comes to raising children, I empowered my daughter by encouraging her to take authority over her body and decide for herself when she thinks she needs to wear kitty and love heart necklaces.

For a while, they became her best friends. Every time we walk out of the door I ask if she would like to take kitty with her. Sometimes she said yes, sometimes she felt comfortable without it. But it was HER choice and decision. We organized a certain place on the shelf to store her special jewelry. Now she always knows where to find it if she feels a need for it.

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We turned it into our little “secret” – something special between mummy and daughter. Every time I see her reach out to grab a patch of hair, I look smile, and whisper “kitty?”. She either reaches for her comforter or smiles and lets go of the hair. Simple, but effective. No embarrassing her in front of others, no nagging, no shaming.

I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is facing similar issues with their children. It feels incredibly satisfying to guide my child rather than direct her towards “right” actions.

(This is not a sponsored post. No monetary compensation was offered or received. All opinions are my and my child’s own. Chewigem kindly provided chewing necklaces for review purposes.)

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About Anastasia

About Anastasia - Anastasia is an early childhood teacher and the founder of Montessori Nature - a blog about Montessori living and learning and nature-based explorations. With many years of experience working in a Montessori environment and homeschooling her children, she directed her passion for all things Montessori and nature into creating educational resources. You can learn more here and browse her printables on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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