How do I combat nose-picking?
HELP! My four-year-old is picking his nose and eating it! How can I make him stop? – Boogie Mom
Dear Boogie Mom,
Nose picking happens more than you might expect. In one study of 200 adolescents almost every kid ‘fessed up to nose-picking. Some picked a little, some picked a lot. If self-conscious adolescents are doing it, you can bet that oblivious preschoolers are digging in. But despite its incredible popularity, nose-picking is not at all socially acceptable. Tasting your own excretions is downright taboo. The one who “eats it” will eventually learn just how un-cool it is. To prevent your kid from being shamed into this realization, you can start to talk to him now about booger management.
No matter what your position on the righteousness of nose-picking, every kid needs to learn how to deal with snot. Un-harnessed mucus is not only an eventual danger to your child’s rep, it’s an immediate danger to your wardrobe and furnishings.
Snot control takes work on parents’ part, but progress can be made. Kids – very young kids, toddlers even – can be taught to wipe and blow noses. Pinning a kid down to maul him with a Kleenex is no fun for anyone. So try and let him be in control of the operation as much as possible: Give him his own box of tissues and praise his good big blows. If he’s interested, show him what came out. You can even talk about how he’s clearing his sinuses of germs and helping to prevent chapping and itchy, crusty boogers that may be painful to remove.
There’s also the problem of contagion. While you’re teaching routine snot-wiping, don’t forget routine hand-washing. Show him how to sneeze and cough into his elbow or shoulder. This stuff is probably reinforced at school, so you can just keep up the message. It’s not as big a deal as potty-training, but teaching your kids how to deal with the materials exiting their face requires a similar kind of positive, cheery-yet-matter-of-fact approach.
A final note on eating the nuggets: There is an Austrian doctor who makes the compelling argument that booger-eating is actually good for the immune system. In fact, swallowing snot is probably a lot healthier than swallowing whatever other residual grub is on those four-year-old fingers.
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