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Old 07.10.2011, 12:55
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What's the big deal about bad habits?

I just threw away a bottle of Bite-ex nail polish and it got me to thinking about the stress we put ourselves through about our, or our kids' "bad" habits.

The Bite-ex was supposed to be the solution to my 9-year-old's nailbiting.
When she was very little she would always put her fingers in her mouth if she was feeling anxious. This continued through school and changed into nail biting.

We have been constantly approached by her teachers or friends mothers over the years about this so-called problem. Her doctor told us we should just remove her hand from her mouth when we noticed her doing it. We tried this, and then moved on to the gross tasting nail polish. All our efforts made her even more anxious until I finally asked myself what the heck we were doing! She's not hurting herself or anyone else with her habit, so what's the big deal? Why do people have to draw attention to or make others feel bad or guilty about the small stuff?

If this is her way of dealing with anxiety then we should all be happy. If we try to get her to stop it, won't she find another way to deal with it, maybe something more harmful?
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Old 07.10.2011, 13:05
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

I do understand. My 8 year old sucks his thumb mostly when he has no idea at all that he is doing it. We cannot trace it to anything particular - except moments when his right hand is not required .. be that on a roller coaster (yesterday in Europapark) or when reading a book or doing maths in school or whatever.

But we are persisting in gently trying to stop him with this habit. Why? Because OTHER people are so bothered by it. I am so heartily fed up of fielding comments about him being anxious, insecure, worried, etc etc from (albiet wellmeaning) teachers. And worse, they try to make decisions about him (related recently to not requiring extra work of him at school for example) based on their perception of him being insecure and nervous (as a result of the thumb sucking). We think we know our son best, and we are utterly at a loss to say why he does it, except that it has become over the last 8 years, a rather enjoyable habit for him.

But it angers me that people constantly draw such negative inferences from the action, so we will continue (yes with yukky nail bite stuff) to gently work on the habit.

Interestingly, a couple of years ago my son had to have very comprehensive studies done on him relating to the question of whether he should move up a year. Two different psychiatrist/educational psychologists spent many sessions with him assessing him. Never once did they question his anxiety levels, sense of self worth .. and nor did they mention his thumb sucking.

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Old 07.10.2011, 13:21
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

A very personal humble point of view:

On a personal level I find it discussing. I was a kid once, and I loved me mud pies with me centipede spagetti. That means very very dirty nails. Eeeek!

On an aesthetic level, the nails of people who bite on them tend to get deformed with time. It's a minor detail, but I've seen my share of young ladies and gentlemen sad because they don't have a pretty natural shape (note: I don't give a crap about this. Just had contact with girls that actually regret having done the bitting as kids).

Seeing it on an adult, specially a guy on a suit like my regular neighbour in the morning train, looks slightly odd. It just... doesn't fit...

And, as other small things that make office etiquette, it can get a bit irritating when the colleague next by is munching the whole time.



It's very small things, but in the end, I find that focusing your anxiety/stress/fear away from your cuticules worth it...
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Old 07.10.2011, 13:28
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

I agree with your assertion that nail-biting is not a horrible habit. I too have a child who bites her nails, yet I talk to her about the habit quite a bit (she would undoubtedly use the term "nag" ) My reason for continuing to hound her about it and not letting it go is that I do not want her to have to address the problem when she is an older teenager or an adult. Right now, I believe that there are a few people who take notice of her habit, however when she becomes an adult the number of people taking note of how her nails look will increase significantly. I am aware that should she continue this habit, some people may make a judgment as to her professionalism, sloppiness, self-control, etc., and that judgment may not be a fair one. I do not want that to happen.

Trying to explain this concept to a younger child would be extremely difficult, though.
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Old 07.10.2011, 13:33
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

I've bitten my nails for as long as I can remember and don't "regret" it. I don't give a stuff about it one way or the other, to be honest. It actually makes playing the piano easier.
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Old 07.10.2011, 13:38
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

Hmmm.....anxiety and coping ways. Aren't there as many of those as there are human beings.

I think ticks are benign. Nail biting, playing with hair (me, ugh), whatever little people do to soften up the nerves, I think to approach it aggressively has zero effect and even intensifies it. You cannot order a child to quit it. I also think foreign kids face more anxiety in classroom. They always know they stick out.

But. As a person who watches classes after classes of people and who is trained psy-wise, who sits at important exams and thinks of young personalities and how in control they are of making their 1st impressions and important ones...I do feel that trying to gently coax people out of these crutches is a good thing, in the long span. I wouldn't want as a teacher, to come to a parent and say, help your kiddo overcome this since parents always know and it puts too much pressure on parents.

What I feel is, this tick is only a coping strategy. There is a lot more behind it. If a child succeeds learning how to process anxiety, embrace it as normal part of life, and moves on, there is a lesser chance of this child to actually rely on other coping mechanisms laters, subconsciously, and those can be heavy duty and not benign, that help people with being anxious.

When humans are free from strategies they cannot chose, then the quality of life is better. Anxiety if often stronger when the little human being instinctively feels weak to oppose it rationally...everyone who is dependent on something instinctively knows it and often hates this dependency.

Just my 2c, I don't feel to be an expert. What ecb says about environment is true, too.

The process of letting go coping strategies and learning how to process rationally can be playful, completely open and very long. Why rush it. But just letting it be, I would fear for part of that young personality learning how to rely on coping ways too much that are unrelated to the cause of the anxiety, and moving on to other "help" later.
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Old 07.10.2011, 13:45
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

Nail biting as a bad habit is merely the propaganda of the nail clipper industry! We've got a perfectly good way to trim our nails! Well, maybe not toes, I'm not that flexible.

I can't stand it if my nails get too long, and if they get to a certain point I can start to feel them, and they feel alien, they have to go. I file them off with an emery board afterwards, otherwise they can look a bit unsightly.
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Old 07.10.2011, 14:30
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

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I do understand. My 8 year old sucks his thumb mostly when he has no idea at all that he is doing it. We cannot trace it to anything particular - except moments when his right hand is not required .. be that on a roller coaster (yesterday in Europapark) or when reading a book or doing maths in school or whatever.

But it angers me that people constantly draw such negative inferences from the action, so we will continue (yes with yukky nail bite stuff) to gently work on the habit.
My daughter also sucked her thumb til she was about 8. We tried the Bite-ex stuff on that too, and were always pulling it out of her mouth, especially after trips to the dentist where we were told her jaw would become deformed and she must stop immediately. So of course we would get so anxious about it, as would she, which definately didn't help the matter. Finally we decided just to stop worrying about it. She ended up all of the sudden stopping on her own. One day I realised she wasn't doing it anymore and asked her why. She said that after having a bout of worms (yes, gross, as the whole family had to be treated), she just didn't feel like it anymore.
She had developped slight thumb-sucking teeth, but within about 8 months they returned to normal and are now very straight (no need for braces!).
Now if we could just get other people to stop concerning themselves with our kids harmless "problems" !
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Old 07.10.2011, 14:47
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

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I just threw away a bottle of Bite-ex nail polish and it got me to thinking about the stress we put ourselves through about our, or our kids' "bad" habits.

The Bite-ex was supposed to be the solution to my 9-year-old's nailbiting.
When she was very little she would always put her fingers in her mouth if she was feeling anxious. This continued through school and changed into nail biting.
My parents used it for a while on me too when I was a nailbiting child. I can remember that it tasted very bitter but after a while the stuff disappeared from your nails
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Old 07.10.2011, 14:56
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

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Nail biting as a bad habit is merely the propaganda of the nail clipper industry! We've got a perfectly good way to trim our nails! Well, maybe not toes, I'm not that flexible.
A friend of mine used to keep both her small babys' nails short by nibbling at them. She said it was easier than getting a pair of nail scissors to a minute little finger nail.
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Old 07.10.2011, 15:08
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

Interesting subject.

My younger sister sucked her thumb. The Nuns at school painted it with Bitter Aloe but she sucked it off. The thumb was always in her mouth, especially when she slept, so everyone just learned to accept it. When she grew up she`d still stick it in her mouth unconciously. It was just "her".

I think she gave it up when she began working, got married, had kids.

Well, she doesn`t suck her thumb anymore.

Biting of nails. My grand-daughter was doing that, and then I began to file her nails to get rid of the ragged edges, and that cured her. Ragged edges encourage further biting (to even off the nail which never gets evened off with biting!) It becomes like a jagged tooth, you have to keep worrying it.
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Old 08.10.2011, 11:54
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

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My daughter also sucked her thumb til she was about 8. We tried the Bite-ex stuff on that too, and were always pulling it out of her mouth, especially after trips to the dentist where we were told her jaw would become deformed and she must stop immediately. So of course we would get so anxious about it, as would she, which definately didn't help the matter. Finally we decided just to stop worrying about it. She ended up all of the sudden stopping on her own. One day I realised she wasn't doing it anymore and asked her why. She said that after having a bout of worms (yes, gross, as the whole family had to be treated), she just didn't feel like it anymore.
She had developped slight thumb-sucking teeth, but within about 8 months they returned to normal and are now very straight (no need for braces!).
Now if we could just get other people to stop concerning themselves with our kids harmless "problems" !
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Interesting subject.

My younger sister sucked her thumb. The Nuns at school painted it with Bitter Aloe but she sucked it off. The thumb was always in her mouth, especially when she slept, so everyone just learned to accept it. When she grew up she`d still stick it in her mouth unconciously. It was just "her".

I think she gave it up when she began working, got married, had kids.

Well, she doesn`t suck her thumb anymore.
My older sister used to suck her fingers. The military dentists kept on at her and my parents about how bad it is for her teeth, that it was giving her an overbite.

The solution was to give her a retainer which would help keep her teeth in line which also had two loops hanging down behind her teeth that would "bite" into her fingers if she sucked on them. Seems quite barbaric thinking back but it did the trick.

I'm not sure it would work the same on a thumb though (or that such devices would be permitted these days) as it did to have those loopy prongs against the backs of my sister's fingers.

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Biting of nails. My grand-daughter was doing that, and then I began to file her nails to get rid of the ragged edges, and that cured her. Ragged edges encourage further biting (to even off the nail which never gets evened off with biting!) It becomes like a jagged tooth, you have to keep worrying it.
Yep, the only time I usually bite my nails is if something happens that they become ragged (broken nail or something) and they catch on something. When that happens though, I can't stop myself from trying to get them to a sort of smoothness - and I never remember to have emery boards with me.
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Old 08.10.2011, 12:31
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

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Yep, the only time I usually bite my nails is if something happens that they become ragged (broken nail or something) and they catch on something. When that happens though, I can't stop myself from trying to get them to a sort of smoothness - and I never remember to have emery boards with me.
I wouldn't sweat it, it's not like we go and have a manicure when we get the odd hang nail here and there ..Emeryboards are cool to have with you, though, just throw one in your purse, they do tiny miniscule ones that come in a plastic cover, and cost 2-3fr.
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Old 08.10.2011, 13:57
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

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I've bitten my nails for as long as I can remember and don't "regret" it. I don't give a stuff about it one way or the other, to be honest. It actually makes playing the piano easier.
Not only the piano. Short nails make for easier typing and use of most tools.

A thousand years ago, as a teenager, I went out with a boy who made the comment that he really admired long fingernails on girls. Making a note of that, I didn't bite my nails for five whole weeks ........ but then decided no male was worth that much to me.
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Old 08.10.2011, 14:00
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

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A friend of mine used to keep both her small babys' nails short by nibbling at them. She said it was easier than getting a pair of nail scissors to a minute little finger nail.
I think this is quite common and having recently seen a parent with nail clippers miss and make a little snip on the wee childs finger tip, I am fully in favour of the nibbling technique.
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Old 09.10.2011, 10:18
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

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Not only the piano. Short nails make for easier typing and use of most tools.
Ok, hahaha.... I can think of so many fun ways to use long nails, though. Bass is easier with longer nails, too, since I sometimes like no pick, when one gets the hang of the angle of left hand frets. Not a huge fan of loud nail polish, but longer nails are fun, too. Esthetics, I guess, as well. Oh, the vanity of chicks.
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Old 09.10.2011, 10:28
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

I bit my nails terrible as a kid, they were so bad they used to go to septic and my nails would fall off, they really were terrible.

My parents tried everything also to make me stop and nothing worked and i ignored everything. What actually did help me to stop was having some false nails put on, proper gel ones, they were so nice I didn't bite them just the skin around them (eurgh) anyway when they finally came off my nails had grown under them and I was so thrilled I refused to bite them off and that was the end of my nail biting. I now always have long very strong nails, not deformed or anything - you'd never know I was a chronic nail biter

Your 9 year old is a bit young but in a few years when she's a teenager maybe take her to have some Gel nails - i was advised by a friend who had a nail business to do this, she had been doing nails for people with nail biting habits for years as she knew that their natural nails would grow underneath

Downside is if she picks the gel nails off as they damage the top layer of the nail more
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Old 09.10.2011, 11:29
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

There are habits and then there are addictions. Humans are very prone to addictive psychological patterns, we are, in all respects creatures of habit as the well known cliché tells.

Obsessive behavior need not necessarily be destructive (sports, healthy eating), but the ability to convince ourselves that we are in control is often a fallacy. I find that the amount of smokers in Switzerland to be alarmingly high, it's almost a given that everyone has to tolerate that addiction as being normal.

Self control and discipline at a moderate level is crucial in my opinion. Eating and drinking disorders are too easy to fall into, obesity and addiction are natural consequences.

Kids that chew their nails are comforting themselves, no reason for alarm.
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Old 09.10.2011, 14:05
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Re: What's the big deal about bad habits?

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There are habits and then there are addictions. Humans are very prone to addictive psychological patterns, we are, in all respects creatures of habit as the well known cliché tells.

Obsessive behavior need not necessarily be destructive (sports, healthy eating), but the ability to convince ourselves that we are in control is often a phalicy.
Only males then?
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