Monday, March 3, 2014

Conquering a Bad Habit

Do you know that Berenstain Bears book, The Bad Habit?  We have a copy, my copy from when I was small, and along with the rest of the Berenstain Bears collection, it is read often.  That particular story deals with Sister Bear’s bad habit of biting her nails.


Several months ago, after reading this story a few times (we always read stories somewhere in between a few and a million times), Charles started biting his nails.  To the quick.  To the point that his fingers were bleeding and getting infected.  And then he started biting his toenails.  Sister Bear’s ten penny motivation didn’t work for Charles, nor did anything else.  I thought, for sure, that after we treated his infected fingers he would stop, but no.


In November, shortly after his birthday, he decided that the toy he really wanted (now that he had his Batman Utility Belt) was a Spiderman Web Shooter.  I made him a deal that if he stopped biting his nails, I would buy him whatever toy he wanted.  That was four months ago, and this past weekend, I was finally able to clip his nails like a normal kid. 


We went out and bought a Nerf-style bow and arrow set (much cooler than the web shooter) that has been in his hands ever since.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he slept with it last night.


It would be unfair, however, to overshadow the larger issue by focusing merely on the bribery; bribery has always worked for Charles.  But isn’t it impressive that a five-year-old was able to break a nervous habit like nail-biting?  He’s too young to have peer pressure and I thought he was too young to wield his strong will in such a positive direction.  I know adults who bite their nails or who have other nervous tics.  Charles, at age five, conquered his bad habit, all on his own.  We didn’t punish him or paint his nails with nasty-tasting stuff or ridicule him or even talk to him about it every day.  We merely promised a reward when he accomplished the goal.


I’m so proud of him.


Jamie, on the other hand, appears to be totally unmotivated by bribery.  I hope I figure him out soon so that I have some hope of winning the thumb-sucking battle.

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