Many toddlers develop strange behaviors during their early years. These habits are generally harmless—like thumb sucking—but others such as head banging and tooth grinding can cause adverse effects on their health.
The good news? No matter how annoying these habits tend to look, most children grow out of them naturally.
But during their early years, when they’re bored, sick, or stressed, they use these habits to help them feel better.
Nonetheless, it’s always good to be aware of these conditions so you know what to look for. With patience and positive reinforcement, your child can outgrow these conditions eventually.
Here are 5 conditions that children naturally grow out of.
1) Thumb Sucking
Has your child ever developed a habit of sucking their thumb?
While this might be adorable as an infant, it can become worrisome as your child gets older. Thumb sucking is especially common in children between 6 and 7 months, and then again at ages 2 and 5.
Children often suck their thumb because they’re seeking comfort and familiarity. If you notice that your little one seems miffed or upset, they might be using their thumb as a replacement for sucking on their mother’s breasts or their pacifier.
Fortunately, the average age of children who stop sucking their thumbs is around 5 years old. Children tend to outgrow these tendencies naturally, so there’s no need to worry if your child is still younger than that.
If it doesn’t resolve on its own by then, you can do the following to try to dissuade them from sucking on their thumbs or pacifier:
- Use a finger guard
- Apply a bitter-tasting substance on their thumb, like nail polish
- Refrain from showing distress when they’re caught
- Establish a rule and boundaries to stop them from sucking their thumbs (i.g. set times during the day where it’s “ok” to do it until they get disinterested)
- Offer rewards if they don’t suck their thumb anymore
2) Head Banging
Headbanging can look distressing for parents. But while it looks harmful, this behavior is usually more of a coping mechanism than a sign of any underlying condition.
Headbanging is a form of self-comfort for young children, as well as a method to relieve stress and frustration. Occasional headbanging may be a sign that your child is undergoing emotional distress or injury.
Headbanging is most common among toddlers and babies between 18 and 24 months. Some children begin to engage in headbanging before they start speaking, so it’s also a way for them to communicate their distress. Most children tend to outgrow this habit by 3 years old.
If your child’s head banging is so intense that they might hurt themselves, take them to the hospital immediately. Otherwise, you can do the following:
- Refrain from scolding them or making a fuss out of the action
- Address the root of the problem and know what’s causing your child to be upset
- Offer an alternative means of comfort, like a blanket or some sweets
- Place them in a safe environment to minimize risk
- Make sure your child has ample food and rest
3) Tooth Grinding
Very much like headbanging, tooth grinding is usually a coping mechanism due to stress and anxiety.
Teeth grinding also happens among babies and toddlers who are teething because it’s a way for them to relieve pain. Children grind their teeth at 6 months old, and it can affect kids well into their adolescent years.
Child teeth grinding can be a source of concern if dental problems arise with it. In fact, children who have poor oral care, misaligned upper or lower jaws, and sleep apnea are more likely to engage in this sort of conduct. Encourage good dental hygiene in your children to prevent them from developing this behavior.
Why it’s bad: Medically referred to as bruxism, excessive teeth grinding causes the enamel of your child’s teeth to wear down, which can lead to other issues like gum recession if left untreated.
Usually, dentists recommend a mouthguard to alleviate the problem. Regular exercise and good sleeping habits and routines are also advised home treatments for tooth grinding. But in most cases, it can resolve on its own without causing permanent damage.
4) Nose Picking
It’s common for many preschool-aged children to explore their nostrils from time to time with an index finger or thumb. It’s often a source of curiosity and discovery.
It may be a certified boredom-buster, but it’s still not the greatest habit to start. This type of behavior not only spreads germs, but it also causes trauma to nasal passages if done aggressively. This can lead to nosebleeds, sores in the nose, and infections that might spread to the ears or sinuses.
If your child is old enough, you can teach them not to pick their noses and suggest they use tissues instead. You can also try the following techniques to discourage them from this habit:
- Have an open discussion of their hygiene habits
- Put an adhesive bandage on your child’s finger
- Engage them with other activities to keep their hands busy
- If they can’t stop it at all, just ignore it and hope it runs its course
5) Bed Wetting
On some occasions, your child may wake up to a bedsheet damper than normal. Upon further inspection, it’s not sweat that’s causing the wet sheets. It’s urine.
Bedwetting, or enuresis, is a common condition among children who are still in the process of mastering bladder control.
Typically, this happens before 5 years old, but it can also occur in older kids. The reason for this phenomenon can be traced to genetics, ADHD, autism, or simply stress and anxiety.
Here are other practices to stop your child from wetting the bed:
- Limit late-night fluid intake
- Give your child bathroom breaks before bedtime
- Encourage them to empty their bladder before sleeping
- Address constipation issues
- Cut back on gadget usage
If your child is over 7 years old and still frequently wets his or her bed, consider talking to a doctor about their condition.