The New Year is approaching and it is often the time when we make new resolutions to correct bad habits and start some new. Our children often will want to join in.
Auditory children listen for comfort. Noises that they can hear and make themselves, like rubbing their hands, tapping different surfaces or speaking in a funny voice. Often at this young age these habits have simply become an unconscious cause and effect. An annoying sound has always got your attention. Do your best to ignore the behavior you want to change and reward the behavior you like. If they call you in a nice voice, you will come, but your ears can’t hear things said in a winy voice.
Visual children’s comfort habits tend to be around how things look. Your child might insist on only wearing pink, or only eating from a red dinner plate. Teach them to become more adaptable and accommodating by drawing attention to smaller details and smaller items. They may not be wearing a pink sweater but they are wearing a pink hair ribbon.
Tactile children tend to have comfort habits focused around touch and can be very firm about what they will and won’t do, so it’s best to approach them in a compromising way, under the guise of growing up. Rather than simply taking away their blanky, perhaps they would settle for a “big boy or girl” blanket, one that can easily fit in their pocket but has the texture of their original. Keep on hand the old items for use at home if need be. Remember to praise a good habit, but try to be patient with the old habit.
Taste and smell children will be attached to one special item. This child will have a monogamous relationship with her blanky, stuffed toy or binky. Breaking an emotional habit with these children is about catering to your child’s empathetic self. The quickest, easiest solution is to give the object a friend. The stuffed toy stays at home, with another stuffed toy, so they can play together and not get lonely. Reward the transition with something small and special, perhaps a bracelet, a key ring or a watch.
Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioral researcher. www.dunstanbabynewyork.com.