8 Bad Habits That Can Hurt Your Child's Health

We tend to dismiss nail biting and hair pulling as habits that children will outgrow. While some habits become a thing of the past, there are a few you need to watch out for and nip in the bud.

By Ashwin Dewan

8 Bad Habits That Can Hurt Your Child's Health

Your child picks up many habits through her childhood. Some of these are harmless and often outgrown in time. What we have here is a list of eight habits that are red flags, those that you should address early to prevent developmental problems.

1) Picky eating

A lot of children are picky eaters and there’s nothing unusual about it. As a parent of a picky eater, you will be familiar with scenarios where your child will refuse the vegetables on the plate. Or refuse a new dish. Or eat only a small quantity. Such behaviour is not only unhealthy for her growth and development but can result in a chronically stressful atmosphere at home.

According to an article published in Parents, picky eating is common in children between the ages of 2-5 years.

What you can do:

Instead of giving in to despair and nagging your child, adopt a positive approach. Teach her about different types of food and why she should eat them. Encourage her to taste new foods even if she doesn’t eat an entire portion. Once her palate grows used to the taste, she will increase her intake. You must constantly offer new dishes to the child for her to want to try something new. It’s a lesson in patience but you will one day be rewarded by a clean plate, and that’s an incredible feeling.

2) Teeth grinding

Teeth grinding, which is also known as bruxism, is commonly seen in toddlers and young children. An obvious consequence of it is dental issues. Teeth grinding usually occurs during the night, in sleep. Constant grinding can wear down the enamel, chip the teeth and cause severe facial pain and jaw problems. 

What you can do:

If your child doesn’t outgrow this by the age of 8, you will need medical intervention. Consult your paediatrician or orthodontist to find out how to deal with the problem. A mouth guard is recommended at times to prevent damage to the teeth.

Click on this video that teaches your child healthy habits like eating healthy food, brushing teeth twice a day.

3) Addiction to smartphones and social media

Smartphones are everywhere today and even one-year-olds can be seen handling them. If your child is obsessed with the phone and refuses to put it down, she may be at risk of problems such as daytime sleepiness, poor performance at school and weight issues. She may also develop behavioural issues where she may not be able to connect with friends and family.

What you can do:

Set rules with regards to smartphone use, such as limiting use every day to 30 minutes and not using the Internet to play games. And encourage real world interactions, physical activity or sports, and other healthy pastimes.

4) Excessively competitive

We live in a competitive age today where success is defined by marks in tests, performance at school and winning. This has led to fierce competition in children. However, the pitfalls are that the child will start viewing everything as a competition. She will look at people as competitors and every situation as one that is to be won. The smallest setback will result in a feeling of uselessness. This can have a deep impact on the self-esteem of the child leading to frustration, disappointment and even depression.

What you can do:

Let your child perform at her own pace. Teach her that it is important to put in the best of effort each time but it is also alright to fail. Try positive reinforcement, always praise her efforts and tell her how proud you are of her achievements.

5) Emotional eating

Does your child find solace in food whenever she is sad or disappointed? You might not pay much notice to this behaviour but emotional eating is not a desirable habit. It’s one of the causes of childhood obesity. When children eat to soothe a negative mood, they often tend to reach for high sugar foods, like cakes and sweets, leading to weight issues. In fact, emotional eating can also lead to eating disorders like bulimia and binge eating, later in life.

What you can do:

Patiently explain to the child that eating is not the solution to a problem. Encourage her to be open and discuss her worries with you. Calm or soothe your child by showing that you understand her difficulty. Distract her by taking her out for a stroll or playing simple games with her.

6) Drinking coffee or energy drinks to feel better

If your child is very active, she may tend to get exhausted easily. This is perfectly normal but a worryingly common trend is to reach out for energy drinks or, with older children, even coffee. These are loaded with caffeine, which can make the drinker feel energetic but is not recommended for health, and especially in children.

What you can do:

Instead of coffee and energy drinks, try giving your child fresh fruit juice or healthy smoothies. Teach your child healthier ways of relieving stress and getting energised. Tell her to try out yoga, meditation, or even take up a hobby that will help her relax.

7) Snacking in place of proper meals

Hunger pangs between meals can have your child reaching for snacks between meals. While the occasional snack is good, they should not replace a meal. Snacking frequently does reduce the child’s appetite at meal times and this has a serious fallback. In adults, it increases the risk of hypertension, obesity and dental issues among others. What you can do:

What you can do:

Fix your child’s snack schedule. Offer a choice of healthy snack options like nuts, dried fruits, dates and fresh fruits.

8) Nail biting

8 Bad Habits That Can Hurt Your Child's Health

A common habit in children, that sometimes accompanies them into adulthood, is nail biting. Prolonged nail biting can lead to wear and tear of the teeth, which in turn, can impact speech. That apart, dirt from the nails can cause infections.

What you can do:

Nervousness is often the trigger for nail biting. So, try and talk to your child to see how you can help them cope with situations that provoke this behaviour. If it persists, consult your paediatrician or dentist for expert advice.

Have you noticed other strange habits in your children? If yes, do share them with us in the comments below.

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