Monday, November 19, 2012

Breaking Habits

Peter currently has three habits that we would love to see disappear. If you have any suggestions, I would be quite grateful.

The most concerning is his determination to pick at his face. He had a small injury on his cheek, which he began picking. We put antibiotic cream and a small bandage over it. He began picking at the edges, creating a new wound and learning how to remove the bandage. Picking at his face is now such a habit that he has created a few new spots on his other cheek! When we remind him not to pick, he responds, "Want to pick you face!" and continues. Bandages are removed within minutes. Using a thicker cream (like petroleum jelly) is occasionally effective, but not always. Right now I'm keeping his nails as short as possible and trying to keep cream on his "bumps". (He told me today, "You bump is hungry. Wants white yogurt." !!)

Daddy, Scooby-Doo, Peter, and his bumps

Less concerning but more annoying is his default to whining or all-out crying at the least provocation. Sometimes no provocation. With this one, we're at least making progress. We remind him that we can't help him if he doesn't use words to say what he wants and won't help him if he just cries at us. I'm also doing my best to provide lots of cuddle time and positive attention (as is my husband, but he works full-time). We seem to slowly see improvements, so I'm optimistic about phasing out the whining. You know, at least until the baby arrives.

Finally, the most perplexing. I'm a behaviorist, so I believe every behavior is goal-oriented. He picks his face because it feels good. He cries because it's gotten results in the past. Why does he persist in saying, "Oh my gosh," despite our disapproval? He learned it from some visiting kids. For the first couple weeks, we completely ignored it. No change. Then we started supplying alternatives. (i.e. "Oh my gosh, you shoes are there." "Oh dear! I see your shoes there!") Now we've been explicitly telling him we don't like him to say that. No change in frequency. I have no idea what he is gaining by saying it.



  1. I am of no useful help here (other than a bit of sarcasm that may or may not amuse you) but just wanted you to know that I am visiting the blog.

  2. There is a product called MelaGel from Melaluca Pharmacy and also an ointment they make. It quickly heals sores and splits on your skin. The MelaGel is good because it is not runny and no need to bandage. If the spots disappear completely, he may stop picking at his face. With time the "oh my gosh" phrase will run its course. Your Grandma B used to tell me, "this too shall pass". She was right. Have a Happy Thanksgiving celebration. mb

    1. Thank you! I'll look into that. And you were right - "oh my gosh" seems to already be out of his vocabulary. We had a lovely holiday; hope you and yours did as well.

  3. Not sure if your little guy is old enough, but here is how we got my daughter to stop sucking her thumb when nothing else would work, passed on to me by a mom of many...Put a clear jar on a shelf in your family area - somewhere always visible.
    Put 5-6 hershey's kisses in it and explain to him that every time he picks his bumps and you have to ask him to stop, that you - mom or dad - get to eat one of the chocolates. make sure he sees you enjoying it greatly. :) whatever is left after dinner, he gets to eat. since he's littler, you could do 2 at a time, and make it after each meal so that it's not so long to wait.
    it took 2 days to start working here, and then all I had to do was look at her and she would stop herself, and within 2 weeks she stopped.
    I'm not sure if it would work with him, but it's worth a shot!