Nervous Habits and Overcoming Them

Lately, NHL has developed an annoying habit.  He’ll pull the shirt or coat around his neck upwards and stick it in his mouth.  Once there, he will suck away at it until the front of his shirt is soaked.  We’ve had to change his shirts and he has even ruined a few outfits.  The sucking is new, but prior to this, we would catch him chewing on objects like the Nintendo DS stylus.  We tell him to stop but he’ll almost immediately begin again.

What gets me nervous is that he might be picking up a nervous habit like mine.  Confession time: I pick my cuticles.  I’ve done this for as long as I can remember.  My father used to yell at me to stop and slap my hands, but it wouldn’t help.  Almost involuntarily, my fingers would reach out to my hand to feel along the edge of my nails.  If any skin was found to be out of order, it would be pulled at until it came off.  Yes, this caused me to bleed many a time.  The bleeding was not the intended effect, of course.  My “intentions”, such as they were, were to tidy up my fingernails.

I could go for long stretches of time without picking so long as I was occupied.  If my hands were idle, though, the picking would quickly begin.  Even once I became aware of this, I couldn’t stop.  I’d hold off the urge for awhile but it would build and build until I gave in.

I didn’t even grow out of it.  Although I do this less nowadays than I did when I was a teenager, I still find myself picking from time to time.  I even carry cuticle tweezers with me to work every day.  If the urge strikes, I’d rather use the sharp metal tweezers to make clean, precise cuts rather than haphazard rips and tears which often cause bleeding.

Going back to NHL, part of me is afraid that his shirt-sucking habit will turn out to be like my cuticle-picking one.  I’m supposed to give him the tools to overcome things like this, but how can I do so when I’ve never overcome my own nervous habit?

Do you have a nervous habit?  Have you ever overcome one?  What about your children?


  • I know the cuticle picking habit well. And I watch, with sadness, as my kid imitates me. And I remember my dad having the same habit.

    So strange how we learn things unintentionally. But I’ve also wondered if maybe we have cuticles that are genetically determined to be picked. Just a rationalization? I thought so 😉

  • My son did exactly the same thing when he was when he was 8-9 years old. It went on for a whole summer and into winner, and many a t-shirt & turtleneck were ruined. We tried giving him gum and other incentives to stop, but they didn’t work. Eventually, he just stopped on his own. He doesn’t seem to have any other nervous habits right now, but he is constantly on my case to end mine!
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