on 17 November 2012
I bought this book in despair at my 9-year-old daughter's severe nail-biting habit. It details a very simple, non-judgemental step-by-step approach to getting rid of 'bad' habits/tics, and the method can be applied to most 'bad' habits (e.g. hair-pulling, unnecessary scratching, compulsive nose-picking, nail-biting, scab-picking, etc.). You start by reading a chapter a day together to get used to the method; once you feel familiar with it, the actual cure takes exactly 21 days. Before we started, my daughter had no nails to speak of, and her fingertips were literally bloody from constant chewing. (The book makes it clear that such 'bad' habits are _not_ necessarily symptoms of a greater problem, but just a pattern that some children, especially children with a lot of energy, can fall into). My daughter found the method fun and easy to follow, and before the 21 days were over, her fingernails had grown so long they actually needed to be trimmed, which I consider a miracle. The 21 days are now over, her fingertips are completely healed and her nails require trimming as normal. She has also gained confidence in her ability to overcome obstacles. I cannot recommend this book enough (I am sure it would work on adults as well). One tiny comment I would add is that the method need not be followed rigidly -- the book gives principles and examples but encourages parents and children to find their own ways to put it all into practice. I found some of the tips silly to say the least (e.g. chewing beef jerky whenever you have the urge to bite your nails) but it was easy and effective to substitute sugar-free chewing gum for this particular tip -- so basically you will need to follow your own initiative, but, like I said, I cannot recommend the book enough.
I bought this to work with my seven-year-old daughter, who was a chronic nail-biter and nose-picker. The nose-picking was spreading into ear-picking and eye-picking as well, so I needed to get it dealt with.
This is an American self-help book that addresses itself direct to the child. It has a reading age of 9+ years, so I read it out loud in instalments to my daughter, as it is a chapter book. The introduction is for the parents to read, where the message is "Saying "Stop That!" 100 times a day doesn't work." True.
Over the following chapters, the author tells the child in a very warm and reassuring voice that other children have bad habits, they can be overcome, and this is the strategy list on how to do it. There are also word puzzles for the child to fill in, which my daughter loved.
The strategies involve creating lists of various substitutions, diversions and ways of diffusing tension or energy, and this is where my gripe is. For bad habits like nail-biting, hair-twirling and shirt-sucking, the author has a lot of suggestions on replacement activities to put on those lists. But for nose-picking, she has no suggestions for the lists at all. I get the psychology of what she's describing, but it's still up to me to invent the substitutions for my child's particular bad habit. I am feeling rather cross and left out.
Having said that, a major improvement has occurred. Just the act of reading the book with my daughter has relaxed and reassured her, particularly the knowledge that other children do this too. We started implementing activities as we went along - buying her her own manicure set and painting her nails with school-friendly clear nail polish proved very popular - and as we've only just finished the book, I'm yet to write up the complete lists on the last page and start the 21-day programme. But both bad habits have already diminished dramatically, and are on the way out.
One of the last chapters discusses rewards, and my daughter said she would like a little gold trophy. I said I can sort that out for her.