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Dr. Keane
Dr. Keane, Family Counselor
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1765
Experience:  Parenting Workshops, Teacher, PHD Clinical Psychology, 30 yrs. Exp. 4 Children
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We would like our 8-year-old daughter to refrain from ingesting

Customer Question

We would like our 8-year-old daughter to refrain from ingesting what she removes from her nose. She has learned to do it covertly, but is not good at it. She is old enough to understand that she's eating scum our nose has filtered from the air, but this has not been an effective deterrent. I have some experience in behavior mod and can elicit behaviors from my child, but it is always difficult to extinguish a behavior. Any advice?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Dr. Keane replied 7 years ago.
Hi,
At 8 years old this habit may be a bit difficult to break but it can be done. First off, ignore her behavior. The more you say to her about what it is she is doing the more of a power play it will become.
Second, This is one remedy that may sound a bit harsh but it works...works for nail biting too! This is a habit that she probably doesn't even realize she is doing at times..so you want to grab her attention when she does it. How. put hot pepper sauce on the tips of the finger she uses. Once or twice in she'll get the message and become aware of what she is doing and will retreat. Yes, it may sting but it won't take long to break the habit.
Another thing you can do is use rewards system. If you are familiar with behavior mod you will know that rewards works much better than punishment or scoldings.
Finally, make sure that she isn't doing this as a result of having allergies or some other issue that is medical. Allergies make for more "stuff" that may cause her problems with breathing through her nose so check that out first.
Please click ACCEPT and leave FEEDBACK when you are satisfied.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Not practical. Handwashing is so stressed now in H1N1 world, that there is no good time to apply pepper sauce, which would also be a bit humiliating for an 8-year old. How can I anticipate nosepicking!

You got the behavior mod concept 1A that reward is preferred over punishment, but concept 2B is that it is difficult to reward the absence/extinguishment of a behavior (i.e., NOT picking one's nose). If you try, say, "here's your reward for me not seeing you pick your nose today" you may inadvertently be reinforcing UNDERCOVER nosepicking technique.

Concept 2C is to put an undesired behavior on cue, then withdraw the cue. I'm not ready to go there!
Expert:  Dr. Keane replied 7 years ago.
Hi,
Well guess you are looking for a miracle or a magician, so I will opt out, Hope you find a practical solution! Wish you the best of luck. Sorry I couldn't be of help.

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