When Your Child Destroys Things, Refuses to Eat, or Sucks his Thumb or Fingers

When your child:
It may mean your child:
Is curious.
Does not understand what to do.
Is showing the normal decrease in appetite that occurs about age 2-1/2 when growth slows down.Enjoys the physical sensation.
Has had an accident.Is not hungry.
Does not feel well.
Uses thumb sucking to feel secure.
Finds the materials are not sturdy enough.Dislikes a particular flavor or texture (children’s tastes are stronger than adults’).Is frightened.
Finds the materials too difficult and frustrating.Is imitating someone.
Is trying to be independent.
Feels excited or angry.
Feels jealous, helpless or bored.
Is trying to get attention.
So do not:
Scold, yell or shout.Make a scene.Force or restrain the thumb or finger with mitts, guards or ties.
Tell your child that he or she is bad.Reward or bribe your child to eat.
Threaten your child.
Use bad tasting lotions.
Threaten or punish your child.
Punish your child for not eating.Make fun of or shame your child.
Force your child to eat.Coax or bribe your child.
You might try:
Providing guidance in the use and care of things.Being casual and calm.
Enjoying food with your child.
Relaxing and realizing that it rarely lasts and is not serious.
Examining fragile items together to satisfy your child’s curiosity.Making food interesting and attractive.Giving your child more love and attention.
Removing destructible and broken things from the play area.Introducing new foods a bit at a time and only along with favored foods.Observing when your child sucks her thumb or finger.
Providing a different place for play or reorganizing the environment to discourage destruction.Helping your child learn to feed and serve him or herself.Discovering what your child wants or needs and supplying it.
Teaching your child the difference between expendable items and valued items.Serving small portions.
Serving rejected food in a new way.
Explaining to a school-age child the possible damage to teeth and mouth.
Giving your child an opportunity to pound, mess up and tear the expendable items.
Involving your child in determining the need for repair or in repairing.
Involving your child in preparation of food.Helping a school-age child break the habit by saying gently “show me your pretty smile,” or by using an agreed upon reminder (your child’s name, hand on shoulder or word such as “smile”).

Permission to reproduce granted by Child Action, Inc.

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