Disclaimer: This post may gross you out a little bit! So, yesterday I was standing outside the dance studio chatting with another mom while we were waiting for our daughters in their dance class. This woman's 3 year old son, Who was standing with us, starts picking his boogers, I am a little taken aback when she stands by watching him, yet says nothing to him, but I keep the conversation going. Then, low and behold, this kid starts EATING is ginormous, slimy boogers and still she says nothing! She then chuckles and tells me this is his new thing now and apologizes to me, but still does nothing; doesn't try to stop him, doesn't hand him a tissue, doesn't tell him about germs, just keeps saying to me how gross it is and that he will eventually learn how disgusting it is and stop on his own (she hopes)...ummmmmm I don't even know what to say about this one!
What is even more interesting is that I posted this story on my personal Facebook page because long after I got home I was just baffled about the whole thing. I was shocked when this post started a little bit of controversy among some of my friends sort of implying that I was being judgemental or harsh towards the mother of this child. I am still trying to figure this out. We are smack in the middle of cold and flu season and even if it doesn't gross this mother out that her child is standing in a very public place picking and eating his boogers, my opinion would be that whatever leftovers are now on his fingers are going to be transferred to whatever he touches and then the spread of germs has started. How am I being judgemental when I am just worried about the health of others?
Apparently, there are articles out there somewhere that advise parents that the way to handle nose picking is to ignore the behavior and not say anything to the child. Really??? I get the idea of not making a huge deal out of it because your child may do it more for the attention. But to not say anything?? That theory I do not understand at all. Is it not our duty as a parent to TEACH our children healthy habits and proper social behavior? Last I checked, as a mother and an educator, it is my job to help my own children as well as the students I work with how to take care of their health, and to me, picking your nose is not a healthy habit.
So, here is my two cents on the subject based on how I handle it with my children. If you have a nose picker (and I do, so this is from experience), in a very matter of fact tone tell them to stop the behavior. Don't act totally disgusted and make a huge deal out of it, because then that child will be looking for that reaction out of you. In your matter of fact tone, make it a teachable moment. Mention the germs that are on their fingers that could make them sick if they end up in their nose. Mention the germs that there are in their nose, that can be passed on to others. For heaven sake, teach them that if they have a booger in their nose that is bothering them, to ask you (or their teacher, or whatever adult they are with) for a tissue because that is where boogers and germs belong! In a tissue that can be thrown away! Not on your finger, not on the wall, and certainly not in your mouth. It may take a while for the behavior to stop, but be consistent and keep reminding them about the dangers of it.
Ignoring the behavior is teaching the child that this is an acceptable behavior, and this is not an acceptable behavior, socially or otherwise. If we don't teach our children about these things from the very beginning, then the habit starts and it will be much more difficult to break as the child gets older. You will be better off being a teacher and not a friend in a situation like this. Just be consistent, not demeaning, not over dramatic, just consistent.
Call me judgemental, call me what you will. As a mother and an educator, it is hard for me to stand by and watch a teachable moment pass by. Especially when my children could be the ones to suffer the consequences by having touched something that other kid touched with his spreadable germs all over his fingers. Let's be smart about how we handle our children and teach them the lessons in health and manners that we were taught and the generations before us were taught. Let's help keep each other healthy this cold and flu season! And remember, kids do not innately know proper behaviors, it is your job to teach them.