How To Stop Your Kids Being Disgusting

Let’s get real - Kids are gross, nasty, disgusting, foul and ill-mannered. They just are.


Let’s get real – kids are gross, nasty, disgusting, foul and ill-mannered. They just are.

I don’t say any of that to be unkind. Kids are unmolded heaps of clay.

It’s the nature of children to require training and modeling, patience and redirection when necessary.

Every mom in the world can attest, however, to the disgusting things kids do.  

The younger children are, the worse. They just don’t know any better and that innocence can translate into absolutely foul habits and behaviors.

Today, we will talk about some of their yuckiest habits and what can be done to address them.

Nose picking

Why do they do it?

For the most part, they are exploring. They feel dried mucus tickle the inside of their nose, and their instinct is to dig around a bit. Some children seem to enjoy the way it feels, as well.

What to do about it:

Gently move the child’s hand away.  It is not the end of the world and you should not treat it as though it is. You should patiently redirect the child.

Do not make a huge fuss about it but tell them that it is not nice manners and can spread germs. Explain that people use tissues to clean their noses when they feel clogged up with boogers.

If your child is older, make sure that tissues are readily available at home and pack them a travel-sized package in their bag for school.

Nail biting (& cuticle chewing)

Why do they do it?

The habit of nail and cuticle chewing and biting creates cuts and openings in the skin that are painful and can cause infections. That is why it is often very hard for parents to understand why their child keeps up these self-destructive habits.

However, it is a very strong habit that can be difficult to break even if kiddos know and understand that they should.

What to do about it:

Explain the danger of infection to your child in simple and plain terms. Do not use scare tactics but just discuss it honestly. Your child may need to become aware of the habit. So, teach them to be mindful.

Also, try telling your child to wiggle their fingers for 30 seconds every time they feel the need to gnaw on a fingernail or cuticle. This is another mindfulness exercise that may be very helpful, albeit simple.

Scab peeling

Why do they do it?

Scabs can be irritating and itchy. And, to be frank, some children enjoy pulling scabs from skin. The problem, of course, is that scabs are there for a very specific purpose and peeling them away can cause infections, scarring and more.

What to do about it:

Explain why peeling scabs is not safe. Then, let the kiddo pick out some bandages with fun designs and tell them to leave it covered. Unfortunately, some kids will also pick at band-aids. If that happens, consider a fidget spinner or stress ball.

It should be emphasized that calling a lot of attention to these habits, especially in public, is not a great way to help your child.

Instead, come up with nonverbal cues or simple gestures to give them gentle reminders.

Here are some ideas for appropriate ways to talk about these habits:

 “Please put your shirt down and cover your body. You need  to keep it safe.”

 “Please use a tissue to clean your nose. Do you know where the tissues are?  I’ll go get you one.”

“Food is for eating. Not playing. In order to stay safe and clean, it needs to stay inside of our mouths while we chew.”

“Hands go in pockets. Hands do not go inside our underwear.”

“We do not drink bath water because it is very soapy and can make us sick.”

These are possible nonverbal cues that you could set up with your child:

Squeezing their hand softly;

A subtle thumbs down;

A gentle tap to your nose;

A quick tap on their back;

Pulling your ear gently;

You could also consider setting up a code phrase or word.

At the end of the day, your kid is probably not going to be the gross monster that he or she is now forever.  

They will learn social cues and begin to develop better habits but some patient guidance and modeling will help move the process along.

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Jessica Gray
Jessica Gray lives in North Carolina with her husband and two little boys. She enjoys cooking, but she hates cleaning house. She's deeply passionate about kids and education - her experiences working with children as a teacher have been some of the most rewarding of her life. Writing has been a lifelong passion that started with notebooks, old scraps of paper, and journals. She loves to write informative and educational pieces for kids and adults.