Kids are kind of a mystery. One day they love something, then the next day they won't so much as look at it. It can sometimes seem like you take one step forward then two steps back (and then zig-zag a few times) when you're trying to get into a good groove or routine with them. It's exhausting - so parents always welcome some good, helpful tips.
Dr. Jacob Towery has spent his career studying the psychology of children and adolescents, and even he still doesn't have all the answers when it comes to his own kid. In fact, he admitted that despite all of his knowledge, he still wanted to know, "If your child is doing something that's not harmful, but is also not especially adaptive or appropriate, when and how often should you correct her behavior?"
So, Dr. Towery went to Dr. Alan Kazdin- Director of the Yale Parenting Center- to specifically discuss this behavior and how to rectify it. According to Towery, it's been proven time and time again that negativity doesn't do anything to help correct a child's behavior (ie: spanking), but what about nagging and constantly correcting the child?
Essentially, he wants to know what every parent does: How do I get my kid to stop that annoying thing they do?! The secret? You say nothing.
As hard as it is as a parent to watch your child do something annoying like slurping their soup or sucking their thumb in public, the best approach to correcting the behavior isn't to bring attention to it. According to Dr. Kazdin, nagging or scolding a child for doing something that's completely harmless doesn't benefit anyone in the situation. In fact, it could make your child increase the behavior as an act of defiance.
Still, if you don't want your child sucking his thumb at the dinner table, instead of scolding the negative behavior, praise good behavior. If he has a meal where he doesn't put his thumb in his mouth, make a big deal out of it and celebrate. Tell him how great he did. He'll ultimately want more of that praise; so over time, he'll learn he'll get it if he doesn't put his thumb in his mouth.
So, as long as everyone's safe and no one's getting hurt, ignore negative behavior and praise the good behavior. You'll get the outcome you want and won't have to nag your kid. Win-win!