Video

Dr Christian:
Many children pick up bad habits or repetitive behaviours. These habits can provide some form of comfort when a child is bored or stressed and most of the time they probably don’t even realise they’re doing it. Some very common childhood habits are thumb sucking, nose picking, nail biting, body rocking, knee jerking and hair chewing.

Hair chewing may seem like a harmless habit but it can sometimes have some pretty serious health implications. Trichophagia is the term given to the compulsive chewing or eating of hair. The hair is swallowed and this can accumulate into a massive hair ball which creates a potentially life threatening condition. The hair is indigestible and requires surgery to remove it. This picture shows a hairball being removed from a stomach. However, this is an extreme case and hair chewing to this extent is pretty rare. In most cases, hair chewing is simply a comfort and is only a temporary problem which children grow out of, but it is quite unhygienic and can be very damaging to the ends of the hair.

Of course it’s difficult to judge whether a habit is something a child will grow out of or whether it is something which needs to be stopped. The general rule is that if it’s a habit that’s causing upset or disruption then it needs to be broken and the best method of breaking a habit is through positive reinforcement. Reward your child whenever they manage to stop the habit or break the repetition, even if it’s only for a small amount of time.

There are other behaviours which are more in the category of behavioural problems such as sleep issues, bed wetting and fussy eating.

Xersia came to see us with her son Will who was having sleep problems.

Xersia:
I end up putting him to bed at night and I can stay there for anywhere between half an hour and an hour and a half just trying to get him to sleep. I can be in and out all night, it’s just got to the stage where it’s got to stop.

Dr Dawn:
How long does he stay asleep for?

Xersia:
You can guarantee he will wake up around 10.00pm to 10:30pm and that’s when it will just continue throughout the night, he still has to have that contact with me.

Dr Dawn:
What happens if you’re not there?

Xersia:
He wouldn’t go for anyone else and he would just cry.

Dr Dawn:
And then you would go back and lie with him again?

Xersia:
Yep.

Dr Dawn:
What’s happening is by default you are rewarding the naughty behaviour. If he gets up and comes and gets you, then that’s good for him it’s exactly what he wants, he gets to have mummy back again.

Voice Over:
Will rarely sleeps for more than three to four hours a night.

Will:
(crying)

Voice Over:
And neither does Xercia. Dr Dawn sends sleep specialist Mandy Gurney to give her some advice about sleeping and bedtime routine.

Mandy Gurney:
As he’s falling asleep I want you to stay with him, but I want to do what is called the gradual retreat programme.

So I want to start on the floor right next to his bed, do three nights there, then we will move to the end of the bed, here, then just here, inside the room and then just outside the door just there.

Voice Over:
It’s still early days but mum thinks the plan is starting to work.

Xersia:
It’s been 4 months since I’ve started Will’s routine, and it’s taken us that long to get Will now to sleep most of the night. He’s happier, he’s not so clingy, because obviously he was just tired all the time. Umm, yeah, completely different child really, a lot happier!

Dr Christian:
It is not uncommon for children to have sleep problems, but there are things you can do. Help your child to relax before bedtime by providing a quiet activity, such as taking a warm bath, having a hot drink or reading a story; and definitely no TV or computers games before bedtime. Routine is one of the best things you can do to help your child sleep, so bedtimes should be at the same time every night. Also, try not to let your child sleep in the same bed as you otherwise they’ll quickly become dependent.

Another night time behavioural problem which is very common in young children is bed wetting. Chronic bed wetting can become a stressful situation both for the parent and the child and the most important thing is not to punish your child for wetting the bed, however hard work it becomes for you, remember it is something they have no control over and punishing them creates anxiety which can actually make the problem worse.

There are lots of different reasons for bed wetting, including an overactive bladder, slower development of control, or often just drinking too much fluid before bed, so make sure you limit your child’s intake of fluid before sleep and wake them up to take them to the toilet just before you go to bed yourself. There are treatments available if you sense this problem is getting out of control. If a child hasn’t wet the bed for 6 months or more and then begins wetting again this could be a sign that the child is anxious or stressed.

Most habits and problematic behaviours are things which children will grow out of but if you are worried that your child may have deeper or longer term issues the best bet is to contact your doctor for advice.

Read the video transcript

From hair-chewing to nose-picking, Dr Christian is back to discuss the bad habits and repetitive behaviours of children, which can have some pretty serious consequences. But will our children grow out of these habits or do they need to be stopped? Dr Christian explains how parents can help their children break bad habits through positive reinforcement. But what can be done about behavioural problems such as sleep issues, bed wetting and fussy eating? The Embarrassing Bodies team investigate, as Zersha and her son, Will, who suffers from sleep problems, pay Dr Dawn Harper a visit at the clinic. Referred to a sleep specialist, Zersha and Will are placed on a ‘gradual retreat programme’, in order to mend Will’s sleeping problem, but will it work? Back at the clinic, Dr Christian advises parents how they can help their children (and themselves!) get a better night’s sleep. Dr Christian then discusses bed-wetting in more detail: what causes it and how to prevent it. If you’re worried your child may have deeper issues, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.

Images used:
quinnums – http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinn/171571

Please visit Patient UK to find out more about Bed Wetting.

Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites

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Hi the video of bed wetting was very interesting. My daughter age 6 in a half goes through days of wetting the bed then a few months of dry nights. She's done that since she was 3 years old. I've limited her drinks and I've stopped giving her juice, she only has juice in the afternoons. 2 hours before bedtime she has a small cup of water, then no more drinks until breakfast time, where she has a small cup of milk. She used to wet at school, but now touch wood she's stopped. I have found that she has a smell down below as if it was a monthly smell, but I bath her every 2 nights, now started to bath her every night and wash her below part in the morning, but nothing seems to get rid of her (fu fu sweat) as she calls it. She goes to the loo a lot during the day. I've even tried her without a drink for 2 days, but she still went to the loo, some times she dribbles the urine as I've got to the point I have to follow her to the loo and listen to how much she urinates. I've taken her to the doctor, which say there's nothing wrong with her bladder. I've recently changed doctors because wasn't happy, but I think I be wasting doctors time if I take her to get checked out. What should I do? Please help





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Hello I'm 14 and I still suck my thumb inhale done this since I was very young and I really want to stop it, I have Evan put mustard on it but nothing is working what shall I do??





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Hello I'm 14 and I still suck my thumb what should I do??





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I have a problem since I was very young. I have a habit of tongue thrusting. I'm 14 now and already had braces and exersices. I'm got better but I still tongue trust a little bit. Is there any suggestions?





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Hi, I am 19 years old and I have been ulling out and chewing my hair for the past 2-3 years, although I have tried to stop many times, its becoming more difficult with time. I tend to hide my hair in pockets and under my pillow to 'save' it for later. I live a normal active life and no one is aware of this problem however I know it is wrong and was hoping I'll grow out of it as my doctor said but I have not. i have tried cutting my hair short, eating snacks to replace the hair, keeping my hair tied up, etc.





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Hi my daughter is 6yrs old now and had had a prob going toliet for 4yr or so no 2 not going wee she knows wen to go on the toliet but never does shes going on her self and wont tell us shes goes out to play and it dosnt bother her im at my wits end with her and dont know wat to do the doctor told me she had a blockage in her bowl weve being givin her meds and still nuthing please help





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My five year old son is still wetting himself. I have tried eveything possible to try and get him dry. My partner has told him he is not normal, dirty and unhygienic which I feel is unfair as he is only 5! Could he have something wrong because he says sometimes he doesn't feel he needs to go it just comes out. Could this be ture or is he being lazy?





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Hi.. I have a 4yr old son that has recently started at a new school.. Since about 2 and a half we have noticed a behaver issue.. He has paddys that can last up 2 3yrs, he has no concentration.. Can change from happy to angry within seconds,he not very nice to other children (putting it nicely). He has a sister that is 2 and she is begining to pick his behaver up.. His school have noticed it and called me and his father into school to talk about this, they have adviced a behaver chart and they think its a attention thing.. I do not!. He's very angry and it really upsets me, whens he's angry he says very hurtfull things, he throws things at me and screams constant for about 45minutes.. I'm at a loose end!!! Also when he sees another child he will shout,scream,make noises.. And he won't eat anythink dry with anythink wet even if on the same plate with his favourite food he won't eat it.... What do I do....





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I'm 13 5ft 3inchs and I went from being 7st 9 pounds to 6st 4 pounds the space of 3 weeks and it keeps going down no matter what I do. I have anemia and take iron pills. Is this normal? Do I need help?





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My son is not eating, and very withdrawn, no concentration etc etc. He has just turned 6 but he began to get fussy around age 3 and it has gradually got worse. The GP says its just picky eating but i am worried it is much more as he has strange habits around eating too.





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