Parents find many habits and behaviors of their children annoying. When you want to change an unwanted behavior, it helps to first understand why your child is doing it. Often bad habits are just a coping strategy. Your child may fall back on these behaviors when they are stressed, bored, tired, frustrated, unhappy, insecure, or falling asleep. Many of these “bad” habits are calming and soothing to the child.
Most of the time, these behaviors are just “phases” or habits—not serious medical problems—and the child typically outgrows them. Managing them can be difficult, however. In general, you should ignore bad habits. Yelling, calling attention to the habit and punishment do not usually work to stop the behavior (and may even increase it!), but praise, positive rewards, and patience are likely to help.
What are tics?
Tics are stereotyped behaviors (twitches or movements) that are frequently repeated. The movement can involve any body part. A facial tic, especially blinking the eyes, is the most common. Temporary tics are a habit that starts during childhood or the teen years, and might last anywhere from one month to a year. The child is able to suppress the tic voluntarily for minutes to hours. The tic may occur more frequently at certain times and not at others. They are fairly common.
Rarely, there are vocal tics or more complex tics, which suggest a more serious disorder called Tourette syndrome. If the tic occurs for longer than one year or the child cannot suppress it, it may be a sign of a more serious problem and needs evaluation by your child’s doctor.