We are all human and we all have our triggers that frustrate and annoy us. For many parents, this includes the habit of spitting. We find it unacceptable and want to put an immediate stop to it.
But when we tell out child “No!” they only do it all the more! How are we supposed to deal with that and break this unpalatable habit?
The first thing to do is to look at it from the child’s point of view. There is a reason why they are spitting. This could be sensory fulfilment, a way of releasing frustrations, or simply exploring and learning about what their body can do. Telling a child “No!” is very frustrating for them because it only deals with the issue at a surface level and doesn’t address the motivation behind the action. So the child becomes even more determined to spit!
Instead, we can do two things. One is to establish firm boundaries around the habit. Decide what you are comfortable with and present these options to your child. So if they have been spitting in the living room, you may say: “We don’t spit in the living room. If you need to spit you can use the sink or go in the garden.” This way you don’t prevent them from doing the thing they want to do, but you make it clear where this habit is acceptable and where it is not. This leaves the decision in their hands and often they will choose not to go outside and instead to stop entirely.
The other thing you can do is to look at those underlying reasons behind the spitting, and begin to address these. Is it aggression or frustration directed towards you? Is it always happening at a particular time, such as when they are tired or hungry? Is it when they are bored or lacking in stimulation?
If you identify and address the motivation behind the action, there will be less reason for them to use spitting as a tool and fewer opportunities for you to need to implement your boundaries.
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