How to Stop Kids From Biting Their Nails, Sucking Their Thumbs, and More
You arrange a rare adult get-together, and your tutu-clad 6-year-old takes that as her cue to stage Swan Lake on the coffee table.
The substitute: “When kids fear they’re not going to get attention, they can become hams,” notes Clise. Prepare the child by saying, “ ‘We’re going to have some adults-only time, but first you’ll have a chance to say hello and show your favorite toy to everybody,’ ” says Clise. “Give her a moment in the spotlight, then usher her off to watch her favorite video.” Verdick’s own ballerina used to hand out “tickets” to guests, to be collected at an appointed time before her performance. “That gave her a chance to get some praise, but she wasn’t constantly getting up from the table to go dance,” she says.
Failure to Make Eye Contact With Grown-Ups
“Eye contact with a handshake and a smile from a child really impresses adults,” says Clise, who worries that this old-fashioned form of respect is becoming extinct.
The substitute: You can role-play at home (repeatedly, if necessary), then prepare your child for a visit to Cousin Edna by explaining what you expect: “I would like you to smile and say, ‘Nice to see you!’ ” Upon arrival, a little coaching is fine, says Clise. (“Mary, what do we say?”) For very shy kids, try this trick from Elizabeth Verdick, a coauthor of Dude, That’s Rude! ($9, amazon.com): “Tell him to ask himself, What color eyes does the person have? Then he can take a look and find out.”