10 answers

4 Y/o Constantly Tugging/Pulling at Ears.

I am at a frustrating stand still with what may be a common problem with a preschooler!? Our 4 y/o son constantly tug/pulls/bends his ears. He has done this almost his entire life. I suppose it is really no different than any other security habit, i.e., thumb sucking. My concern is two fold... Can he damage his ears permanently, and will kids make fun of him at school? There are often times that i catch him doing it, and he has his entire ear curled into his hand, and when he lets go, it is bright red. Can he develop cauliflower ear this young? I've had older kids ask me before why he tugs on them, and I just laugh it off and say that it just something he's always done. This fall, he will attend pre-K, and I'm afraid he will be picked on by other kids. My husband is afraid we will give him a complex if we try to make him stop, and when I reply "if he was sucking his thumb, you'd be freaking out." To which he agrees. I don't want to hurt his feelings or break his spirit in any way, I just want whats best for him. Even if it means letting it go until he's a little older!! Thanks so much in advance for any advice or help you can offer!!

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It could just a habit.Or maybe he has fluid in his ears. Both of my younger children last year when they were 3yrs and 5yrs they had tubes put in their ears. The ear/nose and throat guy said both of them had constant fluid in theirs that never seemed to drain. Their loss was 25% but it was not permanent and their hearing is now where it should be.
Its possibly he is pulling on his ear because he has fluid. My PED kept telling me there was nothing wrong with their ears. I knew something was not right I listened to my intuition.

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Have you had him checked for ear infections/allergies? I have seasonal allergies and my ears are always first to hurt and itch, that is when I start my allergy med. My son would tug on his ears when he had ear infections (he is now 4 and has had tubes twice).

Get him checked for an ear infection. I know when I was little I would pull on my ears when I had an ear infection, so did my sister.

It could just a habit.Or maybe he has fluid in his ears. Both of my younger children last year when they were 3yrs and 5yrs they had tubes put in their ears. The ear/nose and throat guy said both of them had constant fluid in theirs that never seemed to drain. Their loss was 25% but it was not permanent and their hearing is now where it should be.
Its possibly he is pulling on his ear because he has fluid. My PED kept telling me there was nothing wrong with their ears. I knew something was not right I listened to my intuition.

What I did to stop my boys from sucking their thumbs (it was ruining their teeth) was to start limiting the places they could do it. First, they could only do it in the house of the car, no public places. After a few weeks, just the house. Then just in their room. I figured I couldn't really cut it down much more than that and left well enough alone. I would just say "now that your 4 you can only tug your ears in the house" like it's just what 4 year olds do. No big deal made by you will probably mean no big deal to him.

My daughter is an ear comforter too. She always has been since she was able to rub my ears when I was nursing her. She would rub our earlobes when we would hold her. As she got older she would rub her own ears especially when she was tired. Then as a 3, 4 and 5 year old, she would touch the bottom of her earlobe with the tip of her finger when she was nervous. Like you, I tried not correct her knowing that was comforting, but then as she entered preschool last year, I would ask her if she was nervous or if something was bothering her - she would tell me no and then take her finger away. Then when I noticed her doing it in new or nervous situation, I would tell her there is nothing to be nervous about and explain whatever was going on and she would automatically drop her hand away. I figured she would be doing this the day she drives away for college...but, sometime in the last four months (she's now 5 1/2) she has stopped. So, long story, but point being - if it is for comfort, as most kids, he should outgrow it. I do agree that maybe you should check out the other possibilities of ear infections, allergies, etc....hopefully it's none of those things and that he'll outgrow this nervous habit. Maybe give him something else to touch or rub. My friend's son was a hair rubber - she gave him a rabbits foot to carry in his pocket and when he felt the urge to rub hair, he'd rub his rabbits foot. Don't doubt yourself - do what's in your heart. Best wishes!

My grandson has done this since he was a baby. He will be 10 this fall and is still doing it, and it has had no side effects, with the exception that his ears have no cartlidge. They are no bigger than normal, and he does not have cauliflower ears. Because there is no cartlidge, he can actually fold his ears into themselves and they stay in that position until he smiles. Not only do his classmates not make fun of him, they are constantly asking him to do his "ear trick". He is very outgoing and popular in school, so I doubt that this is a "nervous" habit -- it's just a habit. His pediatrician told my daughter that he would grow out of it one day, and to just leave him alone. I do notice that he doesn't do it nearly as much as he did when he was younger, so I'm sure one day it will stop altogether. Don't stress it.

I also agree, I doubt he has had an ear infection for 4 years. My son has a similiar habit, but he bites the back of his hand to the point that he has huge callouses. I would suggest a substitution plan. Give him different things to do with his hands at the time that he usually plays with his ear. Like squeezing a stress ball, or even putting a small amount of play doy in a ziploc bag and letting him maneuver it around in his pocket. It might just be a game to him at first, but it might be a good distraction from his ears. Be patient, its going to take a while to break this habit, but easing into it now may make a big difference by the time school starts. Be very careful not to make pulling his ear something "bad" that he does. He wont understand the concept of socially acceptable yet and he definitely doesnt need to learn that "different" things are "bad".

On the other hand, he might also be pulling at his ears for a different reason, some kids do this when they have sinus issues, allergies or even dry skin/scalp. It wouldnt hurt to mention to your pediatrician about possibly seeing an ear, nose and throat doctor just to relieve any concerns. He would know more about possible effects of this habit too.

Good luck!

Hey there! I just wanted to let you know that my son did this for about 2 years as well (from about 2 1/2 - 4 1/2). It's funny you talk about this because my husband and I were just talking about how we haven't seen him do it in so long.

But like you, it was such a source of frustration for us because he looked so weird doing it, and I was afraid that people were going to make fun of him. He was always checked at the doctors for ear infections, but his ears were fine - it was purely a comfort act. We tried everything...punishments, rewards, etc. It always bothered my husband more than me, but it did annoy me somewhat as well. I think once we accepted it and moved on he was able to quit it easier.

He's almost 5 now and has given up the habbit (thankfully!). I would guess your son will be the same way...at some point I bet you realize that he has stopped on his own.

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