March 12, 2008,
A.Y. asks from Helena, MT on March 10, 2008
8 Year Old with a Chewing Problem
My sister asked me a question the other day and I didn't have a clue on how to help. Her oldest is 8 years old and seems to chew on everything. She's constantly finding him with things in his mouth. He had a sugar packet in his mouth the other day (still in the wrapper) and when she asked him what was in his mouth, he swallowed it. Santa also brought him a hooded sweatshirt for Christmas and half of one of the cuffs is already chewed away. Punishing doesn't seem to help this situation. Any suggestions for my sister would be wonderful.
So What Happened?™
Thank you all for your suggestions. I'm going to pass them on to my sister today and see what she decides to do. As my son grows I love reading other peoples suggestions to try and forsee what is coming in order to avoid certain things and how to handle them when they do. Thanks for all your help and I will let you know how it goes.
H.K. answers from Denver on March 11, 2008
My daughter had a problem like that around age 5-6. We would make her throw anything she put into her mouth away. That doesn't help with sugar packets, but it was effective with her toys and clothes. She also kept getting these horrible infections around her mouth, and I know it was from putting stuff in her mouth. Maybe if you tell him that he will stop. Sorry, that's all I've got!
A.H. answers from Grand Junction on March 11, 2008
They make pencils without paint and dental gum without fluoride or sugar that could redirect the chewing problem. Maybe after a while, the psychological drive to chew anything will diminish and he'll only feel comfortable chewing what is "allowed." Eventually, whittle down usage and , and you're home free. I really don't know, but I've used the redirection technique on a lot of bad habits for a lot of friends, friends' kids, and my kids in my life. It might be worth a shot.
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C.C. answers from Grand Junction on March 11, 2008
I also have a 7 year old son who does the same thing. I have found that if I give him something he can chew on such as gum he doesn't chew on everything else he can find. So if she don't mind him having gum she might try that. I like the sugar free kind if I can find it. Hope this might help.
A.G. answers from Pocatello on March 10, 2008
It sounds like he has developed a bad habit like nail bitting or like little girls who chew on their hair. You might want to try giving him something to play with to take his mind of chewing. something portable that he can take with him where ever he goes, like a yo-yo or book. Your sister could also try giving him gum to chew on if he really is having the urged to chew something. I hope this helps.
K.J. answers from Pocatello on March 11, 2008
Mabe their is some thing bothering him he feels the need to chew becuse he dont know how 2 express it or talk about it. Mabe counceling could help or a good sit down son do you have some thing bothering u at school or home we can help u with. He has a nervis complex 2 chew chances are becuse of fear 2 talk about whats bothering him. Its worth a try after all its tough out their 4 kids now days.
T.T. answers from Denver on March 11, 2008
It's most likely an anxiety issue and punishment will only make it worse. My son has the same issue. He's 4 1/2. He chewed up the covers to almost all his books. He's chewed up toys, taken bites out of the handle of the baby stroller (while I was pushing his sister in it), all kinds of things. I even have a chair that he chewed up the arm. What worked for me is 1) politely pointing out when he's chewing on something. Just say, "I noticed you're chewing on something. Can I see what it is?" By pointing it out, it makes him more aware of it. He might not always realize what he's doing. 2) Giving him things he can chew on, like sugar free gum or even a baby chew toy that you get just for him when he has the urge to chew on something. Pay attention to when he's chewing. Is he bored? Is he nervous about something? Ask him questions about how he's feeling when you've caught him chewing on something. That's what worked for me anyway. My son still bites his fingernails, but he rarely chews on other things anymore.
T.B. answers from Colorado Springs on March 11, 2008
Two things pop in my mind...
1- mention this to his dentist. My neice does the same and she has a cross bite. She chews on stuff to make her mouth feel better.
2- Is it a nervous habit? Does he seem to do it more when he is upset? Tired? Stressed? Some mindless habits just happen. Sucking a thumb is one, twisting hair, etc. If you can figure out when he does this most you can (or you sister can) work on replacing this habit with a healthy one.
I sucked my thumb until I was 10 because it had moved from a comfort thing as a baby into a habit that I didn't even notice I was doing.
D.M. answers from Denver on March 11, 2008
I would have him checked for nutritional deficiencies. Sounds like he is craving something he is not getting in his diet.
M.J. answers from Pueblo on March 11, 2008
Is he taking a mult-vitamin? How's his diet? It may be a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Check it out. This also is what causes a lot of the wierd cravings in pregnant women.
T.R. answers from Denver on March 11, 2008
Your son definitely has a physical need to chew. It might be helpful to talk with an occupational therapist about this. There are many "chewies" out there designed just for children such as these!! This need for chewing is part of the "proprioception" sense and challenges in this area are not uncommon. Sometimes these children will also bump into things a lot or run hard or they will particularly like to jump off of furniture or playground equipment. They have a need to feel the pressure in their joints, thereby helping them to learn where their bodies are in space. The jaw is another joint that needs this stimulation. In some children, their bodies aren't sensitive enough to the normal stimulation so they seek more than the rest of the world thinks is appropriatel
I had a number of kindergarten children with this issue, including one who used to chew on the tree branches outside.
You might want to look at the book, "The Out of Sync Child" and see what Carol Kranowitz says about propriocention and how to satisfy these needs.
about me? I am a retired early childhood educator and now give art classes and workshops to adults and homeschool children in my home studio.
S.M. answers from Fort Collins on March 11, 2008
She needs to get his iron levels checked. When they are low it causes you to crave odd things and chewing is one of the big things. She can try substituting those things for something like gum that will keep his mouth occcupied until the iron is leveled out again.