27 answers

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.

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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.

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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!

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.

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.

More Answers

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.

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.

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.

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.

I would have him checked for nutritional deficiencies. Sounds like he is craving something he is not getting in his diet.

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.

A.,
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.
T.

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.

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.

I was curious if this child has a ADD or ADHD diagnosis. My neice does the same thing and she is on ADD meds. I have seen this thru work in the group homes and I was told it was a result of the ADHD and/or the medications for the problem.

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!

My daughter was the same way, she chewed on everthing from plastic pen tops to barbie hands & feet, I never really knew why and I really don't think I ever punished her for it, except when she chewed up a special edition Barbie she received as a gift. She eventually grew out of it and we joke
about it now, she is sixteen and it makes for fun conversation
now to joke about everytime you found something gnawed on it was her... I would say don't make a huge deal of it and it will mostly likely go away on its own... I am curious though what was the timing on this, do you think it may be an attention getter from #4 arriving? Good Luck.

He does this for attention ignore it and it will go away.

My seven year old brother chews on things as well. Has he been checked for autism? My brother is a very high functioning autistic, but one of his problems with this is chewing on things - like blankets, string, and some other weird things. For some reason, autistic children like putting weird things in their mouths.

Hello A., I would consult a doctor on this one. It sounds like a deficiency, like pica during pregnancy. I have heard these strange cravings in relationship to celiac disease (extreme gluten intolerance). ~T.

but him a bag of jerkey an tell him this is better to chew on when he feels like it an its so much better and tasty it will help his teeth an keep his shirts in tack..

I think maybe your nephew has an oral fixation. I have one as well. It just feels good to have things in or touching our mouths. Unfortunately mine evolved into nail biting, something I still struggle not to do. I know you don't necessarily want him looking sloppy, but maybe you could give him a half stick of gum to chew on. A half piece would be less noticeable than a whole and then he wouldn't destroy things because his mouth would be occupied. Just a little reassurance, as I have gotten older my fixation has decreased in intensity, his probably will too.

Actually, punishment is probably the worst thing your sister could do. He obviously started doing this and found it comforting for some reason. Whether he is still doing it for comfort or it is now just a bad habit is not the issue, although it is something to definitely consider and look at. My oldest daughter sucked her thumb until she was 7 (her teeth are fine). I told her she needed to stop because it was going to hurt her teeth...she knew that...she'd heard it before. I finally asked her if she would like to stop. She said she did want to stop. I asked her if she would like me to help her. She said yes. I suggested that everytime I saw her with her thumb in her mouth, that I give her a sign or say something very short, like her name with a motion of pointing my thumb toward my mouth inconspicuously...it didn't really matter exactly what, just not anything long or loud. I never made it out to be that she was wrong or bad for doing this. Has your sister ever had a bad habit she wishes she could quit? Wouldn't help for that seem more reasonable than punishment? Anyway, my daughter stopped not too long after. She was able to stop because she wanted to and because she was willing to accept some help to do so. When I was very young, younger than I can remember, I started biting my nails...probably for comfort because our household could be very stressful. It drove my mother crazy...the more she tried to get me to stop or insist on giving me the help she just knew would work, the worse my habit became. I couldn't have told you why back then, but looking back I know I felt bad about it and like I was always dissappointing her...which lead me back to biting my nails. It was a vicious cycle. I would suggest to your sister she ask your son if he would like to stop his chewing habit and if there is anything he thinks she might do to help him achieve that...if he's not willing to receive help (not punishment!) then I would suggest that he needs to replace anything he ruins with his chewing. For example, my daughter left her coat at school one day. She didn't bother to tell us and when we figured it out, she really just didn't care. She started to take more responsibility for her things after we had her pay for a replacement with her allowance money. It wasn't for punishment, in fact, just the opposite. We were not robbing her of a chance to learn something...really learn something...not just feel bad and guilty. Good luck to your sister!

My 9 year old chews on his shirts as well, my sister who is a dental assistant says that he is teething. You might need to take him to a dentist and see if he is cutting teeth. I think there mollars come in around this time. Hope that helps!

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.

It's usually a coping mechanism or nervous habit or both. What she needs to do is figure out what triggers it and instead of punishing him, a very bad idea in this particular kind of case, is help him to find a healthy way to deal with it. Chewing is a common one since we start out as babies using oral stimulation as a source of comfort.

Is it just chewing or eating? If he is eating things that shouldn't be eaten I would consult a doc especially with the concern of pika.

It is a soother, a lot of kids at this age can even still suck their thumb. You cannot punish him for something he isn't aware I bet half the time he is doing.
I would try gently just removing whatever out of his mouth without conversation when it is seen, when it is not then just let him know that he won't be getting any new clothes until he stops this habit. It is a habit. Maybe try sugar free gum instead. This way it would deter anything that he could choke on or ruin out of his mouth. I would also explain that just because he is 8 doesn't mean he is not going to choke or stop breathing if something gets lodged in his throat.. Getting him to refocus on something else is the best method at this age.

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.

Some of these other answers are ridiculous!!! ADD? Come on! Add is one of the most over diagnosed conditions in the US these days. Just because a kid is a kid, they are diagnosed as ADD!
All my kids have been chewers! My three boys have all chewed on their clothes, why? I have no idea, I would yell and get mad, but they have all outgrown it. My oldest chews on his pens, but I chew on my pen too occasionally when I'm doing my check book! I really don't think it's any kind of autism, ADD or other medical condition, and how dare anyone offer that diagnoses themselves! If anything your sister should just ask her doctor.
(By the way, not yelling at you, just yelling at dumb people on here, lol)

Both my boys have SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) and before they received occupational therapy one of the signs that they displayed was chewing on things such as their clothing. There are many other things they did to clue us and the occupational therapist in that were different as well but we still give the boys acceptable alternatives at times when they are having a hard time integrating their senses (i.e. chewing gum, chewing stale Starbursts, oral exercisers, sucking applesauce through a straw, among others).

Go to kidfoundation.org to learn more about SPD.

Best wishes for your sister and your nephew.

it could be a sensory issue.he made need the sensory stimulation for one reason or another. my son mouths and licks things as part of his asperger's syndrome. talk with you school or your sons doc to be evaluated.

My 6-year-old daughter is also a chewer. Her teacher suggested letting her chew gum, and allows her to have it in school as long as it stays discreetly in her mouth and she disposes of it properly when she's done. We've been doing this about one month, and it does seem to be helping. Her nails and hair are growing unmolested, her clothes are staying in one piece, and her pencil erasers are staying more or less un-gnawed.

Is there a pattern to when he chews? In my daughter's case, it was happening at times when her active focus was somewhere else and she was sitting still - listening in circle time or reading time at school, watching TV, trying (unsuccessfully, usually) to pay attention in church, etc. Making her aware of when she was doing it and allowing her to have the gum at such times have helped a lot.

My daughter's teacher also told me that this sort of thing is not rare, and most kids do outgrow it by second grade or so.

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