May 12, 2009 6:39 AM   Subscribe

It's snot eating time again. My five year old has discovered the rich bounty her nose has on offer, and has started eating her snot.

There are some great questions/answers/comments here, but none that specifically answer my question- how do I get my darling to stop. Mrs Mattoxic was helping out at school today, and she noticed daughter chowing down on booger burgers on more than one occasion. Has anyone had experience with getting a child to moderate this habit? And is there anything we can do apart from "Don't eat your snot, it's disgusting"
posted by mattoxic to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Tell her it's good for her.
posted by telstar at 6:46 AM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

When my son was just under 5 I prevailed over that nasty little habit by telling him, "ya know, if you eat your boogers you'll probably catch the 'barfing germ' again" ...which put a stop to it right quick.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 6:52 AM on May 12, 2009

You could try video taping her in action and then play it back for her, with the requisite "ewww! that's gross!" commentary while viewing.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:59 AM on May 12, 2009

I would explain to her that when she smells poop it's really little particles of poop hitting her nose, and those little particles get stuck in her nose and mixed in her snot, so when she's chowing on boogers she's really eating poop.

Use with caution.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:03 AM on May 12, 2009

They have done studies and children that eat their own snot have healthier immune systems than those who don't. So, its gross as hell but probably good for her. Interesting dichotomy, eh?
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 7:09 AM on May 12, 2009 [4 favorites]

They have done studies and children that eat their own snot have healthier immune systems

Cite, please.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:12 AM on May 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've seen those studies and eating boogers is not just healthy for children. Booger munching is recommended for all ages to build up the immune system.
posted by telstar at 7:12 AM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

As long as it's not in public.
posted by kldickson at 7:24 AM on May 12, 2009

Burhanistan, I found this article interesting.
posted by mattoxic at 7:31 AM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tell her not to?

-Totally ignorant parent of ten month old/lacking of all knowledge of future grossness
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:35 AM on May 12, 2009

I don't really think that shaming her by watching it on video and then telling her how disgusting it is is helpful. The real problem is probably the fact that the boogers are there and giving her a feeling of being uncomfortable that they are there, as opposed to the booger-eating being the problem. For one thing, if she's got so many boogies, maybe she has allergies or other issues--so a doctor visit could be in order. Talk to her about the social appropriateness part of nose-picking; tell her if she really needs to pick her nose, to do it in the restroom or at home, etc. Give her more things to do with her fine motor skills, put band-aids on her fingers, give some practical/logistical help. But shaming is not a helpful tool here.
posted by so_gracefully at 7:37 AM on May 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Via this MeFi post and the Nose-Picking wiki page, "Top Doc Backs Picking Your Nose and Eating It".

How have you gotten your daughter to modify her other habits? Have you noticed that she alters her behavior from any particular social feedback? I mean, does she respond to what her friends think in a certain way? Snot slurping is a nasty habit in public, but basically harmless. Maybe you can relate it to some other bodily maintenance normally performed in private, like butt-wiping or nail-clipping.
posted by carsonb at 7:39 AM on May 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

I agree so_gracefully, and our fear is that if she keeps it up others at school will be doing the shaming, we'd like to circumvent that. It's a nervous issue, like nail biting or itching, but gross. Bandaids is a good suggestion.
posted by mattoxic at 7:43 AM on May 12, 2009

Just let her know gently that other children will find it gross and that they will tease her unmercifully.

After that, natural consequences usually take over.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:50 AM on May 12, 2009

Cite, please.

Best I could find.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:52 AM on May 12, 2009

Beaten to the punch!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:53 AM on May 12, 2009

It's a nervous issue, like nail biting or itching, but gross.

It's possible that she thinks it's plain old tasty.

I'm in agreement that habit modification via shame is probably not the best route to go. Maybe this is a good time to explain social constructs to her, ending with, "so, in light of acceptable social behavior, which may or may not have any logical necessity, please make your booger slurping a private practice. I know it makes no sense, sweetie, but you'll thank me later."
posted by zerokey at 8:07 AM on May 12, 2009

to fill in around my above answer a bit: I didn't shame my son at all- I explained to him that the mucous in your nose is there to trap dirt and germs and should not be eaten and I threw in the comment about catching the 'barfing germ' to brand booger-eating with a permanent negative association. He had recently had the stomach flu and the vomiting was very distressing for him.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 8:14 AM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would explain to her that nose-picking is a private thing, and recommend that, like other private "gross" things that sometimes you need to do, she should do it in the bathroom. I'd also maybe gently suggest putting her boogers in a tissue rather than her mouth, but you're not really going to be able to enforce that. But definitely tell her she needs to wash her hands every time they go in a nostril.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:38 AM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to chew the end of my plaits, and was told that if I continued to do so, my face would cave in. Unluckily, I knew that this wasn't actually possible, so continued chomping away.

I agree with Metroid Baby's comment. She's old enough to have things explained to her, and I know when I was a kid the worst answer anyone could give me was 'Because I said so'.
posted by mippy at 8:47 AM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Get rid of it as you would any bad habit.
Explain why she shouldn't do it.
Look for additional causes that contribute to it; primarily gunky nose. Encourage her to blow her nose in a tissue every time she's in the bathroom. Also, check for pinworms. Anything that makes her twitchy contributes to picking behavior.
Replace the bad behavior with desirable behavior. When she does it, say "That's not acceptable behavior in public" and escort her to the bathroom for a tissue to blow her nose.
posted by theora55 at 8:58 AM on May 12, 2009

Every time one of my kids picked his nose, I asked 'Is your nose itchy?' Kid looks at you weird, and then if the answer is yes, then kid usually rubs his nose to get rid of the itch, and if it's no, then 'Is it dirty?'. If yes, tell kid to go to the bathroom to clean his nose and wash hands.

This has helped significantly (but not completely). The idea is that basically your nose should not be in the forefront of your consciousness most of the time, unless it's itchy or got a big booger that needs to come out. Either of these has a socially acceptable resolution. Telling kid Don't Pick Your Nose (again), does not resolve the problem from the kid's perspective that his nose has entered his consciousness. Reframing it into a new choice point (itchy or dirty), seems to allow new possibilities for resolution.

You can then follow up with the 'dirty and private stuff belongs in the bathroom' etc.
posted by kch at 9:05 AM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

But definitely tell her she needs to wash her hands every time they go in a nostril. This kind of defeats the germ-exposure upside, and widens the battlefront.

Also, check for pinworms. I mean, I dunno, but you might as well hypothesize that she has OCD. The proportion of booger-eating kids who have pinworms has got to be incredibly low.

The idea is that basically your nose should not be in the forefront of your consciousness most of the time, unless it's itchy or got a big booger that needs to come out. I am so intrigued by this I don't know where to begin. Could we get the child to imagine herself noseless?

The tactics seem to be: (1) convince her that she's eating something foul (even though it may be good for her); (2) convince her not to do it in public (though the OP seems to want something broader); (3) require her to engage in alternative behavior (tissue) or mitigating behavior (washing up). I have no confidence in #3, and assume the OP has tried them. The fact is, picking one's nose is interesting, and kids seem to like the taste.

Maybe make her eat one of yours every time you see her do it? Enhances the health benefit and clears your nose at the same time.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:26 AM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Maybe some fun little packs of tissues to make using tissues enticing? Although I could see fun little tissue packs getting out of hand with a little kid.
posted by orme at 10:24 AM on May 12, 2009

I wouldn't worry about it much. Let her know it's yucky, and you could set rules like she isn't allowed to do it in 'family areas' because no one wants to see that. Eventually she will stop on her own.
posted by jockc at 11:58 AM on May 12, 2009

The idea is that basically your nose should not be in the forefront of your consciousness most of the time, unless it's itchy or got a big booger that needs to come out.

I am so intrigued by this I don't know where to begin. Could we get the child to imagine herself noseless?

Imagining yourself noseless would bring your nose into the front of your consciousness, so no, I don't think that would work. Are you aware of your nose most of the time, unless something brings it to your attention?

In the current scenario: A --> B --> C
Antecedent is 'Aware of nose because something feels different', Behaviour is 'pick', and Consequences are variable.
Changing the Consequences does not typically change behaviour or result in learning.
The idea is to introduce a choice point which occurs prior to the undesirable behaviour in order to change the current undesirable chain of events. In this case, at the Antecedent (Aware of nose because something feels different), a new choice point is introduced ('Is it Dirty or itchy?), thereby increasing odds of a new Behaviour pathway will be chosen. This is based on Functional Behaviour Analysis (common approach for autism, and other interventions).
posted by kch at 12:43 PM on May 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Tell her she will have no friends because this is the honest to goodness truth. It worked with my children.
posted by inkyr2 at 1:30 PM on May 12, 2009

The taboo against booger eating really is fascinating. A baby is not conscious of where they stop and the world begins and that is one of the first data about reality they acquire. Feces and boogers are the most difficult to classify. Is it me or is it not-me? It used to be me and through time and change dynamics it has become not-me. Raging at the infant that feces and boogers are not-you is an omnicultural experience of parenthood. And the experience of getting raged at before you even knew what was going on is an omnicultural experience of children. Objectively, eating boogers is absolutely harmless. Seeing somebody eat their boogers is an unpleasant reminder that you got raged at for doing that, and you don't even know why, but down deep in your subconscious you do not want these memories of humiliation activated.

I can still remember the boy who ate boogers in my elementary school. He was an absolute pariah, and I am quite sure that was the biggest reason why. Your daughter needs to cease immediately eating her boogers where anybody can see her. I don't know how you force her to stop doing this.
posted by bukvich at 4:29 PM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Interested in the answers, I have the same problem with my 3 y.o. (he's very advanced ;) ). Except it's just become an annoying habit, his nose is clean and there's nothing up there!
posted by wilful at 4:54 PM on May 12, 2009

Seconding what kch said. And nthing the assertion that the other kids will be absolutely merciless, as you know.

If it's a nervous thing, can you give her some kind of unobtrusive replacement behavior to occupy her hands? In the olden days when children's sweatshirts commonly came with drawstrings on the hood, my mom put a wooden bead on the string so that I could mess with that instead of obsessively rubbing my face. (Maybe a cool zipper pull would work?) If something to fidget with isn't a possibility, maybe teach her to squeeze her hands when the urge to pick her nose strikes.

Also, whenever she does use a tissue appropriately, go into the bathroom to take care of a booger, squeeze her hands, etc., make sure to let her know that she's doing a great job and that you're proud of her, even if it's just a thumbs-up from across the room.
posted by corey flood at 4:56 PM on May 12, 2009

My kids had this habit for a bit but I had a way to make it stop... when we were eating and one of my kids would not eat a particular food, I would tell them it taste better than a booger and asked them to test it to see. Not sure of the science but it worked and the booger eating stopped.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:20 PM on May 12, 2009

My daughter is almost 11, and I still catch her picking her nose and eating it. We've tried "take it to the bathroom and use a tissue, " etc. for years now. I hope she's at least just doing it at home at this point. Sigh.

What's maybe finally working is all the fear on the news about what we call the "piggy sniffles" and how putting your fingers near any of your facial orifices might help viruses along.

It sounds a lot like most of the answers above mine are a lot better. :)
posted by lilywing13 at 12:41 AM on May 13, 2009

I am an inveterate nose picker, it's one of life's greatest pleasures.

She'll soon be at an age where peer pressure kicks in and it will be more than her reputation's worth to put her finger anywhere near her nose in front of a bunch of her friends.

Meantime, just tell her that snot tastes way better when it's had a day to mature. She will have a real snot bonanza when she gets home from school. I'm almost envious. ;-)
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 5:39 AM on May 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

From my limited understanding of microbiology and immunology, it does seem that nose picking has a real advantage.

Let's just say that "a friend" of mine has picked his nose in private for his entire life, very rarely gets sick and has a lot of friends. His parents are nose pickers too and are very nice interesting people.

His ex-girlfriend once admitted she was an eater too.

He's generally freaked out by people sterilizing their kids environments. Oh and guess what, almost no allergies.

Anyway, all circumstantial. But you could tell your daughter that having her finger in her nose when anyone can see her is not considered polite, and she should wait till she's in private or in her room. Same as pooping and peeing (although they definitely should not be done at the same time). And then hopefully you won't see her doing it anymore.

My friend also says "if god didn't want us to eat our boogers, why did he make them so tasty?" But he only says it in good company.
posted by sully75 at 2:16 PM on May 13, 2009

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