15 Nov
My Twelve Year Old Still Picks His Nose!

We’ve got another guest poster on our hands, ladies! Today’s wonderful wisdom comes from the funny and talented Mandy of You’ve Got to be Kidding Me.   With her love of Windex and inability to be photographed without looking like a serial killer, I’m fairly certain she’s my prettier, blonder, thinner long-lost twin. Obviously, I hate love her.

Take it away, Oh Mandy…

–Kristine, TMH

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I have a 12 year old who has a very bad habit of picking his nose. How can I stop this habit?


Mom of Booger Eater


Dear MOBE,

Before I answer your question, I have to take a moment to stop dry heaving over my keyboard. I can see this happening to the mother of a 1-year-old or a 2-year-old child, but I’m surprised that you’ve got yourself a 12-year-old snot sucker.

As the mother of a seven-year-old boy, I can only speak to dealing with that level of maturity. I’m pretty good at having reasonable conversations with him. I’m sure you’ve already tried talking sense to the twelve-year-old and trying to rationalize with him (or her). If telling him it’s gross and he won’t have many friends left if he keeps doing this hasn’t discouraged him, you might have to get sort of Tiger Mom on him.

You could go the way of negative reinforcement and threaten to take away everything that he loves. In my house that means screen time – television screens, computer screens, Nintendo DS screens, etc. Or get one those spray bottles of water that people use on cats. Maybe you could just squirt your child every time you catch him or her with a finger up the nose? My college psychology courses suggest that behavior modification works with many lab animals.

If negative reinforcement isn’t your bag, you could opt for positive reinforcement, or as I like to call it, “bribing.” What does your twelve-year-old child covet? Promise a juicy reward if the child can stop him or herself from doing the disgusting deed. Maybe it’s a new bike, a cell phone, a video game … all of his younger sibling’s toys. Whatever it takes to curb this booger burglar.

And to help reduce any physical symptoms that may be contributing to your child’s nasty habit, you could try some preventative medicine. A dry nose may be more tempting to pick, so try putting a humidifier in your child’s room or giving him nose drops to help moisturize the nasal passages.

Beyond that, I’m not entirely sure what else you can do. Quite frankly I thought you’d have to deal with masturbation at this age and not nose picking. I hear the spray water bottle works with that too, by the way.

Good luck,

Mandy, Guest TMH

13 Responses to “My Twelve Year Old Still Picks His Nose!”


Comment by S Club Mama.

My house sits at a major intersection in my town. As people drive by all the time, I’ve noticed the this lady’s 12-year-old is totally not alone in this endeavor. Leave it alone. When he wants a girlfriend, he’ll figure it out.

word obsessed Reply:

Yeah, agreed. I would remind my kid that if he wants to pick his nose, he should use a tissue, and do it in private, because that’s a private activity. Taking away TV time for nose picking will ensure that a kid is humiliated and probably won’t fix the behavior.

Meredith L. Reply:

Agreed. I just finished reading, “The Magic Years,” and though it’s about birth to age 5, it does stress the importance of the discipline fitting the behavior you want modified. I think that reminding your son to use a tissue and do it in private is fine; taking away privileges will just make him bitter and confused.

In other words, when my younger brother wouldn’t stop biting his nails, our father made him quit his Kung Fu classes. And now my brother works as a civil servant for the feds. Probably because he was forced to quit Kung Fu over nail biting. Is THAT what you want for your child??? IS IT????!?!?!?


Comment by Plano Mom.

S Club Mama, you beat me to it. Girls, and the interest in them, will win out. One way to guarantee it continues is to make a big deal out of it.


Comment by word obsessed.

Actually, that’s not the correct usage of negative reinforcement.

“Skinner defined reinforcement as creating situations that a person likes or removing a situation he doesn’t like, and punishment as removing a situation a person likes or setting up one he doesn’t like.”

“Negative Reinforcement strengthens a behavior because a negative condition is stopped or avoided as a consequence of the behavior.

Punishment, on the other hand, weakens a behavior because a negative condition is introduced or experienced as a consequence of the behavior.”

Kristine Reply:

Omg. I hope there won’t be a quiz!

word obsessed Reply:

Sorry if I happen to think that somebody writing in a public forum, purportedly giving advice, should take care to actually use correct terms. Obviously, this is not a doctor website and this isn’t medical advice, but come on. If you are asked to write for an audience, at least try to make sure you’re not writing nonsense.

PinkElephant Reply:

I’m pretty sure the correct term would be “medical website”, not doctor website.

Sorry if I happen to be a ballbuster.

It’s an advice column, not JAMA. Lighten up. There’s some small print somewhere that says it’s just a humorous advice column, blah blah blah and not to take it all too seriously.

word obsessed Reply:

I did not mean a medical website; I meant a doctor website, ie, a website written by doctors. Thanks for that correction, though 😉 If I’m ever a host of any public website, I’ll be sure to be clearer in my correspondence.

I am aware it’s not JAMA, but this is also not a private diary that you scribble in whenever you have time. Just seems a little awkward when you blatantly misuse terms while being a guest host of an advice column. Writing seems to be a lost skill these days. I’m not an expert on psychology, but when I write in my ~~blog~~, I at least make sure I use correct terms. *shrug*


Comment by rojopaul.

I got nothing. In the grand scheme of things, it’s so tiny I think ignoring it works. If you absolutely can’t stomach it, perhaps just a quick “oh, sweetie, you need to do that in the bathroom or in private. The rest of us really don’t want to see that” might suffice.


Comment by N and Em's mom.

A couple of thoughts: mention it the next time you are at the pediatrician’s office. He/she may have some insights. At this point, it’s probably a habit, and hard to break. If your son wants to quit so he isn’t “that kid” then he might try wearing mittens at home. When he’s somewhere that mittens would be weird, then he could wear a rubber band and snap himself if he catches himself. This is one of those things that you have to let go; he won’t stop until he wants to.


Comment by Kelly.

I like the whole “remind him and have him use a tissue” deal. I might add the whole, “pull out the vacuum and make him clean up the whole room because you don’t know where he dropped his booger” deal. Because no matter the reason it’s a habit, you don’t want boogers on your carpet, amIright? And you do want a clean house, amIright? And maybe after a few calmly enacted, but dramatic overreactions by his mother, he might decide that picking his nose in private is a better idea, amIright? No need for hysterics or threats or idle comments about what the middle school ladies like, just a little manual labor with a calm smile…mothers are so annoying, amIright?


Comment by neonbluefirefly.

I’m 14 and still pick my nose… Perhaps I can include some insight?

For me, at this point, it’s simply a way of tactile and oral stimulation. It’s something I do when I’m bored or when I can feel something in my nose bothering me. It’s not something that punishment or anything will stop, and it’s really quite a subconscious action, so even if you remind him til the sun goes down, until he wants to stop enough, it simply won’t.

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