Some parents have expressed concern over their child’s obsessive-compulsive need to chew on everything. Parents have discussed their children chewing on pieces of plastic, pencils, their clothes or hair; and everything in between.
Once babies go through the teething stage, we naturally assume that the days of watching them put nearly everything in their mouth has come to an end. Many parents are at a loss when their toddler or even older child continues to incessantly chew on everything.
Chewing is a habit much like thumb sucking or hair twisting. It’s a habit that can be broken with the proper reinforcement. Just like any other habit, chewing likely has an underlying cause. There is probably a very good reason why your child is chewing on everything. If you can come to understand the habit better, or at least discover why your child does it, you can help them to break the habit.
You probably have little behavioral aids when you are really trying to focus on something. Many people bite their nails, twist their hair, scratch their head or incessantly shake their leg. Most people have some quirky behavior that they habitually do when trying hard to focus.
Chewing may be a way of helping your child to focus. When they are working on homework, concentrating in class, or trying to learn something new, chewing may help them to relax enough to focus. If this is the case, they may just need something else to help them focus.
Many children chew as a means of relieving their tension, frustration, and any other negative feelings they may have. While other children resort to hitting, biting, or tantrums, some children simply start chewing their clothes.
It may also help to closely observe your child and try to determine the cause of the tension. Is it a particular subject in school? Are they being bullied? Are they not getting enough exercise or enough sleep? If there is a specific cause of the tension that is leading to your child’s chewing, dealing with that may put an end to the habit.
Pent Up Energy
If your child chews and chews but really isn’t very active otherwise, one might have something to do with the other. Your child may be frustrated physically with not having an outlet for all of their energy.
The human body has a physical need to be mobile. We need to move about in order to expend the energy that our bodies create. Anyone with children knows that they have a lot more energy than we do. All of that energy needs to go somewhere.
If you feel that this may be the case, try to get your child moving more. Suggest going outside to play, arrange play dates at the park; anything to get them active. You may start to notice that once your child is busy, the chewing stops.
If your child’s chewing seems to have suddenly come out of nowhere, it may have something to do with things going on in the mouth. Children will often resort to chewing as a means of soothing pain in their mouths. It may be a result of new teeth coming in, cavities, or other issues, but you need to find out.
Many times, children just have a need to stimulate their jaw muscles. The muscles become tight if they are not used, and this could definitely be the problem if your child is on a diet consisting of mostly soft foods. Try adding more solid foods to your child’s diet and see if the chewing wanes any.
If your child has a tendency to chew on everything, talk to Drs. James or Samuel Owens during your next visit.