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How do I get my daughter to stop licking her lips?
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Questions in the Compulsive Behaviors forum are answered by Ted A Grossbart, Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School.

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How do I get my daughter to stop licking her lips?

My 8 year old has a horrible habit of sucking on her top lip and licking her lips constantly. We are always makng her wear vaseline on her mouth and about her mouth b/c she has done it for so long it has rubber her skin raw below her nose. I don't know what else to do. I've used lanolin, neosporin, and vaseline.
What is something non-toxic that will keep her from licking her lips?
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716143_tn?1232351325
I think this is not at all the way to go.  I'm not surprised that this has not worked.  It is an unfortunate habit but you are way over-reacting and being punitive. Don't make it into a power struggle--you will lose. She is anxious not bad.  Self-soothing is valid and universal, she just needs better methods.  

When did it start?  Are there things that would explain her being extra anxious at that time?

Let's start with some positive substuitutes, gum, playing the flute, treats, blowing bubbles, whatever.

I really thing you need to re-orient yourself on this one.  Let me know and I'll have some other thoughts


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I'm sorry, but I did not in any way want to use some method of punishment to get her to stop. I am not that kind of parent. I am concerned that she has developed a habit and can not seem to stop. Of course my child is not bad. I never said she was. And quite frankly, it upsets me that you insuniated I would think such a thing. The vaselines and ointments were b/c she is in pain and it seemed to soothe her mouth. I did not and would not ever use something like that in a form of punishment.

My question to you was - is there a way to help her stop causing herself pain? She does it in her sleep, she does it while at school, she does it without thinking about it. So obviously she can not carry a flute around, chew gum or blow bubbles during these times. Got any other suggestions?

Thank you for your response. However, you completely misunderstood and I do not feel any better about the situation. Only worse.
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716143_tn?1232351325
My apologies.  I was reacting also to the suggestion (now removed) of using various bad tasting things and other punitive measures. I did not mean to suggest that this was where you were coming from.

Let's start again.

There is no single solution but various things that can help.  If you have ten things that work 10%,  that does the trick.  

Are there any clues from when it started?  Assuming that she is feeling stress that is triggering the problem (often but not always true) what may be causing it?

Kids usually do it in a semi conscious way, not aware but not totally unaware, often in a sort of spacey trance state.  As she becomes aware it is useful to have substitute activities to break the cycle, like those I mentioned before. Obviously those would not work in school but there may be some others that might.

In general it is a much better strategy to adapt or divert or modify habits rather than trying to stop them cold turkey.

Hypnosis can be useful if you can find a skilled practitioner who works with kids.  She can learn to take charge of the trance process and the behavior even potentially when asleep.  Hypnotic ability peaks at age 10 so she may be a good candidate.

I hope these suggestions are of some help.

tg


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