Hi my just turned four year old has been licking everything a lot for the past few months, maybe even closer to a year, possibly more..somethings get blurred.
She licks people, phones, mirrors, and she chews toys, books and her clothes. She is getting more aware of her clothes eating and when she realises she’s been doing it she says ” mom I’m hungry I’ve been eating my clothes ” she’s nervous I’ll be cross with her as I’ve failed sometimes to be calm when her clothes are soaking and it’s winter and I’m worried she’ll catch cold.
Mostly I do well and point out to her what she’s doing.
She breastfed till 3.5 and self weaned gradually and gently, never had a soother / pacifier or special blanket
Hi Anne Marie,
You’re in a great group of people here to ask this and I’m sure lots of answers will come your way soon. Being breastfed till 3.5yrs in my eyes is just amazing! You are a trooper to give so much of yourself to this beautiful child.
I’m no expert by any means, so I can only offer what seems obvious to an untrained eye. Either your daughter has a vitamin or mineral deficiency which needs to be ruled out by your pediatrician or its behavioural. Some deficiencis can cause unnatural cravings to eat unedible thing.
If it’s behavioral, then I’d read up on the HiH article about stuttering. Totally different problem, but I think the solution lies in ignoring the behavior to not add our own anxieties to the situation. Kids pick up on our feelings like radar patrol. Some listening time with your partner about how you feel about getting sick from the cold or perhaps how you felt about yourself as a child with any lingering baby like habits.
It’s also quite likely it has something to do with the weaning from breastfeeding. Maybe a habit has replaced that comfort for her. In that case, you could read articles about ending habits like pacifier. You can tell her we won’t be chewing on anything today as a gentle limit and then do stay listening when she shows upset about it. Though I’m really not sure if it’s the right route as the example of stuttering would indicate to not draw too attention to the issue. I think it’d be wise to ask one of the HiH consultants on this to be sure or join a weekly call to ask.
Wishing you and your little girl the best,
Thank you Lisa for your time and information. Loads for me to get cracking with there. Truly appreciated, gratefully received.
You’ve got some real words of wisdom there from Lisa. Thank you, Lisa! Excellent idea to rule out any mineral deficiencies and even some sensory integration issues. And in the meantime, it’s great to proceed as if there is some tension, anxiety or fear that is driving the behavior. What’s going on is what we call and EMOTIONAL PROJECT. That means that there is some repetitive or stuck off-track behavior, usually driven by FEAR.
The good news is that off-track behavior is off-track behavior. Patty likes to say, ‘some kids are biters, some are kickers, some are spitters…. Your kiddo is a licker/chewer. What’s great about that, is that we can see these behaviors as a sign of a kiddo feeling scared and disconnected.
The steps involved in an emotional project are:
1) YOU get listening time with a LISTENING PARTNER. YOU need a place to offload your own FEAR and worry. There is something magical that happens when we get to offload our frustration. Often I find my son shifts without me seeming to have to do anything. If you don’t have a Listening Partner there are lots of good parents here eager to exchange Listening Time. Since it’s FEAR that is causing this behavior, you want to be able to be calm, connected playful and patient.
2) ramp up the SPECIAL TIME – it’s best to do Special Time more frequently in smaller doses – 5-7 minutes several times each day if you can. Make sure you use a TIMER. That gives her a LIMIT to bump up against. More Special Time will pour in more safety and connection. And more endings will give her more opportunities to offload.
3) Lots of rough’n’tumble physical PLAY where you take the LESS powerful role. She needs this skin-to-skin contact to help her FEEL you; feel your connection. This rough play helps counter her feelings of powerlessness and fear.
4) As Lisa said, you will want to starting gently BRINGING LIMITS. You can bring a limit on the licking and chewing. You can also bring Little Limits on something you might normally work-around…. For example, you might give her a different piece of toast if she complains, or put on her shoes so you can get out the door. Instead of doing a work-around, if you have time, Set A Limit. It’s not about the toast or the shoes. It’s about giving her more opportunities to cry hard and release some of the fear. When you BRING the Limit, they you will calmly STAYLISTEN to her tears. The more you listen, the less she may need to lick/chew.
5) You can also set Limits PLAYFULLY. These articles, as Lisa suggested, will give you ideas on how to Set Limits kindly and Staylisten and also how to PLAY with the behavior and LISTEN for the LAUGHTER. Laughter is also off-loading fear.
Now you have even more to “chew on” (bad joke) Take your time looking through these resources. As I said, the very first step is for YOU to get Listening Time. After you’ve gotten a chance to laugh and cry about your sweet girl, then start adding in more Special Time and roughhousing. Let us know if we can help with finding a Listening Partner, and if you’d like more support in the form of a Private Consultation and/or our 6 week Starter Class.
You are such a thoughtful good Mama. Please do let us know how it goes.
Peace & Smiles,
Hand in Hand Certified Instructor
Conscious Child-raising Creating Cooperation and Peace
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