Preschooler Chewing on shirt collar, blanket

DS just turned 3. We have a new baby. He's lately started to chew on his shirt collar, his jacket or his blanket..whatever is handy. What is this? How do I make it stop?
Thank you!

This is a nervous habit, and I can see why it bothers you. However, you would rather he chew on his collar than his nails, and either one is better than him taking a whack at the baby. So I think your best bet is to take his chewing as a sign that he is feeling some anxiety and deal with the anxiety. Some ideas:

1. Hand him a squeezy ball and ask him to put all his chewing energy into the ball.

2. Consider your discipline. Use guidance rather than punishment, because punishment increases anxiety.

3. Make sure your son has plenty of one-on-one time with you so he knows that even with the new baby, he has a special place in your heart.

4. Make sure your son has a chance to express any ambivalence he feels about the baby. Read books about new babies, which usually have an older sib who expresses some ambivalence, to be sure your son is not beating himself up internally about feelign jealous of the baby.

5. Make sure your son gets plenty of giggle time to let off anxiety. Play games where you want more, more, more of him and he gets away because you're too clumsy to catch him, or whatever other game makes him laugh.

6. When you see your son chewing, see it as a sign that he needs your soothing. Don't mention the chewing, just hug and hold him, or play a kissing game where you kiss him all over.

Good luck!
Dr. Laura


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