Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How to Peacefully Get Boogies Out of Your Toddler's Nose

My toddler, M, hates when I have to get boogies out of his nose. He fights it, and I've struggled and failed to clean his nose peacefully.

But tonight, I had a revelation/breakthrough!

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A seed was planted in my mind last week when I read Parent Allies' tips for being an ally to your child during teeth brushing. One thing the author brought up was that kids create strong memories of pain, so if a toothbrush knocks into their gums and it hurts, they associate the toothbrush with pain.

Fastforward to tonight when I was determined to clean my M's nose peacefully. It's something we have to do before bed or else he sleeps poorly all night long. We've resorted to holding him down and just pushing through to get the job done, but it breaks our hearts. Finally today, I put my foot down. No more holding him down while he screams and thrashes!


The first thing I tried was reversing roles. I told M it was time to get boogies out of his nose, but that he could get mine out first. I handed him the nose bulb thing, and he clumsily jabbed it in my nose. OUUCCHHH. That thing actually hurts! I tried so hard not to flinch the whole time because I didn't want to scare him. And then I remembered the above article's mention of pain memory. I must have poked his nose too hard at some point, and now he's scared of it. I had no idea! So I'm throwing that bulb away tomorrow. It's a goner.

Then I asked M if the bulb hurt his nose before. He said that it had, so I told him I was sorry and asked if he would forgive me. My sweetie said yes. But this was just the beginning because that pain memory was still there. I had to create new, gentle boogie memories.


"I'm going to gently touch the top of your nose, okay? See, that didn't hurt. I'm learning to use new touches. Now I'm going to touch your nostril. That didn't hurt either, did it?"

He giggled and said it did hurt.

"Nuh uh!" I said in a singsong voice. He laughed. We played with gentle nose touches for a long time, goofing around.

Finally, I told him I was going to use the new gentle touches to get his boogies out. (AKA I was about to pick his nose. Haha! But I've heard others have success with the snot sucker.) He squirmed, still scared. So I asked him to tell me about his favorite part of the day. We recounted all the fun we had that day, which kept him distracted enough to lay still and not dwell of the pain memory. I got his boogies out quickly and peacefully!

Quick tips:
  • Start early so you aren't tempted to rush through it.
  • Get yourself in a peaceful state ahead of time.
  • Make sure your child's needs are met first and they're in a pleasant mood. 
  • Notice your own emotions and own them, no judgement.
  • Accept your child's emotions without judgment.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Explain A LOT, repeat key words like "gentle touches." 
  • Be playful. 
  • Use slow movements.
  • Respect your child's "no."
  • Take a break and try again later if you have to.
It takes a long time to override a pain memory. I'm sure we'll have to spend a lot of bedtime just on boogies for a while, but it's worth the time it takes to show my son that I respect him and won't overpower or hurt him. Respect and gentleness are worth all the time in the world.

Have you found a peaceful way to get boogies out, or is this a struggle area for you too? Tell me about it in the comments or join the Her Arms Are Strong closed Facebook group to bounce ideas off a community of crunchy, gentle parenting, Christian moms--no matter where you are in your journey. 

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