Breaking The Scratching Habit

scratching habit

If you’re the parent of a child who scratches, chances are you’ve already tried to help them break the habit in a hundred different ways. While scratching stems from itching caused by eczema and other skin issues, after a while it can literally take on a life of its own. Just like thumb sucking, children can start to associate a sense of relief, calm, or well-being with scratching on top of the actual relief they get when an itch shows up. This can turn the act of a necessary scratch into a habit that runs deep. If you’re like many parents, you’ve struggled with helping your child break the habit – but I’ve got some great tips I’d like to share with you!

See It For What It Is

It’s important that when your family decides to tackle the scratching issue that you see it as a habit as much as it is a response to itching. Kids often scratch without even realizing they’re doing it because the mind looks at it as a therapeutic way to feel better. Habits are formed when a repeated action creates a positive response from the body or mind, and scratching definitely does that for many kids with eczema.

Looking at scratching behavior as a habit instead of a random behavior can help create more patience and calmness as you help your child deal with it – and it can help connect you with creative ideas that you may not have found otherwise.


One of the best ways to abruptly stop scratching behavior, especially habitual scratching, is to offer your child a distraction. Getting the mind to stop the scratching pattern while providing something that still gives good feelings and positive reinforcement is a simple and effective way to break down habits over a short period of time. Toys, games, treats, or conversations all work – but it needs to be tailored to your individual child. Take the things they love most and use them as distractions when things get itchy.

Stress Reduction

Many parents find that scratching habits get aggressive when stress levels run high. Helping your child deal with stress by giving them calming foods, relaxing activities, helping them get enough sleep, and working with them in relaxed and calm ways can help avoid the habit from kicking in at all.

When The Going Gets Tough

If you feel that these techniques aren’t working for your child, it may be time to talk with a professional. There are tons of great resources out there to help kids deal with pain, stress, and habits – and you deserve to have that help on your team as you help your child grow up healthy, happy, and strong. Doctors, therapists, and child care experts can all be great resources so make sure to work with them if you feel it’s needed.

Do you have a special technique for breaking the scratching habit when it happens?
Share it with us in the comments below!

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