Help! My Son Won’t Stop Picking His Nose

Romancing the nose: on getting your kid to stop picking his noseMy son, D Man, is a rhinotillexomaniac.

For those not down with the lingo, that’s fancy-schmancy medical speak for a chronic nose picker. What’s worse than him having a barely pronounceable condition, though, is the fact that my otherwise charming two-and-a-bit year old insists on the Pick and Lick. My son won’t stop picking his nose and it’s driving me to despair.

If I tell him it’s yucky, he laughs at me and jams his chubby little finger straight back in there. If I ignore the behaviour, it simply goes on approximately three times a minute. On a good day.

It would appear that children are innately drawn firstly to a) the orifice and b) the salty taste. Apparently, I ought to take comfort in the fact that 99.9% of children digitally mine their nasal cavity; however, it doesn’t make it any less of an anti-social pastime.

I put a shout out to my readers and I got one great response which was to give him tissues in a cool kiddy branded box and a reward when he gets to the bottom of them (no pulling them out just for the sake of it—purely for snotty purposes).

Perhaps, a designated “picking spot”—a picking corner—would be beneficial? We could set rules that you pick your nose there. Once you leave the picking corner you have to use the tissue box rather than pick.

I’ve heard of Band-Aids on fingers, hands dipped in vinegar, and enforcing hand washing every single time they touch their nose.

Or even a star chart, with rewards of stickers for every 10 minutes of not picking with a reward at 5 stars.

These seem like good strategies; however at two and four months The little guy doesn’t grasp the concept of a rewards system yet. The desire to plunge the depths of his proboscis is simply too strong, and all thoughts of stickers are pushed from his mind by the thought of the sticky goodness just awaiting his finger.

I have been driven to go to my dear friend, the World Wide Web, to seek solutions.

According to, no matter how embarrassed you are by nose picking, your best bet is just to ignore it. Chances are your two year old actually is completely unaware of what they’re doing, but they’re touching ‘up there’ because of a cold or dry nasal passage that is creating a discomfort or a sensation and that there is indeed something worth touching up there. You know yourself: sometimes you just need a good pick. It’s only due to social constraints in the Western World that we don’t do it openly, unlike our eager, shameless toddlers.

They then suggest that pressuring them to stop may trigger a power struggle. The more they realise that this behaviour gets to you, the more pleasure they’ll take in it.

Ahhhhh, yep…..I can verify this for a fact.

My research didn’t lead me any closer to a solution for my biggest problem….they didn’t saying anything about eating it. To the best of my nasal knowledge, boogers (not a technical term) are sticky so as to catch germs and dust and other foreign objects from entering the lungs. If they all collect into a sticky gem, then surely eating is fast tracking bacterial nastiness directly into your system.

Gross, right? I’m cringing as I write it.

Au contraire, dear readers. I found a guy who actually encourages eating salty nose oysters. Friedrich Bischinger, an Austrian doctor specialising in lungs, advocates using fingers to pick and ingest nasal mucus, stating that people who do so get “a natural boost to their immune system,” according to my old friend, Wikipedia.

It would appear that the biggest danger is grimey little fingers digging too deep and perforating the skin, potentially causing infection.

You know, I’m not convinced. Give me a multi-vitamin any day.

Ok, so medically, it’s not so bad, but socially? Oh yeah, you betcha, it’s uncool. It may be funny or gross when a two year old does it, but it’s just plain gross when a grown-up does it, and no one wants their baby to grow up to be that dude that picks his nose and eats it at the traffic lights.

The good news is, unlike nail biting, the habit of nose picking and munching is not carried into adulthood. Whether it’s something that you simply grow out of, or an incident occurs whereby you are thoroughly and publicly shamed and cease to do it, is unclear, but we can take comfort that by the time they’re going to school, they’ll probably have got the idea that although you can freely pick your nose, doing it in public is frowned upon, and eating it will not win you points with friends.

Do your kids pick their noses? How do you handle that situation?

Danielle Colley

Danielle is a writer, a tv producer, and a great lover of food. She’s a wife, a mother, and a photographic enthusiast. She’s a mother to two kids, blogs about amazing recipes (complete with beautiful photos) and even launched her own TV segment, Holsby TV. She blogs at Keeping Up with the Holsbys.

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  1. Steph says

    Yep, ignoring seems the to be the way to go for us. When I’ve tried to openly discourage it, my daughter declares, “But I have a booger and it hurts. I need to get it out.” Who can argue with that?
    Steph recently posted..Bedtime LearningMy Profile

  2. says

    I’m so glad this affirms my do-nothing-and-hope-it-goes-away approach. My toddler is a digger! We have a Yummy Yucky book with a spread that says, “Burgers are yummy. Boogers are yucky.” He loves to tease me, “Boogers are… Yummy!” as he puts one in his mouth.

  3. Teresa Cleveland Wendel says

    Like you said, best to ignore. But I did tell one grandson who was always mining for boogers that he better quit before he goes to school or the kids will brand him Booger Boy for the rest of his life. That seemed to do the trick.
    Teresa Cleveland Wendel recently posted..Skateboarder BluesMy Profile

  4. Fay says

    Jake has a bit of thing about his nose and if it needs picking its quite urgent.
    He was round my in laws and my mother in law told him to stop, that it wasn’t very nice to pick your nose in company.
    Jake sat squirming in his seat for a moment or two before getting up and walking out to the hallway and informing them: I am just going outside the room for a while. before pulling the door closed behind him.
    Of course they all went to spy on him , he was stood there giving his nose a good pick.
    No one tells Jake not to pick his snout :)
    Fay recently posted..My Marriage Style.. part 2My Profile

  5. Danielle says

    It’s so great to see everyone’s response to this sticky matter!
    Knowing that your kid is not the only gross one out there is always comforting….
    Thanks for such a warm welcome for my guest blog.