Care and Feeding

I Am So Sick of My Kid Picking His Nose and Eating the Boogers


Boy gleefully picking his nose.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

Any advice on how to get a kid to stop picking (and eating!) his boogers?!

—It’s Snot Great

Dear It’s Snot Great,

Essentially everyone picks their nose—let’s not pretend otherwise. Taylor Swift almost certainly picks her nose. It’s pointless to tell a child to stop picking his. What you want to focus on is that when Big Kids feel the need to pick their noses, they go into the nearest bathroom, pick, wipe it on a tissue, flush it, wash their hands, and then return to human society. It’s always easier to suggest a behavior be engaged in “privately” than to kill the ultimately harmless behavior. “Go do that in the bathroom and wash your hands” is a pretty soft sell, all things considered.

He may well keep eating it, which is gross but has not yet, to my knowledge, proven fatal.

I wish you the very best and hope you do not spend much of your future time watching a child eat his boogers.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I have recently started nannying for an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old. To say their parents are rules-averse is to put it lightly, but this isn’t my first rodeo, and as long as the kids are safe, I don’t much care how they act.

Except for the farting. It is constant. In public, in private, in my car, in the kitchen next to the food I am cooking. I am not deluded, I know kids fart, but this level of farting for children completely capable of controlling it is insane to me.

I have asked them to politely walk away from others when they do it, to not do it in my car, etc. I have made it a joke, I have been stern, I have been jovial. They always come back with “It’s bad to hold in farts! I can’t even hold it! Mom and Dad fart all the time!” This isn’t a couple errant farts a day; this is a constant miasma of stink. It literally makes me want to vomit.

What on earth am I to do?

—This Cannot Go On

Dear TCGO,

Well, it’s Gross Behaviors Day here on Care and Feeding, isn’t it? My first question is whether these children are being fed a steady diet of cruciferous vegetables and nothing else because this is a truly excessive amount of farting, which, like nose-picking, everyone does, just, you know, in private.

Personally? I would get my nannying résumé in order, because these children are disrespectful and have no intention of allowing you any sort of authority over them. If this were a dog-training reality show, they would be peeing on your bed to demonstrate dominance. I’m not saying these are Bad Kids; I’m saying they have utterly useless parents who were apparently raised in a barn.

Those parents, the “rules-averse” parents, must be your next port of call (while you wait for a job with a less terrible family). I cannot imagine the mindset of a parent who wouldn’t make a half-assed effort at “Farting is hilarious when it’s just us, but Mary Poppins doesn’t like it and wants you to step out of the room or hold it until that’s possible” rather than lose a good child care provider. Do I think this will work? I do not. Do I think that as you eventually give your two weeks’ notice you should suggest they take their kids to a gastroenterologist? I do.

We live in a SOCIETY.

• If you missed Thursday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

We potty-trained my daughter about six months ago, but she still sleeps in a pullup. I had assumed that at some point she would just start waking up dry and then we could stop, but every morning it’s heavy with pee. The thing is, I’m not sure the problem is that she’s incapable of waking up to go to the bathroom because I noticed that once she’s wearing the pullup, even if she isn’t asleep yet, she’ll just do her thing rather than go to the toilet. (I suppose she just finds it more convenient.) I talked to her about it a bunch of times, but to no avail. And frankly, the pullups are getting to be snug on her, and she’s already in the biggest size. Short of just putting her to bed in underwear (and undoubtedly waking to a wet bed), what can I do?

—Can We Move On?

Dear Can We Move On,

This is a rather common question, which means I am all the more thrilled to answer it. Your child absolutely feels that going to the bathroom is just a bother. A good solution here is to put a child’s free-standing potty about 2 feet from the bed, on a small tarp or some kind of adult incontinence pad (they’re cheaper than the doggie ones, for whatever reason), and encourage her to use that in the night instead. Sticker charts were invented for this sort of thing.

Buy a waterproof cover for the mattress, go cold turkey on the pullups, start cutting out liquids earlier in the evening (“heavy with pee” is definitely more fluid than necessary), and tell her that she has a pot of her very own, just for nighttime.

If it’s working, move it a little bit farther from the bed over time. Once she’s broken the habit and actually uses the bathroom in the middle of the night, throw a TREMENDOUS fuss, let her pick out a present, the whole deal.

I promise you will not be dealing with this in a few months.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My oldest son, 14, has ADHD and has been medicated for a few years to help him concentrate and control impulsive behavior. He recognizes how the medicine helps him, especially with school, and chooses to take his medicine most days, taking the occasional weekend break.

Starting last school year, he became increasingly agitated and seemed to be isolating himself and having lots of screaming fits and meltdowns. He became addicted to his computer and phone and wouldn’t shower or leave the house for most of the summer. About a month ago, we took him to his doctor where he was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and started on antidepressants. The change since then has been amazing. He acknowledges that he needs the help of the medicine and feels so much better. He hasn’t cried or screamed since starting. Today I even got a text from him showing off some test scores. I have my child back.

Now the problem is my mother and his father and their opinions. My mother is from the old country and has some outdated thoughts on mental help and medication. She’s tried to tell me that he said he doesn’t like the ADHD meds and doesn’t want to take them (he said he never said that, and she was trying to put words in his mouth). His father is fairly absent from his life, but he does show up occasionally. His father has been diagnosed with depression and refuses to treat it and has some radical views on mental health and life in general.

My mother and his father are not yet aware of the addition of antidepressants or the diagnosis. I’m worried about what they will say to my son about it and if they will try to convince him that he doesn’t need it or that I’m just drugging him up. Neither of these adults are reasonable people whom I can talk to or set boundaries with when it comes to this stuff. I know my best option is to talk to my son about it. What do I say to him? How do I strike a balance between not saying anything negative about these people and preparing him to hear some negative opinions on how we are treating his mental health? What do you say in general to people who seem overly opinionated about medicating ADHD, depression, and anxiety?

—He’s Doing Great, Shut Up


How immensely frustrating to have carefully considered all options, consulted a series of medical professionals, found a solution that for now seems to allow your son to thrive and learn, and then have to worry about the ignorant piloting-in of people who are not living through your situation.

Your son is happy with the medication. ADHD and depression are very common comorbidities; he has a family history; he’s a teenager who can advocate for himself and recognize the things that make it difficult for him to function.

I assume, based on your letter, that you have full legal and physical custody of your son. I don’t really think it’s his father’s business, and certainly not your mother’s business, what diagnosis or medication your 14-year-old receives. (If you were actually co-parenting with his father, I would feel differently.) So talk to your son. He knows what they’re already like about his ADHD medication, and I think it’s very likely he will see the wisdom of keeping this information private until he is ready to share it.

You’ve both done a lot of hard work, and there will be more hard work to be done as he navigates puberty with these conditions. The last thing either of you need is the peanut gallery chiming in. I know that describing your son’s father as “the peanut gallery” is bound to ruffle some feathers, but “does show up occasionally” does not scream “parent” to me. If they find out, you can deal with it then.


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