Tag Archives: Tensional Outlets

Those Crazy Tics (& I’m Not Talking About the Ones That Bite)

Ron Mueck's "boy" photo by Adriaan Bloem @ flickr.com

I know a bunch of 10-12 year old kids who, for whatever reason, have developed these funky, little quirks. One friend’s daughter mashes her teeth together in an oddly rhythmic way: three light taps and a grind-slide that, to my ears, sounds about as delightful as fingernails on the chalkboard. Another friend’s daughter  developed this nervous throat-clearing thing which then morphed into a full-blown frequent cough. For a while, my son was making this bizarre “blooping” sound. I don’t even know how he discovered that he could make such a sound, but he began to do it so suddenly one night that I actually got up to check to see if the kitchen tap was dripping.

Years ago, when my now ultra cool, college-aged nephew was younger, he went through an awkward phase where he grimaced and twitched a little bit, and now I know at least two other 11-year old boys who possess these same twitchy-twitches. One frequently touches his ear; the other prefers to touch his nose.

These kinds of “tensional outlets” (as teachers call them) are not uncommon in children, and I’m told the best thing to do is ignore them, but it can be challenging to let your cougher-twitcher-bruxer live and let live. Truth be told, none of these behaviors seem to bother any of the kids within the peer group. In fact, most of the times,  friends are as oblivious to the tics as the kids with the tics are unaware that they are doing anything that could be perceived as weird or annoying.

For a time, it was thought that these strange little habits were a sign of an anxious child: the nail-biting, the hair-twirling, the teeth clicking, but research has shown that tensional outlets show a patterned progression with change and age. Basic physiological outlets like stomach aches and headaches, and even the more overt outlets such as grimacing and excessive movements involving the whole body that are characteristic of ten, eleven and twelve year-olds become less constant as children age. And of course, most outgrow these little idiosyncrasies completely in due time.

So if your littlun starts up with some strange little behavior, do your best remain calm: he will likely soon outgrow it, and soon find another way to drive you nuts!