When I was a child, my parents worried about my thumb sucking. They appealed to my vanity, telling me I would end up with crooked teeth. They tried smearing a hot-tasting substance on my thumb.
I remember reciting a little prayer as my mother would tuck me in at night. It was actually grace, because that's all I could think of - "God is good, God is great, and we thank him for our food . . ." I would end by tacking on this: "And please help me to stop sucking my thumb."
Either that or humiliation did the trick. My first-grade teacher loudly told me to cut it out in front of the whole class.
But it was only the first in a long line of bad habits, not that mine are any worse than average. I eat a little too much, exercise way too little, and so on.
Duhigg discusses how individuals and companies have achieved remarkable turnarounds by tackling habits bit by bit.
An alcoholic turns to an AA meeting rather than a drink for stress relief. Starbucks trains its baristas to harness their willpower in dealing with adversity in the form of unhappy customers.
The wino stays sober. Starbucks regains its immensely profitable momentum.
I'm oversimplifying the author's very good discussion of a growing body of science. It's a fascinating subject, and it's going to be one of those books I think about for a while.
It gives me hope that despite the "phrensies" that can make it seem like Sirius is in charge, a counterforce of small, strategic changes may cure some of our ills.
When it comes to breastfeeding, I don't agree that locking up the formula is the way to go.
What new moms need is confidence. Breastfeeding may be natural, but it's often not easy, especially when the mom's supporting cast lacks experience.
So hospitals and pediatricians don't need more locked cabinets. They need lactation consultants, who give the mom a series of small but extremely helpful tips.
I've seen my daughter and her new-mom friends benefit from this.
Perhaps old ways bolstered by new ways are the answer.
Friend is editor and publisher of the Daily Mail. She may be reached at 348-5124 or nan...@dailymail.com.