This is everything you need to know about nail biting. Nail biting is a very common habit for young children. Most children pick up this habit at one point or another when they are toddlers. But why do they do it? Your child’s nail biting habit could be caused by a wide range of things. In many cases, children will stop biting their nails. However, some people do continue biting their nails into adulthood. Here is what you should know.
Children bite their nails because of stress, boredom, curiosity, or just because it is a habit they picked up by watching someone else do it. It is one of the common habits many children pick up, along with nose-picking, grinding their teeth, thumb sucking, or hair fiddling/eating. Thankfully, these other habits don’t often last as long as nail biting.
Many children bite their nails when they are in uncomfortable situations. It is one of the most common reasons a child will begin. It is completely normal for young children to feel overwhelmed, especially as they begin to interact with other children and learn new things at the nursery or school. They are in the stage of their life where they begin developing ways to cope with stress. Many children begin biting their nails, but later find other ways to reduce stress.
While it may be completely normal, there are plenty of methods you can use to stop your child from eating their nails. This is the perfect time for you to help them develop other ways to manage their stress levels and avoid chewing on their nails.
Tips for Encouraging Children to Stop Biting Their Nails
- Keep up with nail growth. Some children are biting their nails just because they are getting too long, or are getting caught on things. They are biting them as a response to their discomfort. Keep track of how quickly their nails grow and cut them as frequently as you need to. Don’t forget to file away rough edges with a nail file.
- Show them you understand how hard it is to kick a habit. Many adults have nervous habits that can take years to overcome. You may be one of them. Never make you child feel bad about biting their nails. If it’s caused by anxiety, that can make it worse. Some kids also will learn that the behavior is a good way to get your attention. Don’t talk about their nail biting when you catch them doing it.
- Nail biting products like paints and pepper can feel like a punishment. They don’t work well for toddlers.
- Congratulate your child when they avoid biting their nails. Reward systems are a great way to reinforce positive behaviors. Some families use a point, or sticker, system to help their children choose to make good choices. When you don’t see them bite their nails for a day, they earn a point toward their favorite treat or activity.
- Validate the reasons why they may be anxious. Starting school, moving to a new home, or having a new sibling could make any child anxious. It will take some time for them to get used to any changes in their life. Just be sure to reassure them that change can be good. Stay positive and try to have conversations with them about what is making them anxious.
- Some children bite their nails if they are uncomfortable. This can be caused by allergies, or asthma you may not know they have yet. Try using room dehumidifiers and purifiers to help make the air quality better.
- Subtly let them know when they are biting their nails. This isn’t to make them feel bad. Some children just aren’t even aware they are biting their nails. Choose a gentle signal that won’t embarrass them in public. A little brush on their head or tap on their shoulder is perfect.
- Offer better habits. Give them something else to fiddle with instead of biting their nails. A stress-ball, or similar object that can fit in their pocket is perfect.
- Work with them to find solutions. Don’t force your child to wear anything they don’t want to. If they do want to wear stickers or nail polish as a reminder to stop biting their nails, by all means, do it. However, if that’s not something they’d enjoy, talk to them about other solutions.
I hope these tips help you better understand your child and their habit. Just remember to listen to them. What they say to you can help you find solutions that will help them learn how to handle stress, or give them tools to stop bad habits as they grow into adulthood.