The good news, if you can call it one, is that nail biting is not an uncommon phenomena in kids. As many as 60% of children and 45% of teens bite nails. The bad news, however, is that it is a touch habit to break and is often something that gets carried forward to adulthood. Find out 10 Tips To Get Rid Of Nail Biting In Children.
While it is pardonable in a child, it looks quite inappropriate and unprofessional in adulthood. As parents you have the chance and duty to nib this habit in the bud, so that your child does not grow up to bite nails while watching a suspense thriller or waiting for a meeting with his/her boss.
First step is understanding why your child bite nails.
- Deal with the underlying cause
- Make him aware of the habit
- Distract him
- Start by setting limits
- Suggest alternative activities
- Keep fingernails trimmed and clean
- Help him deal with peers’ teasing
- Intervene before it becomes a habit
- Reward and praise
- Resort to few tried and tested creative techniques
Why Do Some Children Bite Nails?
Nail biting is called a “nervous habit” – something, a child does unconsciously when he is worried, scared or stressed. Other nervous habits include sucking thumbs, tugging hair, picking nose and grinding teeth. Kids also bite nails when they are bored or curious. They might also be doing it to imitate someone else’s (another child or adult) nail biting. Sometimes, there is small part of nail hanging and the child must be innocently trying to bite it off, which can cause soreness, making the child attend to the area with further nibbling. Researchers also say that genetics play a role in nail biting too.
The child is not doing this consciously. And hence, while there are few things that you can do to stop him from biting his nails, what you should not do is punish or shame him. That will only aggravate the stress the child is feeling, making him want to bite his nails more!
How Can I Get My Child To Stop Biting Nails?
Do you have any nervous habit? Or do you have any habit that you are trying to break? If yes, then you know how difficult it is! So do not expect your child to stop biting nails just because you say so. It takes time, patience and lot of encouragement. Find below 10 Tips To Get Rid Of Nail Biting In Children
1. Find out the underlying cause of nail biting
Understand what is causing your child to bite nails. If you know the reason (e.g. your family has moved and your child has to make new friends, or any other life-changing incidents), the talk about it. Address your child’s concerns and help her distress. If you do not know the reason (e.g. bullying in school), then patiently ask your child about what is eating her. The little one might not open immediately, but with time, she would. Unless you identify and address the root cause of your child’s nail biting, it will be difficult to break it
2. Make him aware of the habit
As we mentioned before, he is biting his nails unconsciously. Help him be aware of it. Once you point out to him that he tends to bite nails often under pressure, ask him how he prefers to be alerted every time he does it. Some kids prefer a physical reminder – like a touch on the arm – some kids prefer verbal reminder. You can even come up with your own code for this. The more aware he becomes of this habit, more likely he will be able to consciously stop himself
3. Distract him
There are many things you can encourage your child to do to let out steam and distress himself. Ask him to spend longer time every day in outdoor playing – this can burn off nervous energy. Also arrange more time with friends – this can also burn off tension. Or engage him in arts and crafts activities – which will do the dual job of distraction and keeping his hands busy. Teach him various relaxation techniques like deep breathing
4. Start by setting limits
“You have to stop biting nails from tomorrow” will seldom work. Start by setting realistic goals – such as “no biting during dinner time” or “no biting for next 12 hours” or “no biting when watching TV/YouTube”. Slowly increase the limits
5. Suggest alternative activities
Give your child a smiley ball to clench when worried. You can also give him dried fruit or nuts to snack on to satisfy his craving for gnawing. Getting him trained in a musical instrument is also a good idea. During long car journeys, ensure that he is occupied with an activity book or toy so that he is not bored enough to bite nails instinctively
6. Keep fingernails trimmed and clean
Sometimes a hanging bit of nail is what is encouraging your child to bite. Keep his fingernails cleaned and neatly trimmed. This will also reduce the chances of soreness. Also, ask him to wash his hands often
7. Help him deal with peers’ teasing
Many times, when the child bites his nails, his friends in the play ground or school would start teasing him. This might make the child more worried, further increasing the tendency to bite nails. Talk to your child about the teasing and encourage him to discuss with you his feelings. This also presents itself as a big motivation for your child to kick this habit. So pledge your alliance and let him know that both of you will act as a team to stop this habit. Remember to go with your child’s pace and not your own
8. Intervene before nail biting becomes a habit
Early intervention might prevent it from becoming a habit. Follow the tips given here as soon as you notice the child biting his nails repeatedly
9. Reward and praise
Whenever your child consciously stops himself from biting his nails, reward him. Positive reinforcement always goes a long way in building good habits and breaking bad ones. Praise him and appreciate him every time he puts up a good show by not biting his nails
10. Resort to few tried and tested creative techniques
You could put bandages on your child finger tips or if it’s a girl, paint the nails with multiple coats of nail polish. Some also use bitter tasting polish to make biting more of a challenge. While some experts claim these to be ineffective as children, consider them as a type of punishment, there is no harm in trying it if all other methods fail and you are convinced about what you are doing is right
Hope the above mentioned 10 Tips To Get Rid Of Nail Biting In Children is helpful for you.
Should I Worry About The Nail Biting Habit? Are There Any Complications?
In some cases, nail biting can be a sign of an underlying psychological disorder. This is rare, but not unheard of. It might point to excessive anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Talk to your child’s doctor if nail biting is accompanied by constant worry/tension and other habits like pinching his own skin or plucking hair or eyelashes.