How to Stop Children From Biting Their Nails
Many children bite their nails, but the reasons for it may vary: some try to get rid of annoying burrs this way, others do it to deal with stress, and some are simply staving off boredom. Punishments, countless remarks, and lengthy lectures about the dangers of such behavior usually don’t work.
But there are many other ways to stop your child from biting their nails, and we at 5-Minute Crafts would like you to get acquainted with them.
Why does a child bite their nails?
It’s unlikely that your child does this on purpose, as most experts believe this behavior is habitual, meaning that a child repeats a certain action without realizing it. The reasons for it may vary. For example, a child may begin to bite their nails as a way to somehow calm or occupy themselves. It is also possible that they are trying to get rid of broken nails this way.
It’s important to keep in mind that this behavior can be dangerous for a child in the following ways.
- Burrs and sores can appear on fingers, which may lead to the development of a serious infection or infectious disease.
- Chips and cracks form on the teeth, causing the enamel to wear away gradually.
- Ingrown nails may form on the hands.
- Over time, the habit can develop into a disorder, resulting in compulsive nail-biting.
At first, if the child is old enough, talk to them calmly, and ask why they bite their nails, discuss together how both of you can try to stop this behavior, and what it can possibly lead to. Remember that this is often an automatic behavior that a child can perform without realizing it and then may feel guilty about what happened. Therefore, it’s more effective to seek a suitable solution together and not to punish them for wrong behavior.
How to stop a child from biting their nails
- It’s difficult to bite your nails when they’re cut short and evenly, and when there are no burrs around them. Therefore, monitor the condition of your child’s nails, cuticles, and skin on their hands. Teach them how to properly wash their hands and take care of them on their own.
Important: Sometimes parents cut their child’s nails too short, which is physically unpleasant, so they bite the nails as they grow in order to avoid the unpleasant procedure. It also happens when there are uneven edges on the fingernails that cling to fabric or clothes, which also forces the child to “level” the nails with their teeth. In any case, listen to your child. If cutting their nails makes them feel bad, try to go to a professional nail technician together to find the right tools for nail care.
- Try to keep your child busy. This approach will help out if the habit of biting their nails is a consequence of anxiety. You can do it with the help of an anti-stress toy, like a squishy toy that’s nice to squeeze in your hand, stretchy or sticky slime, or a colored pop-it fidget, which has buttons that pop in and out when you press on them. Some people feel calmer when they have a bracelet or a ring that they can twist between the fingers from time to time, or remove it and put it back on.
- Some situations can be very stressful for a child, which can cause them to start biting their nails on a regular basis. This can be moving to a new home, quarreling between family members, pressure in school, or punishment for wrongdoing. In any of these cases, anti-stress toys may not be enough. You must first get rid of the main source of stress, then deal with its consequences.
- Sometimes a child bites their nails out of boredom. In this case, you can occupy them not just with an anti-stress toy, but with a creative process that requires handwork. This can be clay modeling, creating bracelets from rubber bands, or coloring pictures.
- In some cases, a child bites their nails and fingers due to dry skin. If this is the case, and if the nails are peeling or break often, you don’t have to buy moisturizers or special varnishes. Consult a pediatrician first who will help determine the reasons for this dryness and tell you how to properly return the skin and nails to their normal condition.
- A special nail polish that helps kids stop biting their nails can also be handy. It’s applied to fingernails, after which their surface becomes unpleasantly bitter.
- If it’s really hard to stop your child from biting their nails, offer them a substitute in the form of a delicious snack. But don’t use this method too often: use sweets only in exceptional situations, and give them something healthy on a regular basis, like carrot sticks, nuts, or apple slices.
- You can also introduce a reward system for abstaining from a bad habit. Take a calendar and encourage your child to draw or stick a star in the section of a day they haven’t bitten their nails. At the end of the week, if they managed to collect all 7 stars, give them a small reward.