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Raising Children Topics..

You are here : home > Raising Children > Behavioral Problems > Nail Biting

Nail Biting

Nail Biting

Does your toddler bite his nails? Nip this habit in the bud, or it may last for the rest of his life.

Umesh bites his nails. So do a lot of other children, but there's a difference here. Umesh is no child. He's a 35-year-old man, and he still bites his nails till they bleed.

When does Umesh bite his nails?

  • Umesh bites his nails at home, when he's playing the host to unfamiliar people.
  • He bites his nails at the office, when he's faced with a deadline.
  • He bites his nails when he's watching the television and is absorbed in the plot.
  • He bites his nails when he's bored.
  • And, he bites his nails when he's hungry!
The result? His children bite their nails too, and every time Umesh or his wife asks them to stop, they retort by saying, "Daddy bites his nails too! If Daddy can bite them, so can we."

So what's a man to do?

Umesh is too old to visit a child guidance clinic, and, apart from constant reminders, there is little anyone can do to help him. The habit is strong, and nothing short of tremendous will power will really be of any use.

Why does Umesh bite his nails?

Umesh did not have the most pleasant of childhoods. His parents used to fight constantly and could never agree on anything. Umesh's house was a battlefield, and as a result he grew up confused and insecure. Well, it may be too late to change him now, but his wife is sure of one thing - she will do whatever it takes to ensure a warm, secure home environment for her children.

Why do kids bite their nails?

As is with any habit disorder, the main cause is insecurity in the infant, early weaning or long hours of absence of the mother from the child's sight. When so young, all children need to feel that their mother is close by. If not, a subconscious sense of insecurity begins to creep in, which affects their social and emotional interactions. They begin to feel as if friends or even family will not accept them. Such children are not able to face the demands of their environment and these emotional scars remain with them all their lives.

Nail biting also signifies nervousness, and, later on in life, before you know it, it's turned into an uncontrollable habit.

What can be done?

As we can see, nail biting is a habit disorder, which may be overlooked in children, but when that child continues to rip at his nails even as he becomes an adult, you have a problem. This psychological problem should be tackled at a very early stage, for if left uncorrected, it can last for a lifetime. This child is normally quite nervous and jumpy as he is embarrassed by his own behavioral disorder. Unfortunately, since he starts biting his nails unconsciously, it is difficult for him to stop. In extreme cases, fingers can also start bleeding.

Keep his hands occupied

Simply correcting the child is not enough. Give him something to occupy his hands with. Some children bite their nails because they are fidgety. So, if they have something to fidget with, they may get distracted.

Observe him

When does your child bite his nails? Is it when he is watching television? Is it when he is studying? Once you pinpoint a few 'areas of temptation', you could perhaps give him cotton gloves or finger puppets to wear during those times.

Something bitter

Rub his nails in something bitter. The next time he sticks his fingers into his mouth, he'll grimace and remove them immediately.

Speak to your child

Try and gross your child out by telling him about all the germs and filth in his nails. Tell him about how harmful nail-biting can be to his health… you could exaggerate a little, as long as the message gets through.

Don't nag

Nagging your child about his habit is not going to help. Remember, nail-biting is the upshot of the way your child's brain works and reacts to situations. It is not willful stubbornness on your child's part.

Cut the nails

Cut your child's nails at regular intervals. Sometimes, if your child's nails are frayed or broken, your child may start gnawing on them. This is because the rough edge tends to make them fidgety, and they'd rather bite it off. One rough edge too many, and your child might develop the habit of nail-biting. So keep a check on his nails, and make sure they are smoothened out.

And finally…

Since the basis of the problem is psychological, the mental and emotional impediments should be sifted out and dealt with first - and this can only be done by giving your child a warm, loving home environment.

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Gaurang.6 years ago
My daughter had the habit of nail biting. After trying with several ideas, we got rid of this habit by applying neem oil in her fingers. She stopped biting her nails in due course. And here I’m happy to say that our daughter’s school Orchids International checks kids’ nails regularly and report to parents in case of uncut or untidy nails.
Neha.11 years ago
i truly agree that nail biting should be nipped in the bud or else it is very difficult to change a habit
Shalu.11 years ago
i agree that nail biting should be nipped in the bud but at the same time it is not very easy. without hurting (shouting or smacking) the kid we should try to get rid of that habit.
saturdaysizzle.11 years ago
nail biting should be checked at the earliest. else there will be kids chewing dirt, nail enamel the works
manthasmama.11 years ago
my 2 year old has recently began biting her nails in earnest. she was definately not weaned early (nursed to 20 months), i am a stay-home mom, her father is an active part of her life, we have friends and activities during the day, and we are an emotionally stable family. with all of that, where is the stress my daughter is supposedly experiencing? how can i remove stress when it isn't there? i am truely at a loss... her nail look terribly painful and she sometimes describes them as "owies."
my daughter "kriti", bites he nails constantly as and when she feels bored. no matter how much we pressurise her, scold her or bribe her, there is no change in hr habit. it's a habit easily formed than lost.
Holly.11 years ago
our son began biting his nails at age 5. we tried the speech about germs and kept on him but that did not seem to work at all. finally i thought of trying the stuff they sell in the pharmacy to help stop nail biting and it has worked for a year now. the brand we bought is called bite it. all you do is apply it to the nails twice a week. the taste is awful. my son said "mom you don't have to put it on anymore cause i don't bite my nails anymore." i know the reason why he doesn't like the taste.
solidarity.11 years ago
nail biting is a coping mechanism. there's nothing wrong with it except that the society has a socially-contructed norm that consider it as dirty, unhealthy, unaesthetic and uninviting.
sue.11 years ago
my daughter bites her nails and she cannot stop. we have tried bad tasting nail polishes. straws. she wants to quit but cant
Andrea.11 years ago
by all means, stop nail biting as soon as it begins! i'm 21 years old and have been biting my nails for as long as i can remember. my parents scolded me when i was little, but i enjoyed my habit and secretly indulged in it while they weren't around. now, my nails are thin, mishapen, and have unsightly ridges and rough edges. my cuticles are all ripped and dry and bleed frequently--after i bite all of my nails off i go for the skin around them. my dermatologist and i have been battling a terrible outbreak of warts in my nailbeds, and he blames my nail-biting for their spread. i too have tried over the counter remedies, but the only thing strong enough to stop the habit now is will power that i apparently don't have. i've made a vow never to let my children take up this horrible, disgusting habit.
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