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.
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.
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.
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.
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.