Nail biting is annoying to many people, but it can also cause damage to the nails and cuticles. Chewing on fingernails stems from different causes, including stress, worry, boredom or simply because it became a habit. If your child’s nail biting is driving you crazy, take a proactive and positive approach to helping her kick the habit. Avoid disciplining your child for the nail biting.
Keep Hands Busy
If your child is using her hands for other activities, she won’t chew her nails. Art and craft activities keep the hands actively engaged and help kids express creativity. If stress is a contributor to the nail biting, the creative activities might help relieve some of the stress. Suggesting alternative uses for the hands also helps some kids. For example, you might encourage your child to wiggle her fingers when she feels like chewing her nails. Teach her to twirl a pencil between her fingers or twiddle her thumbs.
Paint Her Nails
Nail polish is a motivator for some girls who bite their nails. Remind her that chewing on those perfectly manicured fingers will ruin the polish and leave them looking bad. Chewed nails often have jagged edges and are really short, making them more difficult to polish. Nail polish can also be a reward if your daughter avoids biting her nails long enough for them to grow out.
Teach Stress Management
Alternative stress management techniques help some children stop chewing their nails. Teach your child to breathe deeply while counting to 10 when he feels the need to bite his nails. Lying on the back and letting the muscles go limp is another option. Encourage your child to talk about things that are bothering him so you can help him process the issue in a healthy way.
Point Out Nail Chewing
When nail chewing becomes a habit, your child might not even realize when she is doing it. Gently point out when your child is chewing her nails and suggest something she can do to keep herself busy. To make it more entertaining, create a secret signal or funny phrase with your child to alert her to her nail biting. You could even hand her a pair of mittens to wear until the urge to nibble passes, as long as she doesn’t see this as a punishment.
Breaking a habit is never easy, so heap on the praise when your child shows progress. When you notice him not chewing his nails, give him a verbal congratulations. Younger kids might respond well to a nail-biting sticker chart. After earning a set amount of stickers, give your child a small treat.