Nail-biting is not an uncommon habit. Be it adults, teens, or toddlers, they all bite nails. But why?
Do you ever wonder why they chew off their nails while studying for exams, or when they are watching TV, or doing anything?
If not, then you must read on. In this exclusive parent guide, learn why children bite their nails and how to stop it.
Why Do Kids Bite Their Nails?
Almost 60 percent of the total teens and kids bite their nails, but this habit is developed over time due to various factors.
Whether your kid is doing it on purpose or without knowledge due to certain reasons is something to think about.
A few reasons for biting nails are shared here. Find which one is your kid’s reason to chew off the nails and skin.
It may seem weird, but sometimes, kids do it to get attention. Every time they put their finger or thumb in their mouth, you ask them not to do it. So kids learn that this is a way to get your attention.
You might be thinking that what are kids stressed about? We provide them with everything they need then what they might want. But a kid’s life is not easy. They are dependent on you and look up to you for everything.
You decide their playtime, where they play, what they eat, how they eat it, and almost everything. If anything goes wrong, kids get stressed.
Be it tearing their pants while playing or breaking the glass vase you love. When they are stressed, they bite nails.
Playing can be boring too. When kids have nothing to do, they start picking on their noses or biting their nails.
It is a common habit in kids to feel relaxed after doing these things, whether it is biting their nails, playing with their hairs, or sucking their thumbs.
Growing up is not easy. Kids learn new things; they come across new lessons, people, concepts, etc, making them anxious. When they can’t understand a thing and are stressed, they bite their nails.
Is It Something To Be Worried About?
As parents, you are stressed and anxious about many things, such as work, family, life, and raising kids. But these tensions are invisible to kids.
In the same way, learning new things daily, growing up, seeing the world in a different light, encountering sensory developments is an anxious process. As a parent, you don’t understand as they are invisible to you.
Since nail-biting results from anxiety and stress most of the time, parents often worry about their kids having any disorder. To know if it is a serious problem or not, you must monitor your kid.
Whether he starts biting the nails after encountering a particular situation, watching a specific cartoon, when talking about a certain person or topic, or the nail-biting is just a habit.
If the kid is biting nails while laughing or playing and doesn’t let go of the finger at any time, it is just a habit. In any other case, you must check out your kid’s hands.
See if they don’t realize that their finger has started bleeding and they still keep biting it, the skin is torn, but they don’t let go, their nails are almost non-existent, and the skin is ragged.
Such self-destructing nail-biting habits are not normal, and your kid is going through stress.
Consult the doctor if your kid is not sleeping well and keep biting the nails, if he is jumpy and jittery all the time, and this nail-biting habit has suddenly surfaced.
You can also talk to your kid about having any problem. But it requires building confidence in them that you mean good.
How To Stop The Kids From Biting Nails?
You might have tried telling them not to bite their nails, but they don’t seem to listen.
What to do?
There are several ways to stop their nail-biting habit, but there are certain prerequisites that must be in place to start the nail-biting stopping program.
Help Them Know About This Habit
“I am just cutting them off with my teeth” is something kids often say when you broach nail-biting.
Help them understand that this is a nervous habit, and their nails get damaged in the process. Talk to them about why it is important to leave the habit and how they can do it.
Make Them Acknowledge It
This habit comes from the subconscious mind, and thus kids don’t accept that they bite nails, even if the proof is right there on their fingers.
Talk to them and tell them that biting nails is a common habit. People do it often, but if they think they are doing it excessively, they must yearn to stop it.
Ask Them Why They Eat It
Talking it out with the kid will help you learn if it is triggered by stress or just a habit they have developed.
Learn if they are doing it because of a certain event or reason. If yes, then they might need help. They might be stressed out.
Follow the below tips to stop kids from biting nails.
Cut Their Nails
Yes. They bite nails because they can. There will be nothing to bite if there won’t be any grown-up nails. It will also maintain hygiene as there will be no dirt or germ accumulation.
Don’t Nag Them
If you nag your kids for something, they get frustrated and start doing it to bother you, as they know it irks you. So, don’t nag them all the time.
Many times, kids are not even aware that they are biting nails. It won’t get results if you nag them for something they don’t know they are doing. Don’t let it become an issue.
The more you ask them to stop, the more they will do it. Don’t punish them. These habits simply wear off with time.
You can create a code to warn your kids. Choose a word or signal and let them know that you will say it or ring that signal, i.e., a whistle or tap, to warn them.
Keep Their Hands Busy
Kids bite their nails when they are either watching TV, doing their homework, when you are driving them to school, and in short, when their hands are free. So, how to keep their hands busy.
Give them a rubber ball, stress ball, or silly putty. Squeezing the stress ball releases the tension and stress, and if your kid’s hands will be full and their stress shall be released, the nail-biting habit will stop with time.
To inspire your kid to stop nail-biting, develop a reward system. You can promise them to make their favorite breakfast if they don’t bite their nails for an entire day. You can also offer them to choose their reward.
Engage Them In Fun Activities
Boredom is also why kids bite their nails, so engage kids in some fun activities. You can use coloring books, jigsaw puzzles, making forts, etc. Take kids aged 6-12 to the park or on your lawn and play some fun games.
You can teach them a new sport or bake their favorite cookies. It will keep them busy, they will learn a new skill, and their habit will wear out.
Use Nail Polish
If your toddler is not giving up on nail-biting, it is time to take some tough steps. Apply bite-averting nail polish and let them know why you are doing it.
The taste of these nail polishes is worse and restrains your kid from biting their nails or sucking their thumb. Don’t use it as soon as you see your kid nail-biting the first time.
It should be your last option if nothing works.
How To Help Your Kid To Stop The Habit?
Sometimes, older kids learn from others that it isn’t a good habit. For young kids, you can use the above-mentioned tips. But habits are hard to break, and kids might need your help.
So, you can help your kid in the following ways.
- Talk and learn from them if they need your help or they want to do it on their own.
- If they need a reminder, choose a code word, a signal, or a pat on the arm or shoulder to remind them that they are biting again.
- Help them choose a substitute. The stress balls or rubber balls work for older kids as well.
- Talk to them about their hobbies and help them start doing it. It can be reading, cooking, or playing a sport.
- If they face difficulty, reassure them that a habit needs time to break, and you are with them. Punishment doesn’t make things easier. Assurance and teamwork do.
Nail-biting is seen in most kids and teens, and it wears off with time. If your kid doesn’t seem to break it, then use these different tips to help them.
Patience and a systematic approach will go a long way for both you and your kid. So, be patient, understand your kids, help in any way you can, and both of you will succeed.