4 Tips to Keep Children from Biting Their Nails

Nail Biting
Getty Images

Studies estimate that at least 50% of children bite their nails. So, chances are, you might have a nail biter. Nail biting is the most common of the childhood "nervous" habits which include hair twisting, tugging or sucking, thumb-sucking, and nose-picking. The good news is that it's a common childhood habit that usually disappears on its own. 

Your child may bite their nails for many reasons. Maybe they saw someone else doing it, and they are imitating them. Perhaps they are just bored. Curiosity can also be a factor. Habit and stress can also come into play. Try to figure out why your child is biting their nails. Have there been any stresses in their lives that have precipitated the nail biting? If so, try to ease that stress with your child by having them talk about what is causing them stress. 

The top advice we've been given by professionals is: DO NOT NAG or PUNISH your child for BITING THEIR NAILS. Many times nail biting is very short lived, and nothing to worry about and your child will stop on their own in short order.

If your child does not, and you'd like to give them a gentle reminder, here are a few tips to dissuade them from nail biting:

Create a Secret Code

Invent a secret code with your child to help remind them when they are biting their nails. It is a code word, or action that the two of your are privy to that is a reminder when they are biting their nails. It can be anything your child wants it to be. A silly word, a funny action. The point is just to remind them when they are unconsciously biting their nails so that they can become aware of it and cease. 

Tedium Works

Try having your child do a tedious activity before they start biting their nails. It may be just what they need to stop biting. It could be a wiggling of their fingers. Flapping their arms. Anything to get their attention OFF biting their nails and onto the monotony of another activity.

Have a Reward

Children love rewards so develop a rewards chart. Figure out together what sort of treat and time period should be included and allow your child to work towards their goal of stopping their habit of nail biting with a fun reward at the end.

Suggest a Substitute

Offer your child a substitute like play dough. It could just be that your child is bored and needs something to do with their hands. Offer something for them to do with their hands when they are bored and see if that doesn't cure the problem.