Nail biting is one of the most common habits that your child can pick up. Others include thumb sucking, nose picking, hair twisting and tooth grinding.
Nail biting tends to run in families and is one of the most likely habits that your youngster will take with them into adulthood.
If your little one is frequently nibbling at their nails it can be a sign that they may be anxious. If you find their habit is self-destructive, leaving them with sore, torn and bloody nails, you may want to seek advice from your GP. Again, if your son or daughter's nail biting habit seems to have just erupted overnight it may be cause for concern; children who show a drastic change in their behaviour are often expressing that something is wrong.
However, it is important to understand that not all kids who bite their nails are feeling vulnerable or insecure. Some will often unconsciously put their fingers in their mouth and many only do so at particular times such as before a test. In this case, there is no reason to worry about them.
Children usually grow out of their habit and ignoring it can be the best way to stop it. However, some kids may need a little bit of help. When you see them automatically putting their fingers in their mouth gently point it out to them. They will eventually become conscious of their actions, making it easier for them to stop. Don’t punish or nag them - these are ineffective and can set the scene for an argument. Instead, offer them a substitute, like a stress ball. Tell your little one that when they feel the need to bite their nails they should squeeze the ball tightly.
Setting limits and restricting where they can bit their nails will also help them cut down. Make a rule of no nail biting at the dinner table or in the car. Remember, your child is probably not aware of their habit, so be compassionate when helping them to stop. If they find they are falling back into old ways encourage them to keep trying as they will eventually be able to break it. The less upheaval you associate with it the easier it will be for them to stop on their own.