Breaking The Habit

You've racked your brain coming up with ideas to get your child to stop chewing her fingernails, but nothing has worked. Have no fear -- there are some simple solutions you can use.
Breaking the habit
"Nail biting is an unconscious habit that many children have," says Rochelle Harris, PhD, clinical psychologist, Developmental and Behavioral Sciences at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri. "While this is common problem when children are young, most of them do grow out of it."

Harris says there are many reasons why children bite their nails:

  • Nervous habit
  • Curiosity
  • Boredom
  • To relieve stress
  • To pass time
  • Force of habit

    "One third of elementary school students bite their nails, but there are numerous ways you can help your child stop," Harris says. Some suggestions include:

  • Keep your child's hands occupied. Try to pinpoint the times and places she bites her nails (watching TV or riding in the car) and then give her something to do to occupy her hands. Nighttime is a common time children bite their nails, so give her gloves to wear.

  • Wait and hope. This approach can be hard for a parent, but the decision to stop is ultimately up to the child. She has to want to stop herself.
  • Provide an award/incentive to motivate her to stop. Remember that children don't like to be nagged, so point out times when she isn't biting her nails, i.e. "I like the way you're petting the dog."
  • Try using over-the-counter products. For girls, try nail polish that smells bad. For boys, soak a Band-Aid in cologne to put on his fingers to remind him when he chews his
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