Nail biting- whys and whats!

Nail biting- whys and whats

I bit my nails till I was 7. My mother told me later that I was just trying to imitate my older cousin sister, who also bit her nails. And she looked so cool doing that. I imitated her in every way. The way she dressed, the way she talked, the way she did her hair. And so nail biting came in the package.

Your child may be biting nails for many numbers of reasons. It could be boredom, curiosity, imitation, nervousness, anxiety etc. It is one of those ‘nervous’ habits that kids imbibe other than thumb sucking, teeth grinding, hair pulling etc. So start by observing why this is happening. I have also noticed that is also a form of stress relief for children. When kids grow up, they are put into so many pressure situations. For e.g.; a show and tell activity in school, a poem recitation, or a play rehearsal etc. Biting nails can be just a way of coping up with the invisible stress that they go through. So if your child bites his or her nails only in such pressure situations, then it’s nothing to worry about, as they would find a way of releasing their tension in any other way when they grow up.

So how do we address this? Okay, first, stopping them from biting their nails is the long term goal. Addressing the fact why they do it is more important. Find out what’s bothering them. It could be bully child, or a new school or environment or even a test that they fear. Speak about what really concerns and makes them anxious.

I never got punished for biting my nails. Or so I don’t remember. But nagging or punishing your kids for these ‘nervous’ habits won’t solve the problem.  These habits take time in phasing out.

Anyhow, set limits for these behaviors. Like no biting nails while studying or dinner time. Sometimes, nail biting can also be seen while they try to focus on something. It helps them concentrate better. So divert their mind by indulging them in safe alternative habits like doodling on a plain sheet of paper, clenching fists etc. to increase their concentration.

As long as they are not hurting themselves, these habits are acceptable and slowly can be phased out. There are times, when friends of your kids will start commenting which makes them turn down this habit in no time.  

Don’t stop trying. Habits are hard to break and so don’t give up on your child. Just remember this particular habit gives your child the solace and he/she feels comfortable while doing it. We just have to look for safe alternative that works for them.

A visit to the doctor might be due, if your child’s nail biting can habit has been surfaced to a level of hurting the fingers and making them sore. Maybe a professional counsellor may help.

Early intervention is the key to handle such behavioral issues in kids. So don’t fret if it’s happening to you when your child just turned two. There shall be many to come in future!


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