My child bites his nails

As many as one in three children bite their nails, some as young as 2 or 3 years old, but it is usually around 8 years old that they develop this habit. 

The clinical name for nail biting is onychophagia. This bad habit touches nervous children, the ones that are a little anxious and for whom any worry or any moment of concentration may become a compulsive occasion to bring their fingers to their mouth. 

Nothing to worry about

Whether it is because of the arrival of a new child, starting school, moving or a divorce, a special event can usually be related to the habit of nail biting. A child who has a more anguished or anxious nature is more at risk of developing onychophagia.

But do not worry just yet! If your child bites his nails, he is not necessarily more anxious than another child who carries his blanket around or another one who would have a comforting toy or doll. It the practice is really harmful – nail biting until it bleeds, for example-, check with your doctor who can refer you to a psychologist, if necessary. 

Health risks

When a child bites his nails, he puts his hands in his mouth but what did he touch just before that? Was it toys, a toilet seat, the floor? Nail biting isn’t only unaesthetic, it can also lead to germ propagation. The child can also end up with a skin infection. By constantly aggressing his fingertips, the nail base becomes painful and irritated. If it isn’t treated properly, the nail may deform, fall and in some cases, never grow back. Washing his hands and his teeth will become even more important in this kind of situation. 

Tips and tricks

There are no real cures, only tips to try out until you find one that works. It won’t be easy because most of the time, the child doesn’t even notice that he bites his nails because it is such a rooted habit. In fact, it is so deeply rooted that most adults who bite their nails developed the habit during their childhood. 

  • Don’t make it an obsession. The more you blame the child, the more nervous he will be so instead of taking away the reasons for his nail biting, you will add to his anxiety.
  • By constantly remind him that his nails are ugly, you will hurt his self-esteem. Try to find a positive approach by finding the cause of his stress and by reassuring him. 
  • Coating his fingers with nail polish or a product that tastes bad can work but it can also fail if the stressful situations remain. Usually, anxiety is stronger than a bad taste. 
  • Putting a bandage on his nails could draw his attention on his reflex and help him stop but there is no guarantee either. 

Do you have any useful tips? Share it with us to help other parents!

Image de Sonia Cosentino

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