Stop Nail Biting - Top 10 Tips

Nail biting is a very common problem for children. If your child has developed a nail biting habit then they are not alone and it is likely that many of their friends and peers have also picked up the habit. A surprising 50% of children between the ages of 10 and 18 bite their fingernails at one time or another. The habit seems to peak through the puberty years. Many children under the age of 10 also struggle with the problem.

It is a bit of a mystery why children start to bite their nails. I have seen possible causes listed as stressful periods at home or at school, boredom or a calcium deficiency. Whatever causes a child to start nail biting it is certainly much harder for them to stop than it is to start in the first place.

My top 10 tips to stop nail biting are:

1. Try to tackle the habit early

Try to identify if your child is developing a nail biting habit at an early stage. Just like any other habit once it becomes established it will be a lot harder to break.

2. Identify triggers

It could be boredom, or stress or a particular time of day. Ask your child to write down in a diary when they notice they are nail biting. Ask them to note down what they were doing at the time and if anything springs to mind as to what triggered the biting.

3. Increase awareness

One of the biggest problems is that it is a subconscious habit. A lot of the time a child will not even notice when they start to bite. Raise the consciousness of their nails. To do this you could try taking photos of their nails every day for a week or two. You can compare the photos and look for any progress or otherwise. Anything that helps someone to think about their nails on a more regular basis can help.

4. Start a protect a nail campaign

Select a nail and make it the one nail that cannot be bitten. I would suggest you take a nail that is already badly damaged. Watch it grow! This should help your child to feel they are making progress. Once the nail becomes reestablished select another nail to become its protected partner.

5. Love your nails

Keep the fingernails as tidy and as pleasantly shaped as you can. Give them a mini manicure and paint the nails to make them look at their best. If a school has a rule that bans coloured nail varnish then try using a clear varnish. Developing pride in the nails can help raise awareness and make them too good to bite.

If your child's school does not allow nail varnish of any description then try using coloured stickers. These help to raise awareness of the nails. A glimpse of the stickers as a child goes to bite their nails may be all it takes to draw the action into their consciousness and stop them.

6. Artificial nails

If you can find the right sized artificial nails then this can help too. Not only do they replace the bitten nails with a stylish look they offer great protection.

7. Make them taste foul!

There are many liquids you can buy that cover the nail with a foul tasting coating. You do need to ensure that this is reapplied on a regular basis. This is one of the most popular methods used to try to break the habit.

8. Substitute another activity

In case the problem is stress or boredom related try another activity that uses the hands. The first one that springs to mind is squeezing a rubber stress ball. You need to be careful if you select substitute activities as many of these have the potential to develop into irritating habits themselves.

9. Increase calcium intake

In case calcium deficiency does play a role in your child's nail biting problem then increase the amount of calcium in their diet. High levels of calcium can be found in leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, dairy products and dried fruit.

10. Hypnotherapy

In older children you can also try hypnotherapy, but I would be very wary when searching for a suitably qualified hypnotist, especially as children are involved. I would try all other tips before embarking on this one.

Further Help on Nail Biting

If you would like to gain a better understanding of nail biting and how you can break your child's nail biting habit follow this link to a short video with some simple tips to stop nail biting: Eliminating Nail Biting Video

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Stop Nail Biting - Top 10 Tips

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