My seven-year-old daughter has been biting and picking her nails on and off since she was a toddler. I know she’s just like me: she tears and chews when bored/anxious/worried/nervous/shy, or when she’s been sitting still for too long with nothing to keep her hands busy. I don’t want her to suffer from the embarrassment of having ugly nails, and I worry about the health implications. How common is this problem, and how can I help her to stop?
Nail biting is common, occurring in between one third and one half of children. It is not a large health problem but putting hands in the mouth can transfer germs and parasites. It can result in deformed nails. It often runs in families. Most likely because of a child learning from their parents.
You can help her by working with her. Both of you could start a “Pretty girls, pretty nails club”. You and she could help each other to avoid biting nails. Work as a team. Figure out strategies together to help overcome nailbiting. Encourage each other and praise each other when successful. Maybe you can each help the other by reminding.
Both of you could apply one of the bad tasting preparations that you can get from the drugstore.
Take a picture of each of your hands and put them up for both of you to see.
Keep your and her nails trimmed and without snags. There will be less impulse to nailbite.
When you are successful, do your nails up together. Or go out for a manicure. Team work will be more effective than you telling her what to do.
Make it positive. Make it a mother daughter thing.
Don’t punish or criticize. It doesn’t work and it makes everyone feel bad.