Effective ways to stop your kid from biting nails

Shutterstock: Jan H Andersen

Every child seems to have a list of bad habits they engage in, but these things can easily be reversed with some effort. Biting nails is something that a ton of kids unfortunately do. There are many reasons that may drive this behavior, all of which can wind up being factors when it comes to creating an effective method for ceasing the behavior. If you are unable to identify why your child is biting their nails in the first place, you may have a much more difficult time addressing the issue.

A child may bite their nails as a comforting mechanism, or they may do it out of anxiety and fear. The child may be simply biting their nails out of boredom, or it may simply be a genetic trait that has been passed down to them. While it may be a good idea to try to get to the root of the problem, you may find that you are unable to do so. If you can’t identify the reason why your child is biting their nails, you can still take some action that may reverse the behavior.

Punishment is generally not a good idea, especially if they are biting their nails as a result of anxiety. However, you might want to attempt to reward your child if they are able to stop biting their nails. You might be able to convince them to stop biting their nails with the promise of a great meal. Another strategy you might want to implement is taking them to get a manicure, or getting their nails done. If they are proud of their nails and want to keep them looking that way, there is a decent chance they will stop the behavior. One of the things about bad habits is the fact that a behavioral change over a period of time can stop things permanently. If your child loves the manicure they have received, they may go through enough of a time gap that the behavior stops completely.

There are also bitter substances that can be put under the fingernails, but this is a sort of evil way of trying to stop the behavior. If your child is biting their fingernails as a coping mechanism and you force them to stop by putting something bitter on their nails, they may experience a dramatic increase in fear and anxiety. You may strip your child of the only thing that is keeping them sane in certain situations. Forcing them off this behavior might seem good in theory, but you may be severely damaging them emotionally and mentally. You can give an alcoholic a pill that makes them violently sick if they decide to drink, but you are not addressing the behavior and the individual is not going to get the help they need. Instead, they will suffer needlessly.

If you decide to utilize this method, there is a very good chance your child is going to wind up resenting you. This response is totally understandable, so don’t go this route unless you want to degrade the relationship you have with your child.