If you are trying to figure out how to get kids to stop biting their nails, it may seem like you have an uphill battle against you. Everyone has heard a horror story (or seen the visuals) of an adult who was never able to break this childhood habit. Not only is nail-biting a pretty gross pastime, but it can cause dental and gastrointestinal problems due to the bacteria from under your nails. Not good! Here is how to get kids to stop biting their nails well before adulthood.
Why Do Kids Bite Their Nails?
So why do kids pick up this strange habit anyway? Just like in adults, nail-biting is done for many reasons—usually unconsciously. Your child may gnaw at his or her fingernails out of curiosity or boredom when trying to pass the time.
An infant will often suck on his or her thumb to self-soothe, and as they grow this habit changes slightly. Fingernail biting is a modified version of thumb-sucking, which can feel like a soothing action many times.
Nail biting can also be a sign of stress or nervousness in some children. Some common stressful triggers for children include:
- Fights between family members
- Relocating or moving to a new place
- Pressure to perform in school or sports
If you find that your kids are biting their nails so much that they draw blood or have sore fingertips, you will want to consult your doctor and work together on a plan to figure out how to get kids to stop biting their nails together.
Lastly, nail biting can be picked up from someone else around them. If you want to figure out how to get kids to stop biting their nails you will need to conquer the habit first, and model the appropriate behavior.
7 Nail Biting Alternatives
Thankfully, there are plenty of great ways to distract or soothe children that don’t involve chewing on fingernails. If you’re trying to figure out how to get kids to stop biting their nails, you may have to try a few different techniques, but with time and patience, rest assured you’ll find something that will work.
1) Clip nails frequently. If you can be diligent about trimming a child’s nails daily, there will not be much of a nail left for them to chew on. This may not break the habit alone, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
2) Try silly putty. If your child chews his or her nails out of boredom or habit, busy their hands with something fun to play with. Something like silly putty, slime or even a stress ball can keep them distracted enough to not chew.
3) Use a worry stone. Another helpful tool to keep a child’s hands from ending up in his or her mouth is to give them a worry stone to rub. This can be helpful for both idleness and stress.
4) Take deep breaths. If the source of nail-biting is stress or anxiety, help your child find an alternative way of relaxing such as meditation or deep, calming breaths. The benefit to this method is it can be done anywhere at virtually anytime—no special tools required. We’ve written an entire post about breathing techniques for children to combat stress and anxiety, which you can read HERE.
5) Try a chew necklace. Sometimes nail biting occurs due to sensory issues. In this case, a sensory chew necklace or teething toy can take place of a fingernail.
6) Employ a fidget toy. Another method to try while figuring out how to get kids to stop biting their nails is the ever-popular fidget spinner toy. This is another distraction that can keep fingers busy and away from the mouth.
7) Get a manicure. For some young ladies, a manicure may help lend some worth to her fingers and make the nails a bit less disposable. Let her pick a fun polish and make it into a mother-daughter date as a continued reward for not chewing her nails. Boys may like this too!
7 Ways to Get Kids to Stop Nail Biting
Looking for methods to try when navigating how to get kids to stop biting their nails? These ideas are proven winners—give a few of them a try and see which work best for your child. Remember, it will take more than a day for these methods to work, so give them some time.
1) One effective way to dissuade children from chewing on their nails is to apply a bitter solution to their fingernails and cuticles. Each time their mouth touches the area, they will have a mouthful of bitter, which is enough to help move them along the process quickly. This method should not be used on young children, so make sure to read the age guidelines on each product. Those who want a more natural solution can try using aloe vera on the nails as that is also bitter, but be forewarned that it will not last as long as the solution.
2) For young children, one of the most effective ways to stop nail biting is for you to physically touch them and remove the finger from their mouth. This will help them notice they are chewing and help them stop. This works especially well if you can put something else in their hands and mouth to distract—like a lollypop or teething toy.
3) A bandaid applied to the ends of the fingers can completely hide nails and make it much harder for children to chew. If you are desperate for ideas to help you figure out how to get kids to stop biting their nails, this is an inexpensive and easy solution.
4) If the fingernail biting occurs due to stress, an older child may appreciate using a calendar to track the habit and making a goal to not chew for a certain amount of days. Work with your child to come up with small rewards if he or she reaches certain goals to keep him or her motivated!
5) 2-3 coats of nail polish applied to fingernails will make it much more difficult for the nails to be bitten off. You can combine this method along with the bitter solution for a double punch.
6) For older kids who do chores and have realized the skill and value of earning money, offer payment for a set length of time they go without biting their nails. As you probably know, money can be a powerful motivator! This can be especially effective if a child has a goal they are saving for like a new video game.
7) Help your child shed energy in healthy ways, like by playing outside or enrolling in fun and non-competitive sports programs. Keeping them occupied will help distract them from the urge to nibble.
As you can see, there are many methods to employ when learning how to get kids to stop biting their nails. It may be a tough habit to break, but the payoff is exponential so it is worth the upfront effort.
This post contains affiliate links.
If you found this collection of tips and ideas to help you figure out how to get kids to stop biting their nails helpful, please share this post on Pinterest!
And if you’re looking for more parenting tips and tricks, please follow our Parenting board where we share all kinds of great advice we find each day!