What do you do when you have a child who bites his nails and no matter what you say or do, it doesn’t stop? What if he is a preschooler or a little toddler? We found a little trick that really really works!
My son started biting his nails when he was two. At first, I didn’t even notice, but then, it got all so evident when there weren’t any nails to cut at the end of the week. I looked up baby sites , consulted his Paediatrician, even asked a Psychiatrist if there was an underlying problem. All the books and the docs told me that kids his age did that. The solution, they said, was that I ‘gently remind him to not do it’.
‘Haha! They think talking works? I am yet to meet a preschooler who can be ‘talked’ out of stuff!’
I tried The Sticker Method. Put his painted hands on a paper. Made a chart underneath it and gave him stickers everyday.
It didn’t work.
Then, after almost two years of trying to be smarter and faster than my son, I got an idea. I started this trick six months ago and it works.
Update 2019: This tip helped me with my fourth child too! Yay!
Here is what we did:
How to stop nail biting in children
What child doesn’t like being pampered and given extra special treatment? Most kids start on such ‘annoying habits’ for the attention so… just give them that! Some kids do it for sensory reasons too.
Whatever reason it is that is driving them to bite their nails, this trick works anyway. I don’t quite remember how the idea came to me but my son and I got talking about manicures one day. He wanted to know what the file was for and I grabbed the opportunity to give him one.
We got out a little tub, put some warm water in it. I let him put in some baby shampoo and drop of oil and then we let his feet soak in it while I soaped and massaged his hands. The little guy was giggling with delight!
We then scrubbed his little feet and let him stand in the shower while we sprayed some cold water on them. Oh, he was having so much fun! His hands and feet were then dried with a soft towel and a little powder was puffed on to them and then he was made to sit in the big chair while mommy sat on his little chair with his feet on her lap. He then sat with his hands on his lap ready for mum. We then cut his nails.
Ofcourse, I had to mention that he had been biting his nails and it was difficult to give him a proper manicure. I also had to mention that may be next week he will have all his nails long so we can have more fun. After the cutting, we wrapped it all up with a little bit of filing and baby cream on his nails and a little star on the back of both his hands. 🙂
It worked! He didn’t bite his nails after that. Ofcourse, during the course of the week, I did keep reminding him about the ‘pedicure and manicure date’ that we had on Friday and I did keep complimenting him that his nails were growing fine everytime I saw his fingers.
By the end of the week, my idea had worked! It has been almost six months now and he still reminds me about our ‘parlour’ sessions. Ofcourse, we do cut down sometimes to only washing our feet in a hurry and cutting our nails only but… I think I have started a little tradition in our family! Friday is now the Manicure and Pedicure day. We get full marks for ‘Quality Time with Kid’ and I did solve our problem and we have (hopefully) started a habit that he will cut his nails every Friday. YAY!!
Update: This post was written in June of 2012. We have since then shared our little trick with other mums. It has worked for them too. I have improvised by letting them have their own ‘spa-collection’ just for the manicure date every weekend. Our son has never bitten his nails again and we love our manicure sessions. Do try it and let us know how it goes.
Update 2019: My youngest, Cupcake is 5 years old. She had been biting her nails and sucking on her thumb too. This trick helped us with nipping both the habits. She enjoys getting a manicure every Friday and every day we give her a sticker on this Superhero chart for not sucking on her thumb.
Please remember: According to research, Nail polish can be very toxic. If your child bites her/his nail, never put nail polish on your child’s nails. If they bite it off they may inhale or injest the nail polish. It can cause serious health problems.