To help your child to stop biting their nails, firstly help your child make the decision they want to stop.

Sit down with your child and get them to write down all the reasons they want to stop:

  • Because their nails look horrible.
  • Because of the germs- did you know that there are more germs under a nail than on the average toilet seat?
  • Maybe they’re aware that nail-biting makes them look anxious.
  • Or makes their fingers sore or bleed.
  • Or they’re just fed up with the way other people look at them if they bite their nails.

Whatever it is find out what will motivate them to break the habit.

Secondly, help them find strategies that will work for them.

  • So would they like to try some bitter-tasting varnish on their nails?
  • Or do something else with their hands like squeezing a stress ball or holding a pencil or piece of blue tack?
  • Would wearing gloves?
  • Or a plaster on their fingers help?
  • Would a nice manicure and clear nail varnish make them not want to ruin their nails?
  • Can they work out what triggers them to bite their nails and think of solutions?
  • Can they find some different ways to manage their stress?
  • Could they chew on small seeds like linseed – or celery – or something with a bit of bite?
  • Or decide only to bite their little nail, and gradually give that up too.
  • Or make up a reward chart for themselves and give themselves a gold star for every hour they remember not to bite their nails.
  • Could they earn a reward if they do manage to break the habit? Perhaps a sleepover with friends or a family treat or buy something they’d really like with their pocket money if they manage to stop, to help keep them motivated.

Get them to think about what would work for them. Try it, and if it doesn’t work, try a different strategy.

Finally, comment every time their fingers are out of their mouth.
It sounds strange but it’s best to give attention to the behaviour you want. So if they’re watching TV or concentrating, try to notice, several times a day, and say:
‘You’re not biting your nails. You’re remembering to keep your fingers away from your mouth.’
If they are chewing their nails, wait until they stop and say – ‘You remembered. You’ve taken your fingers out of your mouth.’

So the 3 tips to help your child stop biting their nails are:

  1. Help your child make the decision they want to stop.
  2. Help them find strategies that will work for them.
  3. And comment every time their fingers are out of their mouth.

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If you need more than three tips on this – or you’d like to discover the secrets you need to have happy well-behaved, children – please contact me by clicking here. You can arrange a free 20-minute (no obligation) chat to find out if working with me personally (by phone, Skype or face-to-face) would help you and your family. Contact Elizabeth

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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