As a parent, you want to help your child develop healthy habits, and one habit you may be concerned about is nail biting. Nail biting can be a difficult habit to break, but there are strategies you can use to help your child stop.
You can help your child to stop biting their nails by explaining that they can be better than you and how proud you will be when they have nice nails. To further strengthen the incentive, motivational rewards for young children work really well, and help encourage the will power needed to stop biting.
In this blog, we’ll explore how to stop children from biting their nails, as well as common reasons why some children continue to bite their nails despite efforts to stop.
How break the nail biting cycle with your children
It is easier to break a nail biting habit when your children are young by explaining to them why you don’t want them to copy you. Children often learn by imitating their parents, and nail biting is no exception. If you have a nail-biting habit, your child is more likely to develop one too. But don’t despair, it can be done!
I actually remember when I was young, my mother told me to stop biting my nails when she noticed me starting the habit. I truly remember thinking, but you do it, so why tell me not to. I wanted to look like her, with my fingers in my mouth. It is strange, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and in my young eyes, I wanted to be just like Mum in every way.
First you need to explain the contradiction
If you don’t explain the reason why you want them to be different from you, your child may push back and continue to bite their nails. They may think that if you’re doing it, it must be okay. When you explain to them that you don’t want them to bite their nails because it’s a habit that you struggle with and don’t like, it can help them understand that you’re not being hypocritical, but rather you want them to avoid the same struggles that you’ve faced. So, it’s crucial to help them understand that you want them to make healthy choices that will benefit them in the long run.
I wanted to break the cycle with my kids and I know that just telling them not to bite won’t work. Literally, my 5 year old said, “But Mummy you do it, I want to be like you!”
That’s when I thought, “I know what to do!” I got my kids together and told them how much I hated that I bite my nails, how it make me feel sad. How I have tried so hard to stop for many years and have not been able to stop. How it is dirty and I am eating lots of germs and my hands are so ugly.
But I didn’t stop there…
I told them that while I can do lots and lots of great things, even though I am your Mummy, I am not perfect. And what would make me so happy is to see them be better than me. I told them that I think they are so clever, and wouldn’t it be so great if they could have nice nails. I told them that I would be the proudest Mum if they could be better than me and not bite their nails. By telling them how proud I would be if they could stop biting gave my kids the initial drive to show me how clever they are.
As a parent, you can also use this as an opportunity to encourage your child to be better than you. Let them know that while you may have this bad habit, you believe in their ability to do better. Tell them that you’re proud of them and that you know they can overcome this habit with determination and effort. This approach can motivate your child to show you how clever they are and to develop healthy habits that will benefit them for life. By setting a positive example and empowering your child, you can help them to break the nail-biting habit and achieve their goals.
Remember, you are so important in their eyes. If they will start biting their nails to be like you, they are also likely to do what ever they can to make you proud of them. You just need to make it really clear that you think they can, and what they need to do to achieve it.
Offer them a reward to stop biting
Rewarding your child for breaking the nail-biting habit can be an effective way to motivate them to quit. It’s a positive reinforcement technique that encourages them to develop healthier habits while also feeling a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Offering a prize as a reward for breaking the nail-biting cycle can help your child to become more conscious of their habit and to work towards overcoming it. It can also create a fun and positive experience that motivates them to take care of their nails and develop better habits.
When choosing a reward for your child, it’s important to consider what motivates them. A bag of lollies may be a great reward for one child, but for another, it may not be as appealing. Talk to your child and find out what they would like as a reward for breaking the habit. It could be a toy, a book, a special outing, or something else entirely.
Once you’ve chosen a reward, set clear goals and expectations for your child. Make sure they understand what they need to do to earn the reward, and be consistent in enforcing the rules. For example, you could offer the reward at the end of each week that they don’t bite their nails, or at the end of each month.
It’s important to remember that rewards should be used as a tool to motivate your child, not as a bribe or a punishment. Encourage your child to take pride in their progress and to see the reward as a symbol of their hard work and dedication.
If your child is struggling to break the habit, you could increase the value of the reward to give them extra motivation. As they begin to make progress, you can gradually reduce the value of the reward until they no longer need it.
In my situation, I started with the offer of a bag of lollies at the end of each school term for whoever has white bits. If you don’t have good enough white bits you don’t get any lollies. After the first term, all 3 of my children got a bag of lollies, but by the end of the second term, my 3 year old and 5 year old daughters got lollies and my 7 year old son did not. He was understandably upset, but I told him he can do it. And he REALLY wants the lollies!
He said he bites in class when he is bored and has asked to wear the yucky tasting nail polish to help him remember. I asked him, what does he want more than anything. What would make him do whatever he could to stop? He answered that he is desperate for a particular action figure. So the other day, I have increased the value of his reward to that action figure and the lollies. He has a renewed drive to stop biting again and I am confident he will be successful like his sisters.
Why Won’t My Child Stop Biting Her Nails?
As a parent, you want the best for your child, and that includes helping them break bad habits. Nail biting can be a frustrating habit to break, especially for young children. They may not even be aware that they’re doing it, or they may do it out of habit or boredom.
There are several reasons why a child may continue to bite their nails despite attempts to stop. These can include:
Stress or anxiety: Nail biting can be a way for children to cope with stress or anxiety. If your child is experiencing stress or anxiety, it’s important to address the underlying issue and provide them with support.
Boredom: Some children may bite their nails out of boredom or as a way to occupy their hands. Encouraging your child to engage in other activities, such as drawing or playing with a fidget toy, can help redirect their attention.
Habit: Nail biting can become a habit that’s hard to break. It’s important to be patient and persistent in helping your child break the habit.
Dental issues: In some cases, nail biting can be a symptom of a dental issue, such as an overbite or underbite. If you suspect this may be the case, it’s important to consult with a dentist.
How to stop your kids from biting their nails
Identify triggers: Try to identify when and where your child is most likely to bite their nails. This can help you develop strategies to redirect their behavior.
Provide positive reinforcement: Encourage your child to develop healthy habits by offering positive reinforcement. Praise them for not biting their nails and offer rewards for milestones achieved.
Use a bitter-tasting nail polish: Applying a bitter-tasting nail polish can deter your child from biting their nails. However, it’s important to use a non-toxic formula and to consult with your child’s pediatrician or dentist first.
Encourage healthy habits: Encourage your child to take care of their nails by keeping them trimmed and clean. Offer hand lotion to keep their hands moisturized.
Provide emotional support: If your child is biting their nails due to stress or anxiety, it’s important to provide them with emotional support. Talk to them about their feelings and help them develop healthy coping strategies.
Nail biting can be a difficult habit to break, but with patience and persistence, it is possible. Identify triggers, provide positive reinforcement, use a bitter-tasting nail polish, encourage healthy habits, and provide emotional support. By taking a proactive approach and supporting your child, you can help them break the habit of nail biting and develop healthy habits for life.