The majority of children will bite their nails at one point or another. Many eventually grow out of it; however a large majority of those who do bite their nails will carry the habit into adulthood. In addition to being a socially unacceptable habit, nail biting can increase the risk of disease and the rate at which germs are spread in your household. Fortunately, there are many methods for curing your children of the habit before it becomes a lifelong addiction.
Cut them short
Perhaps the easiest and least expensive method for curbing nail biting in your children is to cut their fingernails short. If they can’t get their teeth around the nail then it will be impossible for them to bite. Once they stop biting the nails routinely then you should be able to allow their nails to grow out again. They’ll be more able to resist the temptation since they have grown out of the habit of biting their nails.
This method does have a few downsides, however. Fingernails can be bitten even when they’re very short if the biter is determined. This can lead to open cuts and sores where the fingernail has been bitten too deeply. These can become infected. In extremely young children, the nails will have to be cut nearly every day to ensure that they are not long enough to bite. Older children are able to trim their own nails once shown how to do so properly.
Offer Incentives to your Children
It is often easier to change children’s behavior with rewards than with deterrents. The rewards can be just about anything from candy to quarters to toys. It’s usually more helpful to offer continuous positive reinforcement than a big prize every once in a while. Thus, many parents find that offering a small prize each day the child goes without biting their nails to be effective. If you feel that a large reward would be more effective keep one set aside to be awarded after 30 days of bite-free nails. Be sure to let your children know that they will only be rewarded if they don’t bite their nails and stick to your promise.
Covering finger-tips is another effective way to deter nail biting. Band-aids or scotch tape can be effective, just be sure to use non toxic covers for small children. A drawback of this method is that most materials used to cover fingertips can be easily removed when children are at day-care or school and replaced before they return home. To counter this, be sure to check the finger tips each evening for biting. If they’ve been bitten let the children know that the covers will keep being placed on their fingers until the habit stops. This can be an especially effective method for children who are concerned about the appearance of their hands and nails in front of their friends.
Finger-nail polish is another tool for covering the nails that can help your children to give up the habit. Most polishes will not stop biting in and of themselves, but they will serve as a visual reminder when your child brings the fingertips to their mouth. Be sure that if you use a regular nail polish that it is non-toxic as sometimes the reminder is not enough to stop the habit.
There are also on the market polishes that cause bad tastes in the mouth. Mavala is one of these products. It produces a bitter, almost fishy taste that makes biting the nails unappealing. This is a great product to help your children stop biting their fingernails if you have tried other methods and failed. It’s also effective in stopping thumb-sucking in very small children.
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