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The Nail Biter

By Meghan Gesswein |

Dylan bites his fingernails. It drives me insane, but no matter how hard I’ve tried to get him to stop, he won’t.

He can’t. It’s his “thing.”

It’s dirty and gross and it makes his hands look weird, but still, he constantly has his fingers in his mouth. As a kid I bit my fingernails too. And it drove my dad insane.

I remember when my parents used to put nasty tasting polish on my nails. I remember when they used to have me wear a rubberband around my wrist, and every time I was caught biting my nails I had to “snap” myself. None of it worked. I stopped doing it when I was ready. I don’t remember when or why, but I stopped. Eventually.

Every kid has a “thing.” The annoying/weird/gross habit that they can’t stop themselves from doing. They probably don’t even realize they’re doing it most of the time. Some kids suck their thumbs, some kids pick their noses, some kids pull out their eyelashes. The list could go on and on.

I’m not so much concerned with Dylan’s bad habit, as I am about his reaction to other children’s habits and behaviors. There’s a boy in his First Grade class who sucks his thumb. In class. I don’t think that any kids make fun of him, but they definitely notice it and know that it’s not “normal” for that age. It’s one of the first things that Dylan said to me about that particular kid.

I sit next to “B” now. He sucks his thumb. And he’s mean.

I pointed out that while, yes, most kids their age don’t suck their thumb, as a nail biter, he is the last person who should say anything about this child sucking his thumb. Yes, it is something associated with being a baby, but at this point in his life it’s a habit, just like his nail biting. They’ll both grow out of it eventually.

Every kid has a “thing.” I want to teach my kids that the “thing” doesn’t define those children, just like nail biting doesn’t define Dylan. How they treat other people, and their differences, is what defines them.

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About Meghan Gesswein


Meghan Gesswein

Meghan Gesswein is a stay at home mom to three boys. Most of the time. Meghan is extremely active online, and writes for the ever growing mom blog, Meghan GWine. She was a regular contributor to the Parenting channels on Babble.

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4 thoughts on “The Nail Biter

  1. heather says:


  2. Mom24@4evermom says:

    Sadly, my hubby still bites his nails too. Don’t count on it stopping. :(

  3. LogicalMama says:

    My brother still bites his nails and he a highly successful NY business man in his 50′s. Go figure. I go through spurts. Maybe it’s a family thing.
    My son is a nail biter now too. He stopped and then started back up again. He has even resorted to biting the skin around his nails so when we tell him to stop biting his nails, he says that he isn’t– and he’s being honest! So now it’s, “get your fingers out of your mouth!”
    A neighbor’s daughter was a nail biter growing up and she would regularly get pinworms– ewwww! I’ve tried to tell my son about that, but it doesn’t stop him. I’ve tried to make an oat that we both stop together! I also try to trim the nails short so there isn’t anything to bite but he gets to them before I can! It’s futile……

  4. Kathy says:

    I still suck my thumb and I’m in my 30′s. It’s just a self comforting habit that’s free and legal, quiet and nonintrusive, calming and comfy…like folding your legs. It’s just a real shame that it’s considered the pariah of self comforting habits; it shouldn’t be. In fact, it’s the best habit of all those in the exclusive category of “bad” habits.
    As for teeth, my boyfriend thinks my buckteeth are cute and, ya know what (?), the are!

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