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The Nail Biter

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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