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My Toddler Is a Nail Biter

toddler nail biterI noticed it about a month ago. Vivi’s nails were always short and neat. She never had crazy razor claws like Addie always seems to have, even at 9. I figured daycare was trimming them for her. After all, they do her hair (not because we don’t, she just has a lot of hair and it’s fun to braid.) But after two weeks away from daycare her nails remained remarkably short, a little too short.

That’s when I really started to pay attention to what she was actually doing when her hands were in her mouth — she was biting her nails.

She’s always put her fingers in her mouth in new or stressful situations, but sometime in the last few months the habit has turned into an even worse one, nail biting.

I’ve tried to notice when it happens, to see if maybe there’s a stress trigger that sets her off or a particular time of day — and really it just comes down to her being bored or really tired.

After spending quality time with Dr. Google looking up nail biting, there wasn’t a whole lot of help for how to prevent or stop nail biting in toddlers. Most articles said that nail biting starts when kids are little, often times as a reaction to stress. There were plenty of suggestions for how to redirect the behavior, but most suggestions were for adults. Have you ever tried redirecting a toddler? Like herding chickens. I asked a nail tech friend if anything could be done and she suggested nasty-tasting nail polish, which seems like a good idea because Vivi does like having her nails painted — but once she connects the nasty flavor with nail polish I may never be able to get the stuff on her fingers again.

Other suggestions included bandages on each finger, fake nails or gloves. None of those would work with a toddler.

My friend assured me there was no real harm in nail biting aside from stubby stumpy nails, call me vain but I’d rather annoy my toddler now with nasty nail polish and other forms of behavior modification than have her fingertips permanently altered because of a bad habit she acquired so early in life.

Just tonight I noticed that a few of her nail beds are starting to get red and puffy, a result of her gnawing at hangnails and cuticles since her nails are and have been so short for so long. With all the things her little hands are in on a daily basis it just seems as though she’s primed for infection and further scarring on her little tiny hands. Not to mention nail biting can also have adverse effects on her teeth.

I’ll be trying the nasty nail polish tomorrow, if it doesn’t work I’m not sure what to do.

Do you have a toddler nail biter? How did you or do you correct their behavior before it turns into something much more than a bad habit?

Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy or her Babble Voices site Shutterlovely. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.

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