Help! My Toddler Is A Nail Biter

I can pinpoint the exact moment it started.

Evan has always been a little distracted by problems with his fingernails, and is continually complaining of hangnails. One day a few months ago, he showed his dad a hangnail, and because my husband and I were both too busy to find the nail clippers at that moment, I said, “Honey, just bite it off.”

Ugh. Why did I say that? Why didn’t I just make time to go into the other room and get the fingernail clippers?

I feel like that one moment set off a chain reaction in my toddler’s brain, making it OK for him to start biting his fingernails.

In that short period of time, my little beaveresque son has gnawed off every single one of his beautiful little fingernails, and I am not sure what I should to do make him stop.

I catch him biting his nails all the time now. Of course, I ask him to stop, and have pointed out the many reasons why nail biting is a bad idea. I told him that it puts germs in his mouth that will make him sick, and that it will make his fingers hurt. Every time I tell him to stop, he obeys, and then a few minutes later his finger is in his mouth again.

I am just really concerned that he is embarking on a lifelong habit, and while I want to do everything I can to curb it early, I am not sure which approach to take.

Should I continue to ask him to stop, or should I just ignore it, putting less emphasis on the behavior? Once the nail biting switch has been turned on in the brain, is there any hope of shutting it off?

Did any of your children ever bite their nails? What did you do to help them stop?

Read more of Crissy’s writing at Dear Crissy.
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Article Posted 5 years Ago

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