When thinking of ways to stop my four year old son from biting his nails I was given a number of less than helpful suggestions by well-meaning people, but some of their suggestions were far from safe let alone effective. One acquaintance suggested coating my son’s nails with hot pepper sauce or vinegar. This might sound like a great idea at first since kids usually do not like the tangy flavor of vinegar or the spicy flavor of hot peppers, but considering that fingers often end up in and around the eyes and nose, I knew this was not a wise or safe idea. The person who suggested using these harsh techniques obviously did not have kids let alone good commonsense, and I eventually discovered better ways to stop kids from biting their nails. After trying the following safe and sensible methods, my son stopped biting his fingernails for good.
Stop Nail Biting by Keeping them Properly Trimmed
Long nails are tempting to bite, and if nails are kept neat and trim, it will be more difficult to bite them. Invest in a high-quality nail trimmer, and regularly check your child’s fingernails. Keep them very short and chances are they will not be nearly as tempting to bite.
Stop Kids from Biting their Nails by Filing Hangnails and Trimming Cuticles
In addition to keeping fingernails sufficiently trimmed, watch for hangnails and cuticles. Some kids that bite their nails also bite the skin around them. Use an emery board to regularly get rid of hangnails, and after soaking little hands in warm water for a few minutes, gently push the cuticles back and trim them away if necessary.
Kindly Explain the Potential Dangers of Nail Biting
Kids understand more than many parents realize, and it is important to talk to kids about the potential dangers of nail biting. In an age-appropriate manner, teach your kids about germs and the possibility of infections caused by nail biting. An occasional reminder of the dangers might be enough to keep their fingers out of their mouths.
Keep Lotion on your Child’s Hands
Lotion especially formulated for kids will help keep little hands from becoming dry and rough, but it can also help nail biting. Lotion for kids is nontoxic, but the flavor is far from appealing. Encourage your kids to apply lotion after hand washing. With lotion on their hands they will be less likely to bite their nails.
Try the method you prefer to help stop nail biting, but never apply chili pepper sauce or other potentially dangerous substances to your child’s fingers. Look into the root of the problem, and take the necessary steps to stop the nail biting once and for all. In some cases kids outgrow the urge to bite their fingernails, and in other cases it follows them into adulthood. Make an effort to stop the problem now and chances are your child will be less likely to continue the habit.