No More Nail Biting

Once children pick up nail biting, it can be a hard habit to break. We tell you how to help her stop.

Q: How can I get my daughter to stop biting her nails? If I don't say anything, she'll chew on them until they're hardly there.

A: "The most common reason children start biting their nails is because they see someone else doing it," says Richard L. Saphir, M.D., a clinical professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "Then it becomes a bad habit that's hard to break."

If your child wants to stop, you can help in a couple of different ways. "Try coating her nails with a bitter-tasting preparation that your pharmacist can recommend," says Dr. Saphir. "Or offer a reward -- a special gift or a manicure, for instance -- if she stops biting her nails by a specific date."

If your child doesn't feel motivated to stop, you may have to live with the habit. "It's important not to make her feel guilty about it," Dr. Saphir emphasizes. Let her know you're ready to help when she's ready to stop.

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