How can I discourage nail biting?

Q: My child is biting her nails. How can I get her to stop?

A: A nail-biting habit is hard to break (many adults still nibble on their nails), but you can try to wean your daughter off it. Here are few ways to begin:

- Start by keeping your child's hands occupied when she's most likely to nibble her nails, like when she's nervous, bored, or staring at the TV.- Reinforce and reward times when she doesn't bite her nails. Say something like "If you can make it through the movie without biting your nails, we'll get some ice cream afterward" or "It looks like you didn't bite your nails at all in school today -- good job."- If your budget allows, offer to bring her with you for regular manicures. Sometimes seeing how pretty her nails can look will keep her from biting them. The idea of getting a grown-up manicure with Mom is irresistible to many girls and stops the habit once and for all.- Try dabbing one of those nasty-tasting ointments on your child's nails, which can give her pause when her fingers touch her lips.

For most kids nail biting is no big deal, but if your daughter regularly makes herself bleed or becomes extremely angry when your encourage her to stop, give your pediatrician a call.

Copyright 2009

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