Nail biting in toddlers is one of those common bad habits which they pick up easily, similar to nose picking, thumb sucking, imitation, etc. Children can adopt nail-biting because of a number of reasons. They may do so because they are anxious or stressed about something and biting the nails becomes a coping mechanism. Sometimes, it might become a habit just out of boredom.
Nail biting can come and go as a phase and children generally outgrow this habit. However, it needs to be corrected in time to eliminate any risk of carrying it into adulthood. More importantly, it is an unsightly habit which can lead to infection, so watch out for your little one taking to such habits.
Here are some ways to stop toddlers from biting nails.
Address their Anxieties
Are there any noticeable behavioural changes in your toddler like a difference in sleeping pattern or not having an appetite? If you notice any signs like these, it can be possible that they are anxious or stressed. That will explain the habit as well. So, find out if there is an underlying cause to their nail-biting. You have to make sure that there is no deeper reason to this habit.
Explain that it is a Bad Habit
Talk to your child and tell them that this is a bad habit and is harmful to their nails and teeth. Do not scold or berate them repeatedly if they do it. Firmly remind them that they can fall sick if they continue this habit.
Trim their Nails Regularly
Cut your child's nails regularly. Trimmed nails mean lesser dirt and bacteria. Take care of the cuticles too as dirt gets accumulated there and it can lead to an infection. The practice of washing their hands timely should be imbibed in them as well. It will help to factor cleanliness as a habit and phase out nail-biting.
Create a Substitute for Nail Biting
Find something that will keep your child engaged. They might like to squeeze a stress ball or play with toys like finger puppets which keep their hands involved. This allows them to focus on what is in their hands rather than biting nails.
Invent a Reward System:
You can create a chart which has the time divided on the basis of their routine(example: breakfast, play time, dinner, etc.) Following this routine earns them stars, smileys, or any other rewards you want to give them. Similarly, make them understand that they will get a similar reward whenever they do not bite their nails. You can set up a system like letting them have a treat when they reach four stars or more. This will help them let go of this habit in a healthy way.
Keep Worries at Bay!
Stopping your toddler from biting nails can take time. You have to be patient with them. Remember that as an adult too, letting go of bad habits is hard, therefore, bear with them. Do not punish them for biting nails. Understand that this habit will eventually subside.