Why children bite their nails
If your two year old’s biting his nails, you may worry that he’s anxious about something. After all, many people describe nail biting as a nervous habit. But anxiety is only one explanation for your child’s nail nipping. He may be doing it for a number of other, less worrisome reasons – out of curiosity or boredom, to pass the time, because he’s still teething or simply from force of habit.
Of all the habits – which include thumb sucking, hair twisting and nose picking – nail biting is the most common. In fact, almost all kids do it at some point, and many continue the habit into adulthood. Still, it’s likely that your child will eventually stop the habit on his own, either because he loses interest or because his friends and classmates tease him about it.
What to do about nail biting
Keep his hands occupied. If you can pinpoint the times and places when your child’s particularly likely to bite his nails – while watching TV, for example, or riding in the car – try giving him substitutes such as finger puppets, a squeezable ball or a bendable toy to keep his hands busy. Cut his fingernails short, too, so there’s nothing to tempt him to bite.
- Wait and hope
- Get it checked
In some cases, nail biting – especially if grouped with other nervous behaviours – can signal tension. If your child bites his nails so intensely that he tears his nail beds or bloodies his fingertips, or chews on his nails and engages in other self-destructive behaviour such as pulling his hair out, for instance, talk to his doctor. He may be suffering from more anxiety or stress than is usual for a child of his age.Most two year olds, however, choose one or a few habits to indulge in (thumb sucking and nose play is a common combination), then eventually give them up without any encouragement. Do your best to ignore the habit, and one day you’ll realise it’s gone away by itself.