7 yo nail biting - help

CathDecember 12, 2001

My son has been biting his nails for about 2 months. He now is chewing off the skin on the top of his fingers. Does anyone know what I can do to help him stop. I have talked with him already. Is there something that I can put on his fingers that tastes bad that doesn't smell bad?

TIA Cath

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In my experience, he will only stop when he decides he needs/wants to. I'm 27 years old, and only recently kicked the nail biting habit. It was bad--I would bite them down to the quick, and then chew on the skin. All of the polishes, nasty tasting stuff, etc... never worked--I just chewed right through. Once my mom tried dying my fingers purple if she caught me chewing on that finger. I had 10 purple fingers for weeks before she gave up. Remind him it's a bad habit, and constantly remind him. But he probably won't give it up until he wants to. Even now, I have a thumbnail that I chew when I am under stress!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2001 at 2:05PM
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Talk to his pediatrician. Chewing the skin off the tops of his fingers is something to worry more about than uncomplicated nail biting. It might be associated with a medical problem, or with excessive stress for which he may need the help of a child counselor.

If he is wounding himself, at 7 that's a good sign that you should talk to his doctor about it. It's not regular nail biting. (if he's just chewing dead skin or calluses that's probably not a huge problem but if he's making himself bleed doing this or giving himself bruises or pinch marks talk to his doctor).

When you talk to your son, what kinds of things does he say? Ask open-ended questions and encourage him to talk. He may not know why he does it (or he might have an idea). Children can have problems that they need specialized help to learn how to manage (children can feel compulsions, and those are not the same as habits of choice which can be stopped at will or by a bad taste). If they have OCD, that can give them a whole world of stress on top of whatever 'normal' stress is and they would need specialized directed help to learn how to do that.

if he started with his nails, has been talked to and not only seems unable to stop by himself but he has progressed to chewing the skin of his fingers, you will likely need to consult with professionals who know more about serious habitual behaviors and who can recommend 'next' people to see and explain why those recommendations are made

P.S. Sometimes behavior changes which don't seem related to observable stress issues, or things like that in a person's life can have medical causes. It's usually better to get them checked out and ruled out (even if it feels 'too much', than to find out later there was a medical cause because sometimes there is and it wouldn't be treated the same was as a nail biting habit would be).

    Bookmark   December 12, 2001 at 3:14PM
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I posted about this here not too long ago, and got alot of helpful ideas, but no luck. I bought all the stuff that tastes bad...it washes off. After a hand wash no biggie, it also didnt bother her.

I dont think we can make anyone stop a habit, young or old.

I agree with above poster that chewing the skin off is beyond nail biting and I would take him to the doctor.

good luck~

    Bookmark   December 12, 2001 at 4:32PM
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I stopped at nothing until my grandmother offered me $20 if I stopped and the money came once I had stopped for 3 months.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2001 at 12:25PM
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I still do it at 39 and it's when I'm stressed. Talk to the doctor first and ask him why he's doing it when he is actually doing it. Is he intent on a TV program, doing homework or thinking about something stressful. Try to offer some healthy snacks when you notice it like carrot sticks or celery and peanut butter for that oral fixation. I started chewing a lot of gum and got hard candy so as to keep the nails intact.
Good Luck

    Bookmark   December 13, 2001 at 5:43PM
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Tell him that most kids don't have great cleanliness habits and probably don't bother to wash their hands after using the bathroom.
You won't have to draw pictures , so to speak, for him to get the idea here.
His fingernails harbor not only millions of germs but also fecal matter.

Does he still want to put those fingers in his mouth??

Shock tactics never miss their mark.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 8:04AM
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Hi All,

I am a Ryerson student and a freelance journalist who is currently writing an article about children and nail-biting. If you or someone you know is a parent who is struggling with their children's nail-biting, I would love to speak to you about your experiences, as well as give you some of the helpful nail biting stopping tips I've learned during my research.

If you are interested, please respond in this thread, send me a personal message or email me at alex.vizer@ryerson.ca

Thank you for your time,

GTA Journalist

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 2:46PM
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Yoyobon, this kid is 16 now!! Come on!!!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 3:15AM
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