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#1 of 20 Old 05-19-2008, 01:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi Moms of nail biters!

Both my husband & I are nail-biters, and our dear daughter, nearly 4, occasionally picks at her nails & the skin around her nails & toenails.

We've never corrected her when we've noticed this behavior; really, we've mostly ignored, redirected, etc. Because frankly, I believe nail biting is an occupation of people with very busy, intelligent minds. It's not really something that a person can, or should, control... I think its an outlet for excess mental energy. It will either go away when need is satisfied, or it won't. But the bottom line is that making a big deal out of it can make it a big deal.

Recently, though she seems more consumed by it - asks us once or twice per day about trimming small edges, putting a bandaid on, etc.

What do you do when your babies pick at or bite their nails? how much do you intervene? Do you see that the nail biting comes & goes? Any change in behavior based on your response?

Thanks in advance

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#2 of 20 Old 05-19-2008, 03:48 PM
 
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Sorry, I don't have an answer but I am also curious what other moms will say. My daughter is just over 2 yo, and I noticed that as she nurses less (I am pregnant and breastmilk is pretty nonexistent) she has begun biting her nails a lot, to the point that I haven't had to trim them in a long time because she keeps them so short.

I suspect that she started biting her nails as some sort of oral comfort, so I have been reluctant to discourage her (I also remember being a nail biter as a child), but I also don't want it to be something that other people give her a hard time about. Family has started noticing and making comments like "Well she's not going to quit if you don't make her" but it seems like a more complex issue than just 'making her quit'.

Does anyone have any feedback about what they did to discourage the behavior while still respecting your child's needs?

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#3 of 20 Old 05-19-2008, 04:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Family has started noticing and making comments like "Well she's not going to quit if you don't make her" but it seems like a more complex issue than just 'making her quit'.

Does anyone have any feedback about what they did to discourage the behavior while still respecting your child's needs?
Well firstly, what business is it of family whether or not your child bites her nails? They are HER nails.

And secondly, how is it exactly they suggest you MAKE a child do something as complicated and personal as biting nails? Do they suggest you tie her arms behind her back? You are right on, its much more complex of an issue, and frankly, I htink nail biting on the scale of habits is really, really minor.

Honestly, I think people tend to make such a big deal out of nail biting for no reason. And I really believe that in this, as is most things child-related, the more attention you pay to it, the more it will manifest.

But I am with you... I'd love some feedback from moms who have BTDT.

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#4 of 20 Old 05-20-2008, 12:47 AM
 
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My son has developed a few personal fidgety things and he is about 3.5... he pulls on his ears... constantly and sometimes both at the same time! We have gently asked him to not pull on his ears, but mostly I have ignored it. He hasn't stopped anyways... although sometimes he does it more than others. So I guess I'm going to try to keep track to see if there's a pattern. I have wondered if he would be fidgety because I tend to be fidgety... I don't chew my fingernails, but grew up being a nail biter. One year my aunt bribed me to stop by promising she would buy me a ring. Granted, I was in high school. The thing that worked is when I kept them well manicured during college and I stopped biting them since. Anyways, now I play with my hair a lot, and would love to be NOT fidgety.

Overall, I have wanted to find a way to redirect or ebb that nervous energy or over active mind. I would like to stop fidgeting myself because I don't like it. While I can't overtly change what my son is doing, perhaps I could offer other forms of nurturing or activity for him. I also wonder about offering some sort of calming herb or remedy.

As for the nail biters, I wonder about the health side of it... infections from open sores and illness from fingers in the mouth. Granted it' snot I'm not a germ-o-phobe, however I would want to instill good hygiene.
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#5 of 20 Old 05-20-2008, 04:46 AM
 
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Our dd went through this, it lasted from when she was about two till a few weeks ago - she'll be 6 in August, everyone went on at her, my sister bought us that stop and grow stuff, but she's eventually made the decision herself, and ok her nails aren't great now but it's something she's decided and they'll improve, I myself never bite my nails till they were below the quick but I bite the skin around my nails and still have scars and moments when the biting happens. I'm under no illusion that this is a repetitive habit and happens in time of stress - I'd leave it and let her decide herself and try not to let people nag on at her - my dad was terrible and actually made the whole situation even worse!

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#6 of 20 Old 05-21-2008, 05:45 AM
 
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Wish I had answers. I've bitten my nails since I was about 4 and still do to this day. I have MANY OCD-related activities, so this is another I just add to the rest, ugh. Although, I wish DD didn't do it too, but she does. Definitely not as severe as I did/do, but she still does. My main concern is the cleanliness, or lack thereof, with it. It is so dirty and gross - blech.

As for advice - nope. I've tried it all, but none of it worked for me. I;m hoping DD will grow out of it.

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#7 of 20 Old 05-21-2008, 11:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My son has developed a few personal fidgety things and he is about 3.5... he pulls on his ears... constantly and sometimes both at the same time! We have gently asked him to not pull on his ears, but mostly I have ignored it. He hasn't stopped anyways... although sometimes he does it more than others. So I guess I'm going to try to keep track to see if there's a pattern. I have wondered if he would be fidgety because I tend to be fidgety... I don't chew my fingernails, but grew up being a nail biter. One year my aunt bribed me to stop by promising she would buy me a ring. Granted, I was in high school. The thing that worked is when I kept them well manicured during college and I stopped biting them since. Anyways, now I play with my hair a lot, and would love to be NOT fidgety.

Overall, I have wanted to find a way to redirect or ebb that nervous energy or over active mind. I would like to stop fidgeting myself because I don't like it. While I can't overtly change what my son is doing, perhaps I could offer other forms of nurturing or activity for him. I also wonder about offering some sort of calming herb or remedy.

As for the nail biters, I wonder about the health side of it... infections from open sores and illness from fingers in the mouth. Granted it' snot I'm not a germ-o-phobe, however I would want to instill good hygiene.

You make some really good points. I do wonder how much of our behaviors are mimiced by our children - and how much is just part of who they are (which could also be genetic). I think the offering of a substitute activity is a good idea - and I often do the same for myself when I get into a real nail biting frenzy. The calming herbs - that's an interesting idea as well, but my concern would be, like with any mood-altering substance, if you try to affect the "negative" the behavior with drugs, wouldn't you also be affecting any positive outcomes of that behavior? And then maybe too, you're not actually CHANGING the behavior perceived as negative, just dulling it, or covering it up... I don't know the answer. I do know that repetative behaviors CAN be treated with drugs. Never done that myself though. Would be interesting to see if there are some herbs that could be of assistance - for myself anyway. Don't think I'd venture that far with my child though.

Edited to comment on the health part of your post.

I do agree that biting nails is a hygiene issue. However, I will say from experience of 30 some years of nail biting, I've yet to have any massive fingernail infections. And frankly, I've always figured that my immune system is likely STRONGER than most from the amt of time my fingers spend in my mouth.
Well... that's how I justify it anyway, ha.

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#8 of 20 Old 05-21-2008, 11:36 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'd leave it and let her decide herself and try not to let people nag on at her - my dad was terrible and actually made the whole situation even worse!
I agree with you. Both my parents were highly aware of the nail biting & other repetative habits I had as a child, like eyelash pulling, and the constant mention of it, attempts at correction, bribes to stop, admonishments, threats, etc., really did nothing in the long run but draw my attention to it & make me worry about it. So I DEFINITELY don't want to go in that direction with my own child. Thanks for sharing your story.

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#9 of 20 Old 05-21-2008, 11:39 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Wish I had answers. I've bitten my nails since I was about 4 and still do to this day. I have MANY OCD-related activities, so this is another I just add to the rest, ugh. Although, I wish DD didn't do it too, but she does. Definitely not as severe as I did/do, but she still does. My main concern is the cleanliness, or lack thereof, with it. It is so dirty and gross - blech.

As for advice - nope. I've tried it all, but none of it worked for me. I;m hoping DD will grow out of it.
You've brought up again the parent biting, and the child biting. I'm really wondering if its a genetic component or a learned behavior? My father bites his nails. DH's mother bites her nails. We both bite our nails... seems likely both our children will as well.

And the OCD-related activities. I've had a couple of occasions of folks telling me nail biting is OCD related. But I really shy away from labeling of any kind. I think it makes matters worse, not better, particularly in cases where the behavior isn't limiting or damaging in any way. Its interesting though. I have other behaviors like that too.

And I agree with the cleanliness aspect, particularly as a child - since they tend to touch a lot more & wash a lot less... but like I said earlier, I think my immune system is stronger for all the biting.

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#10 of 20 Old 05-21-2008, 11:52 AM
 
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I'm a lifelong biter/picker and DS1 has been a biter/picker since he was about 3, I think. I can't remember when it started. At first I felt like I should "nip it in the bud" but then reflected on my own habits, thought about whether or not they're *really* a problem (no, they're not), and how it felt to be constantly shamed for it as a child. The attitudes of other people are the main problem with biting/picking, IMO, not the behavior itself. I no longer pester my son at all about his habit.

I do wonder if there's a genetic component. While I do bite my nails more when stressed, it's not purely a stress thing, I'm simply a picker by nature.

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#11 of 20 Old 05-21-2008, 12:49 PM
 
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This is fascinating for me.

My husband's nail biting drives me crazy. I mean just absolutely crazy. I hate the click of nails against teeth -- my skin crawls like fingers on a blackboard. I hate his grizzled, sometimes scabbed finger tips, I hate seeing him with his hands in his mouth all the time. It's really hard for me. I ask him not to do it in front of me and he tries, but he does while he's driving or thinking hard. Sometimes I ignore it when I can, but sometimes I ask him to stop, but really he can't.

My kids have heard me asking him to stop, so they know I don't like it. When they ask why I tell them I don't think its clean to put your hands in your mouth without washing them first (like before we eat) and the sound drives me a little crazy. But I try not to mention it in front of them because I know its his body and I don't want to say anything disrespectful to him in front of them (or at all). But I can't help that it bothers me a lot. It really does. Just "getting over it" is not really a working strategy for me. So my kids think its a bad thing to do, and now they'll call him on it. But also, sometimes, they may do it too. I've never corrected them, cause I don't believe in drawing attention to any stress-coping fidgeting of theirs.

I need to figure out how best to respond to this in my own family and it really helps to hear others perspectives.
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#12 of 20 Old 05-21-2008, 08:30 PM
 
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I'm so glad to know there are other parents of nail biters. My ds started about a year ago, at just over 3. My dh calls him on it all the time. I try hard to not mention it. However, now that it's his toenails and his fingernails, it's a bit much.

A couple of months ago he was at a friend's house on a play date and I walk past him sitting on the couch with his foot in his mouth. You should have seen the expression on the other mom's face. I wanted to hide. Shortly after that, we were at a mom-sudent night at his montessori school. He bit his finger until it bled. I had 5 other mothers concerned that he was injured.

How do you explain this to other mothers? I want to be tolerant and not make him feel shamed, but it's hard. I also worry about the hygine (especially with preschool boy feet) and the possibility of it being anxiety or OCD related.
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#13 of 20 Old 05-21-2008, 11:05 PM
 
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I googled around a bit, I found that most sites recommended (for toddlers) to use distraction techniques by giving them something else to do if you find them chewing their nails. Also, they suggested keeping the nails well kept--the nails clean and short, etc. Other than that it seems like everyone said to stay away from anything that could seem like a punishment (like nail creme) or nagging. One article talked about redirecting until the child was older and could decide for himself to stop...

Other sites mentioned the aesthetics issues, that biting nails/cuticles can have small negative social impact on the person... Anyways, it seems like the ideal is to NOT bite nails, so I guess every family has to decide for themselves what to do, if anything.

Overall, I wonder if nail biting in general is merely a symptom... if so I'd rather look for ways to improve the root cause rather than dealing with the symptom.
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#14 of 20 Old 05-23-2008, 02:17 AM
 
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I don't think it's genetic, but learned.

I bite my nails, so does DD. DH picks his nails, so does DS. We're both pigeon-toed, so are both kids. I think they see what we do and copy it. I am constantly seeing DS copy DH. He spits, DS spits. Just small things.

*sigh*

DS has an oral fixation, though. He sucked his fingers from 18 months on. Now that he can't (Ortho appliance), he sucks on the hem of his sleeves. Maybe I took away his pacifier too soon... LOL.

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#15 of 20 Old 05-23-2008, 04:52 AM
 
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I'm so glad to know there are other parents of nail biters. My ds started about a year ago, at just over 3. My dh calls him on it all the time. I try hard to not mention it. However, now that it's his toenails and his fingernails, it's a bit much.

A couple of months ago he was at a friend's house on a play date and I walk past him sitting on the couch with his foot in his mouth. You should have seen the expression on the other mom's face. I wanted to hide. Shortly after that, we were at a mom-sudent night at his montessori school. He bit his finger until it bled. I had 5 other mothers concerned that he was injured.

How do you explain this to other mothers? I want to be tolerant and not make him feel shamed, but it's hard. I also worry about the hygine (especially with preschool boy feet) and the possibility of it being anxiety or OCD related.
This is so how my dd was - the toenail biting was the worst, bleeding nails a weekly occurance, it was caused by anxiety, so I read books on improving your child's self esteem, giving them more confidence and all that sort of thing - its working, doing yoga and relaxation techniques have helped as well, giving dd the permission to defend herself - not in an aggressive manner but putting her hand up and to shout - yes she is allowed to shout - she was amazed - stop. This has really helped, but I am under no illusion that when she actually goes to 'school' it'll probably start up again. Anyway I'm going slightly OT here, but wanted to tell you that I understand and that yes anxiety plays a part but we can help them through other methods rather than nagging to stop biting which achieves nothing IMO - not saying you're nagging at him or anything I was talking in the third person - or probably more at my Dad!!.

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#16 of 20 Old 05-26-2008, 08:47 AM
 
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My 3.5 year old son has been biting for 3 months now... maybe less.
I don't think it's a security or fixation thing in his case, I think I just hadn't cut his nails and he got annoyed and chewed them off!
If it were a comfort thing I think I'd respond differently but since I don't think it is I'd like to stop it ASAP... before it becomes one. And mainly for hygenic reasons.
Are there natural solutions to put on nails?
I've heard hot sauce... but that's a NO for me! Ouch, poor kid!
Also, lemon juice... which just doesn't seem strong enough.
"No Bite" which is some kind of nail polish??
I abhor the idea of using a chemical polish (I don't even use polish on myself) but if it's a solution and only need to use it a few times?? Maybe???
I want to use an idea that works and stick with it so that I've not made it a issue.

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#17 of 20 Old 05-26-2008, 09:38 AM
 
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Ugh! Trying to control your child by putting horrible or painful stuff on your kids nails will do nothing to stop the habit, except backfire. : You can't control another person's body, and to try to is just disrespectful.

If instead, you want to address the real issue - i.e. oral needs, boredom habit, stress.... you MAY have some positive success. If it is stress and you find ways to help your DC reduce their stress, hurray! If they also stop biting their nails, well that's a plus. But if not, you've still helped with the stress!

And I speak from experience, 41 years of nail biting! DS is a nail picker, and we ignore it and let him do what he wants. DD is a pincher. She's too young to be a nail biter - or not.

I stopped biting my nails 6 months ago. No one asked me to, made me, pressured me.... I had a bad finger wound that was covered in bandage for 5 weeks, and when it came off, I had this cool fingernail. I thought, "wow, cool. I can click it on the table and it makes an interesting sound. I can get dirt under there. Weird. I can peel a label off easily with it. Cool. Let me try and grow the rest, see how it goes. If I can't do it, OK. If I can, OK." ZERO pressure.
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#18 of 20 Old 05-26-2008, 04:57 PM
 
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If instead, you want to address the real issue - i.e. oral needs, boredom habit, stress.... you MAY have some positive success. If it is stress and you find ways to help your DC reduce their stress, hurray! If they also stop biting their nails, well that's a plus. But if not, you've still helped with the stress!
That's what I was trying to get across... I really don't think it's any of those... if it were I would try to address those stress issues.
I don't even think it's a 'habit' yet we just noticed that his nails aren't in need of cutting and I've seen them in his mouth a few times. If I redirect him he stops.
And I don't see what's wrong with trying to discourage a habit from forming.... I mean, as parents we discourage other things that could be considered controling their bodies... like chewing with your mouth open or nose picking or farting whilst at the dinner table.
Again, if it was a comfort or security thing I'd feel differently and not try to end the behavior in this fashion but in my son's case, DH and I have really tried to check for that and just don't see it.
I was just wondering if anyone has used any kind of "remedy" to discourage it.

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#19 of 20 Old 06-02-2008, 01:01 PM
 
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I came here looking for advice for my almost 5 yr old. He's been a nail biter for quite some time but only recently has he started biting them so short that they're bleeding. He'll have 1 to 2 bleeding fingers a week. It freaks me out a little because they're so short when he does this - like half to less than half a nail is left on his tiny finger. Can he damage his nails to the point that they'll stop growing back?? He doesn't want me to know about it when it happens. He tries to hide it or tells me not to look. I think this is because he overheard his daycare teachers and I talking about it. I've been a nail biter myself since childhood but I've never made my fingers bleed because that hurts! DS has been through alot of changes recently - a divorce, a new house and his own room to sleep in after sleeping with me since infancy. I bet the bleeding nails and all the life changes are linked. He seems like a really happy child though now and I've taken him to a therapist for reassurance (not bc of the nail biting but just to make sure he was coping well and there was nothing he needed to talk about). The therapist agrees he seems to be coping wonderfully with everything. Nail biting doesn't bother me but when they start bleeding it does. So from reading this thread, I shouldn't draw attentoin to it anymore? Just let it go and give it time? TIA
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#20 of 20 Old 06-02-2008, 06:16 PM
 
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I came here looking for advice for my almost 5 yr old. He's been a nail biter for quite some time but only recently has he started biting them so short that they're bleeding. He'll have 1 to 2 bleeding fingers a week. It freaks me out a little because they're so short when he does this - like half to less than half a nail is left on his tiny finger. Can he damage his nails to the point that they'll stop growing back?? He doesn't want me to know about it when it happens. He tries to hide it or tells me not to look. I think this is because he overheard his daycare teachers and I talking about it. I've been a nail biter myself since childhood but I've never made my fingers bleed because that hurts! DS has been through alot of changes recently - a divorce, a new house and his own room to sleep in after sleeping with me since infancy. I bet the bleeding nails and all the life changes are linked. He seems like a really happy child though now and I've taken him to a therapist for reassurance (not bc of the nail biting but just to make sure he was coping well and there was nothing he needed to talk about). The therapist agrees he seems to be coping wonderfully with everything. Nail biting doesn't bother me but when they start bleeding it does. So from reading this thread, I shouldn't draw attentoin to it anymore? Just let it go and give it time? TIA
You know I think it all depends on the child. I wouldn't say to NOT talk to your child about it, but I think there could come a point where it becomes badgering them. Instead, for your son I would just take care of his "wounds" perhaps by putting bandaids on them or some salve at night time. I don't think there's any harm at asking your son (it seems he's old enough) what he thinks of his fingernails... do they hurt, etc.

I also have been thinking about this because for women in our society having beautiful fingernails is like having luxurious hair. I grew up chewing and biting, and it took a lot for me to be able to stop chewing my nails... Now I'm really proud to have naturally good looking nails (without the salon manicure). Not to say that everyone wants their nails to look the same; for instance in the Sex & The City movie the main character is a fashion hound, yet her fingernails are trimmed very short.

I guess in some regards it depends on your families approach to grooming and where that importance lies in a child's life. Of course, even if it's important to be well groomed, it might not be able to change the behavior. Although there might be something to it to talk about other things that a child could do besides chewing fingernails.
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