The Nail Biting Child: Our Journey

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Why My Son Bit His Nails And How He Stopped.


My son had just turned 4 when I noticed that he was biting his nails. The crazy thing is that I never caught him doing it. And it turned out that he did it mostly at night, in his bed.

At first, I did what any mom would do; I went online and researched. However, all the results led me to obsessive compulsive disorder, which I knew wasn’t the case. Another result led me to anxiety. That one I agreed with, because …. I was around 5 months pregnant with his sister.

It made sense. After all, he was an only child for four years, and all of our attention was on him.

He was worried. And he was nervous.


A Long Couple of Years

Four months later, our daughter was born. Unfortunately, the nail biting continued. Sometimes he would bite them so short that he would bleed. This continued for about another year and a half.

No matter how hard I begged and pleaded, he kept on biting. I would hear him at night, biting away at his nails underneath his blanket. It was frustrating. And what concerned me the most was germs. Fingernails have so many germs—and biting could lead to infection.

The summer following his 5th birthday, just prior to starting kindergarten, I discussed the issue with his pediatrician. I asked if there was anything topical that he was able to prescribe.

He looked at me and said “there is absolutely nothing that can stop nail biting, except for peer pressure”.

Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed—angry even.

The Start of Kindergarten

Halfway through kindergarten, around Christmas of 2019, I noticed that some of his nails were long. They were actually normal—and for the first time in about two years, I was able to clip them.

Could the pediatrician have been right all along? Was being in school, around friends his own age the reason that he stopped biting his nails? Was he embarrassed of how his nails looked?

Possibly.

Life Now

It’s now summer of 2020 and he’s six and a half—waiting to start first grade. And I can happily say that there is no more nail biting going on.

His sister, also, has just turned two, and I feel like that’s another reason why the biting stopped. It took a while for all of us to figure out this new family dynamic of four people instead of three.


Tips

If you’re reading this, and you have a toddler or young child that bites their nails, take heart in knowing that it’s a phase, and it won’t last.

In the meantime, try to identify why it began. Have there been any recent changes in your household? Is your child nervous about any upcoming events?

And while you may just have to wait it out (like I had to), you can try using a nail polish deterrent. Mavala Stop is specialized for children as young as three years of age. It works by creating a bitter flavor on your nails, thus discouraging the need to place them into your mouth.

By the time I found out about this polish, he had already ceased the biting. But, I hope it helps others.

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