Is it normal for the children to bite their nails? How can i stop this habbit?

Is it normal for the children to bite their nails? How can i stop this habbit?

Nail-biting is one of the most commonly seen habits among children which is most likely to continue into their adulthood. Usually nail-biting is perceived as a “nervous habit”. Because nail-biting is associated with anxiety in children.

Children go through anxiety too, but it is at a milder level. It is not that observable but it does affect them. Growing up can be stressful due to increasing activities, responsibilities, education and expectations from parents. These cause them anxieties.

However, nail-biting is something that cannot just be associated with anxiety, there are other causes too which are mentioned below:

1. Nail-biting is a modified form of thumb sucking. Usually, kids suck their thumb for comfort. It is a self-soothing action and very natural thing to do. While nail-biting develops as the kid grows. So, children, later teenagers bite their nails just for comfort.

2. Children turn towards nail-biting as a source of relief from stress and anxiety. While growing up, several situations around the child can put them under stress and cause them anxiety. Situations at home, school, with friends. Any little discomfort can cause them stress. In order to get relief from such stress, children tend to bite their nails.

child baiting nails

3. Sometimes, nail-biting as a habit in children can be a result of genes. If you as a parent were a nail-biter, then your child is more likely to have developed the habit due to your genes.

4. Social learning, never underestimate this concept. Children pick up a lot of behaviours from what they see. They learn from others. Nail-biting can also be learnt by looking at others and imitating.

5. Sometimes, there need not be any particular reason behind your child’s nail-biting behaviour. It can simply be an outcome of boredom. Children bite their nails when they are bored.

Is nail-biting normal?
Nail-biting among children is a completely normal phenomenon. It is relatively non-destructive behaviour which arises out of compulsions. However, it can be managed and stopped at an early age. Sometimes it does carry forward into adulthood.

Nail-biting is considered normal until it starts affecting regular everyday activities. It can develop into a severe long-term problem. Onychophagia (Nail-biting) is considered a pathological oral habit and grooming disorder which is chronic. If nail biting becomes chronic then it is not normal.

nails biting

How can we stop Nail biting?

There are certain tricks and suggestions to help your child to stop biting their nails:
1. Make your child aware of her habit and discuss breaking the habit: Talk to your child about it first. Make her conscious of nail-biting. Make her aware of when and where she is biting and why. Give her a choice to stop it herself instead of forcing her to stop it. That way it is more effective.

Do not punish: You can’t really do much about this behaviour until your child decides to stop it. It should be noted that, since it is a nervous habit, this behaviour is unconscious. Therefore, when your child is not even aware of this behaviour consciously there is no point using punishment as a strategy to stop this behaviour.

The traditional bitter taste-trick: Neem leaves paste would be of great help. You can apply the paste on to your child’s nails without them noticing it. So, when they try to bite, they get a bitter taste and they don’t understand why. This makes an association in their mind that biting nails is not giving them comfort, instead, it’s giving a bitter taste. Instead of neem, you can also use child-safe liquids which are available at the medical stores.

Trim their nails on a regular basis: What will they bite if there’s nothing left to bite. Once you start trimming their nails as and when you see growth, they will eventually lose hold of the habit soon.

Offer an alternative: In order to replace their anxiety elsewhere give them something to fidget with their hands and divert them from biting their nails. For example, a stress ball or some clay to play with. Squeezing and rolling helps them relax.

Address their anxieties: If you notice the nail-biting behaviour being associated with certain situations then don’t ignore the cues. Understand that your child is having some kind of trouble with those situations so help them analyze why. Help them in learning how to stay calm. Help them understand the issue and get them to talk to you on how they feel.

Reward positive behaviour: If you notice your child making progress in channelling her anxieties into healthier ways then reward her for her effort.

1. Usually, kids bite their nails or suck their thumb for comfort or as a source of stress and anxiety relief.
2. Could be hereditary or due to seeing others and learn.
3. Can avoid by applying neem leaves paste to their Nails.
4. Trim their nails on a regular basis.


thumb sucking

Is nail-biting normal

How can we stop Nail biting

Do not punish

The traditional bitter taste-trick

Trim their nails on a regular basis

Offer an alternative

Address their anxieties

Reward positive behaviour


Malathi A Ganesh is a B. Com Graduate, NTT, M.A (Lit), PGDEA (PG in Education Administration), PGDCA (PG Diploma in Computer Application), DTE (Diploma in Teaching English), ICEPT (International Certificate in Education Preschool Teaching) from Singapore and B. Ed. She has been in the field of education for the past 20 years and has an experience of running her own pre-school She is the Founder & Director Academics of Smartkidz Educare India Pvt Ltd with 275+ play schools Pan India. She is an Educationist and a Child Psychologists by profession who wants to fulfill her dream of giving Quality Education to children in their earlier years. She is also into conducting positive parenting workshops, which talks about effective child rearing. She has conducted numerous parenting workshops in all her pre schools, schools and MNC’s.

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