5 Year Old's Nail Biting

Updated on May 26, 2008
J.M. asks from Oakdale, CT
7 answers

I was wondering if anyone had advice on how to help my 5 year old son stop biting his nails or having his fingers in his mouth. I've tried lots of things...which has not worked. This began about a year ago and still going strong! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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answers from Boston on

If he saw anyone else biting their nails he could be mimicking them. Kids will pick up the very worst habits from others. The nail biting may be stress related. If this started around the time when you brought the new baby home there should be a little time set aside where it's just you and him. Read, relax, listen to some soothing music, if you pray in your family set aside some time with him to pray together. The one thing that I found that is interesting with children is if you bring up issues that you find disturbing they are more likely to continue doing what they want. Try to ignore the nail biting and focus on your time together. He is probably going to keep biting his nails if he knows you don't want him to since that is something that he can control doing and he knows that it bothers you.



answers from Burlington on

My 5 year old was a nail biter also. It got so bad that his fingers hurt. He still always had his fingers in his mouth. We tried different paint on "no bite" but he would get used to it and say it wasn't so bad. I think that this started around the time that he started kindergarten. I think it started out as a nervous habit and then turned into a constant habit. Anyway, we moved in February and he started going to preschool(he has a Sept. birthday and we were living in CA and moved to VT with a much earlier cut off date). He was much more relaxed. He also got very into Legos which he realized was hard to do with his poor little bitten fingers. He began to really want to stop biting but still was doing it. He would wear thin gloves during the day (his own idea) so he wouldn't bite. It really helped. I also promised him a Lego set that he really wanted if I had to use the nail clippers to trim his nails and sure enough he stopped. It was a long process but he has now completly stopped, it's been a couple of months now. I'm so happy he was able to stop and not become a life long nail biter. We are also hoping that when he starts kindergarten again in the fall he won't be as nervous.I don't know if this will help your child or not. Good luck.



answers from Boston on

Sorry I don't have any nail biting advice, but I did see that you are in the Lowell area and you teach. Do you teach in Lowell? :)



answers from Boston on

I have a 5 year old nail biter as well. he has been biting his nails for about 2-3 years. We have tried everything to help him break the habit-with no success.we have used the "no bite" polish that tastes bad, but we stopped after we spilled some on the hutch, and it ate the finish down to bare wood. we are constantly telling him "hands out of your mouth" but to no avail. I wish I had a solution for you,and I hope your son will be easier to get out of the habit than mine has been, b ut if you recieve any good advise let me know, I'd too love any suggestions!
S. L



answers from Boston on

Hi there, I can't give you any advice as a parent on nail biting but I am a terrible nail biter myself and have been for YEARS!! I would recommend adding something into his daily routine whether it be after showering each day or before bed. Trim them each day even if it doesn't look like they need to be, the littlest hang nail can be the "best bite".

Also looking into why he is biting his nails. Is he nervous anxious about something? Does it happen during a certain time of the day? For me growing up one of the times I bit my nails was when I watched tv because of boredom. Good luck! As a 24 yr old woman I can tell you its a habit I wish I would have broken when I was younger.

I'm glad my parents didn't use that bad tasting nail polish on me, down to the wood?!?! and we are suppose to let our kids put THAT in their mouths, I'd rather have them biting their nails that ingesting that stuff.



answers from Hartford on

Hey there, J.,

Fortunately, I have not had to deal with this with my children--yet. But, I do have some advice. When I was a child, I sucked my thumb. The pediatrician either gave to my mom or told her about a product that she could "paint" onto my thumbs that would make them taste so bad that I wouldn't want to suck them. However, like Stefanie wrote, we did not have success. I happily sucked all of that stuff off because I knew that if I did, it would stop tasting so bad. The thing that worked was that my mom made me be responsible for telling her to put it on. My mom had me remind her that it needed to be put on, and then she would even help me to put it on myself. For whatever reason, I needed that sense of ownership in order to break my habit.

Also, I assume that your son is potty trained. Were there any rewards or any type of system you used to accomplish that? If so, you may try using some type of variation on what worked there to get him to break this habit, too.



answers from Boston on

Try painting on Tabasco. It's not chemical like the no bite stuff, but is probably a deterrant for a 5 year old. I know my grandmother did this to my dad and he still talks about how well it worked! The only other thing you can try is to put band-aids on his fingers, which will make him more aware at least when his fingers are in his mouth. That might work better for thumb-sucking though - band-aids on all ten fingers might look a little silly!

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