My 2 Year Old Daughter Chews Her Nails

Updated on October 20, 2008
A.S. asks from Castro Valley, CA
12 answers

My 22 month old daughter has started chewing her nails constantly. She throws giant tantrums if she sees me coming with nail clippers & she wakes up if I try to trim them while she is sleeping. She is chewing them really short & her fingers look painful and sore. I have tried telling her no & pulling her fingers out of her mouth, but she becomes very irritated and more determined to do it. I wouldn't mind puting something on her fingers that would taste bad to deter her, I just want to make sure it is safe and wouldn't burn her already irritated fingers.

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answers from San Francisco on

I don't really understand what the big deal is. I chewed my nails to the quick until I was about 10 years old. At that point, I decided I didn't like the way my hands looked and I quit. She'll quit when she's ready or if it becomes painful. There are many other battles you will have with her over the years; why not let this one go!

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answers from San Francisco on

I had the same problem with my daughter when she was 3. A friends suggested that I let her use nailpolish as a reward for not biting them. We only used light pink or clear with glitter. She is almost 4&1/2 now and she hasn't bitten her nails since.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi A. - I understand your wanting to keep your daughter from nail-biting - as a life-long nail-biter, it is a bad habit. However, be very careful of what you put on her nails to try and deter her from biting as she could just end up biting anyway and ingesting products that could be hazardous. Go to, Safe Cosmetics page and go to link for cosmetic database. Many nail polishes contain formaldehyde that is very unhealthy and even a product I saw online called "Control-It" for prevention nail biting had a rating of five which is not very good. Please check because in the long run she may stop on her own, but chemicals she is exposed to now could be dangerous to her health. Be wary and see if you can occupy her hands with activities and toys she enjoys. Best of luck and many blessings to you and your family. V. G. :o)



answers from San Francisco on

My daughter started chewing her nails 1 week before her second birthday. I literally did not have to trim her nails for 5 months. I ignored the problem and one day she just stopped. Interestingly, it was while my husband was away on a business trip that she stopped, a time that I would have thought would be more stressful for her! Now the only time that she does it is if a nail breaks so I try to keep her nails trimmed quite short.
Good luck,



answers from San Francisco on

Being a mom of an ex-nail biting daughter, and a professional in the natural medicine and health industry for over 20 years, here are a few of my suggestions:

1. Nail biting is not just a "nervous habit" - but can also be a mineral (calcium) and/or protein (amino acids) deficiency. Our nervous system is supported, nurtured and calmed by natural minerals - thus, if we don't have enough in our diet -or our digestive systems cannot assimulate them from our foods- then we unconsciously try to replace this deficiency by biting our nails.

Homeopathic remedies are great for kids. Consider picking up a calcium homeopathic remedy at your local healthfood store... or visit with a Homeopathic Doctor to see what s/he recommends.

2. Add natural calcium/protein rich foods to her diet. This includes almonds, sesame seeds (Raw Tahini Butter), kelp (seaweed - which is loaded with natural easy-to-assimulate minerals, dark salad greens and Spirulina (which kids love). Spirulina (green food) is rich in both minerals and protein. Brewer's Yeast (flakey yellow powder you can add to her drink) is good for B vitamins and amino acids, which also help feed the nervous system.

Note: Did you know it is hard for humans (let alone kids) to assimulate the protein and calcium in milk? Try yoghurt or goat milk products instead. Also - keep in mind that too much sugar can cause an overload in the child's nervous system, adding to the issue of mineral depletion.

3. Fun Foods: Try offering her raw, pre-soaked almonds (just put them in water and store in fridge overnight), slices of Gala apple and small cut chunks of a healthy protein bar (Cliff Bar is a good brand). My grandson loves this combo. Have her eat 1-2 almonds, one chunck of protein bar, one apple - before going to the next round.

Another fun food for kids is spreading Raw Tahini Butter on natural whole-grain crackers (also high in protein) with a touch of Agave (natural Catus honey) on top. Spirulina, soy protein powder and brewer's yeast should be added to the banana, strawberry, yoghurt shake.

4. Tell your child (after she tries these snacks and shows she likes them) that these foods have lots of vitamins and minerals in them - which will help FEED her body so she doesn't need to bite her nails.

5. As you discovered - it is not wise to try and force her to stop (ie, pulling her hand away from her mouth, or even putting bad tasting stuff on them if she doesn't want you to). Threats and control techniques may cause her to rebel. The best way to help her overcome the habit or desire is to empathize with her and help her get in touch with what her body is saying: "Do you know that you are biting your nails? Do you like the taste of your nails - or are you just feeling hungry? How does your tummy feel?"

Then follow with: "Can I offer you (something healthy to eat or drink - like soaked almonds or a "green" banana, strawberry protein yoghurt shake with Spirulina) instead?" And don't forget to use strategic "reverse psychology" - such as: "Mommy's concerned about your fingers getting really soar" ...Or... "Mommy is not going to stop you from biting your nails anymore, but I'm concerned about you eating the yucky bugs that like to hang out under your nails. Maybe we should clean your hands, so the bugs can't get inside your tummy, okay?"

Giving her permission to bite her nails, yet gently warning her like this will surely encourage her to stop on her own.

Hope this all helps!

:) J.

P.S. I realize your child is still very young and might not be capable of eating raw almonds yet - thus you might use almond butter (with tahini) or almond milk in her cereal. :)



answers from San Francisco on

I was so glad to read this because my daughter is the exact same age and started doing the same thing. Of course i thought the worst and she had some nerve/anxiety issue. Kept trying to remind myself its probably like every other stage shes been into....doing it because she learned she can! SOunds like its the latter!
I have no great tips, just wanted you to know your not alone!



answers from San Francisco on

Have there been any changes in your home life? New people, new environment, family stress, divorce, death, new schedule, new foods? Anything? It could be symptom of life changes and stress.

Is there anyone in her life that she could be copying?

My daughter started biting her nails after we moved. What helped her was to give her her own nail clippers, the gerber brand for infants. I showed her how to use them and how to open and close it. It also has a very specific spot it goes in that she can easily reach. That fixed it for us. Her nails were bothering her and I wasn't being fast enough. My daughter was a little older though and I don't know what your daughter's fine motor skills are like.

Such things can develop in to habits and be very hard to break. If it's a symptom of life troubles help alleviate the symptom by working on the cause as well as the behavior.

The painful and sore look is a concern. You may want to double check with her doctor about what's safe, and to check for ingrown finger nails (which may have started it and caused her to be over sensitive) and signs of infection.



answers from San Francisco on

My son started chewing his nails at a very early age (he's now 11). We reminded him constantly and had a reward system for having white showing on his nails - that worked for a few months. Then we tried the bad tasting clear polish and he just picked it off. Last summer someone recommended Control It Nail Biting Cream (available on which is what finally worked for us. If he gets too tired he will start to chew and we just apply it a couple times until he's rested again. Good luck!



answers from Yuba City on

My son use to suck his thumb, so I went out and purchased something called bitter nails, you can find it in the nail polish section. You have to apply it about three times a day, my son stopped sucking his thumb within three days. I also tasted it and it taste horrible but it works.
good luck



answers from Fresno on

They used to have that stuff that just tastes bad but you can use hot sauce too.



answers from San Francisco on

There's something that you can buy and apply (it looks like a nail polish) if you would like your kid or baby to stop from thumb sucking. It taste bitter & it won't come off easily. Ask a pharmacist cause I forgot the name for it. I hope it works for her. Good Luck!



answers from San Francisco on

Hi A.,

My daughter started biting her nails around 18 months, her pediatrician told me to just ignore her, so I did and by about 22 months she stopped.