Stop a child’s nail biting habit

Nail biting can leave fingernails looking and feeling sore, and over time the nails can become brittle. It is best to curb nail biting early on, as it can become habit forming. Whilst nail biting is not a serious concern, during adulthood it leaves hands looking untidy. The act of nail biting is not something that looks attractive in a professional capacity. The small things can make all the difference, especially later in life. Nail biting can be stopped and the habit can be broken if it is tackled early on during childhood.

How can you stop a child’s nail biting?

Gentle reminders

Nail biting is a habit, and one in which the person is not always aware when they are doing it. It can be an impulsive reaction to situations that are either stressful, induced by nervousness and anxiety, or during times when bored or in deep concentration. When you catch your child nail biting, put your hand on hers and gently push it away from her mouth whilst gently saying “no biting.” This is the only reminder that is needed, and one that can be repeated without causing annoyance. Over time, your child will inadvertently stop the habit of nail biting from the constant physical and verbal reminder.


Once you have moved your child’s hand away from her mouth, direct her to something different. Distraction is the perfect way to take the attention away from nail biting. You should always follow up stopping her from nail biting with distraction. This can be done in many ways, from directing her to a task you need help with or to an activity she can do. Anything which gives her something else to do, and doesn’t dwell on the unwanted habit of nail biting is a good way to direct her attention elsewhere in a positive way.

Remove the cause

If you can decipher the reason as to why your child may be nail biting, you can help to eradicate the cause. In some cases, there may not seem to be any real reason or cause. However, observing your child can help you to understand the times and reasons as to why she bites her nails. There may be certain times in the day where she doesn’t have anything productive to do. Even during down time, you can provide quiet activities to keep her hands busy. If she becomes stressed or nervous prior to an activity you can work with her to reduce the stress and anxiety that she is experiencing.

File the nails

A good way to curb nail biting is to keep the nails in good condition. This is achievable even with short chewed nails. A glass nail file is a good item to have, as it is gentle and can be used in both directions along the nail edge producing a fine dust. This makes it suitable even for jagged nails, as it doesn’t tug on the nail. Filing the edges to a smooth finish leaves them feeling comfortable and gives the nails a more attractive appearance. This can help to prevent your child from nail biting. For girls, pretty colored nail polish can be a great way to put a stop to nail biting.

Never draw attention to your child’s nail biting, or make negative associations with it. Simply remind your child by gently pushing her hand away whilst saying “no biting” in a soft tone. Direct her attention elsewhere and continue to do so until the habit is broken. It is going to take time and patience; however, it is important not to draw attention to the nail biting. If you are able to find the reasons for why your child bites her nails, you can work with her to take away the cause. A gentle approach is needed to stop your child’s nail biting to prevent it from becoming habit forming.