Spread mustard or red pepper on your fingers, buy bitter varnish - parents go to great lengths to wean their child from biting their nails. We've put together the best tips for you to consider.

How to wean a child to bite his nails? Effective Ways

Why does a child bite his nails

Psychologists are sure that the reasons why a child bites his nails can be different. This phenomenon is common among toddlers aged 3-4 years , but can persist until adolescence and beyond.

Most often, the provoking factors are stress, an unhealthy family environment or the individual characteristics of the child. 

This repetitive action can lead to damage to the nail plate, problems with bite, teeth and gums, inflammation of the tissues around the nail, the appearance of warts and an increased risk of contracting infectious diseases. 

What to do if a child bites his nails

First of all, we note what should not be done: punish the child, yell at him, shame him (especially in front of his peers), pressure and manipulate. The presence of a bad habit already indicates increased anxiety, and such actions on the part of parents and other significant adults will further drive the child into stress and aggravate the situation.

In the future, this can negatively affect his self-esteem and basic sense of security.

Every mother who has encountered such a childhood habit has her own secret of how to wean a child from biting her nails. We asked our users to share their experiences with other parents, and here are the results.

1. Use a special nail polish

“Only bitter pharmaceutical varnish helped us. All the stories about bacteria, helminth eggs and other horror did not cause the desired effect. But it was at that time that the child became interested in the microworld and listened with pleasure to fairy tales about flagellates, looked at pictures and drew amoebas, ciliates and other chlamydomonas himself.

2. Put on mittens for the child

“My little brother bit his nails. Under zero, and managed to gnaw on his feet. What they didn't do! Mustard? Ate. Varnish? What a trifle! And ate the varnish. Mom went to extreme measures: watching TV together is sitting in mittens. At first, the little brother smiled: what, they say, hehe. But my mother is strict - and she also sent me to bed in mittens. She said: if you don’t stop, then you will go to school in mittens, and spring is on the nose ... In general, with grief in half, but it worked.

3. Occupy the child's hands

“Nail biting is one way out of a situation where there is nowhere to put your hands. It is better to offer the child other options, especially when he is nervous: you need to take something that can be twisted or touched. It can be an ordinary rosary, a small pillow with silicone balls. I sewed small toys with buckwheat - and the nerves soothe and stimulate the nerve endings at the fingertips.

“The situation when a child bites his nails is not just a bad habit. This is always a symptom of some kind of trouble, and it is important to find out its cause. It can be organic, associated with a health condition: for example, neurological disorders. Or it can hide in the external circumstances of the life of the child and his family. It is no coincidence that many children begin to bite their nails amid some kind of stress: the birth of a younger brother or sister , entering school, etc.

Observe how often and under what circumstances the baby begins to put his finger in his mouth - this will help to understand the cause of the difficulties. For example, if this happens in the evenings, consider whether the child is overworking during the day. If the baby bites his nails in the garden, he may have difficulty communicating with children.

When the habit is obsessive, the child bites his nails literally to the point of blood - you can not do without the help of a specialist.

It is better to start with a child psychologist: he will understand the situation and tell you if the child needs psychological correction or medication.”

4. Give your child a beautiful manicure

“My daughter started biting her nails around 6 or 7 years old. How can a child get rid of the habit of biting nails at this age? We found our own way and started going to the salon, where there was a "Children's manicure" service. When she had beautiful nails done for the first time, she herself said that it was a pity to spoil such beauty.

Whatever we did with it: sparkles, stickers, and just a bright color in the summer. They spared no time and money, and gradually the problem was solved by itself. Now this habit has long been forgotten, but there is a habit and a desire to keep the nails in beauty and order.

5. Tell your child a scary story about the dangers of his habit.

“I’ll start with the background: I can’t stand the liver, I can’t stand it in any form at all. So, even at the gardening age, when I began to bite my nails, my grandmother told me that this would make a worm settle in my stomach. And not only will this beast live there forever, because it cannot be brought out, so he, the bastard, also eats only liver, and I will have to eat it! I stopped biting my nails. And then my grandmother and I were on the train and I saw the boy biting his nails. And then the dialogue: "Do you bite your nails? Aren't you afraid?" - "No". - "Do you like liver?" - "Yes". - "Ah, well, then gnaw."

6. Show your baby a picture of germs or worms

“We went to the exotarium, where, under strong magnification, my daughter looked at the microbes. When the guide explained to her that such microbes carry infection and can be under the nails, and if they are bitten, the microbes will get into the mouth -  this completely knocked off the desire.

7. Promise your child a reward if he stops biting his nails.

“I offered money, $5 a day. I check on Sunday: if the nails have grown, I get $30. I don’t know how pedagogical it is, but it works well for a 14-year-old “baby”. The result was within a week.

Such advice is useful to parents who do not know how to wean a child 10 years old and older from biting their nails. It is at this age that children are already beginning to be interested in personal finances and are ready to negotiate with mom and dad in order to get pocket money. 

8. Give your child more attention

“Like all bad habits in children, this one is the result of neurosis and a lack of tactile contact with loved ones, parents. Our son (5 years old) began to bite his nails when the youngest child appeared. Naturally, attention to him became less - all worries were about the younger. We went to a psychologist, she pointed out to us our omission. Tip: pay more attention to the child, more hugs and kisses, praise and care. And not a single bad habit will cling to your baby.

The pediatrician, clinical psychologist Maria Ziborova comments:

“Nail biting is a neurotic reaction, like thumb sucking or tics. Schoolchildren are more likely to suffer from this disorder than kids, because they experience great physical and emotional stress. In this way, the child tries to cope with stress, anxiety, excitement. If parents, instead of looking for a reason, scold and constantly scold their son or daughter, the situation only gets worse.

This is a vicious cycle: anxiety leads to nail biting, ugly hands cause the anger of parents, as a result, the baby's nervous tension increases, and self-esteem falls.

Often, this problem is paired with other disorders of the nervous system: hyperexcitability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (up to 75% of children with ADHD bite their nails), enuresis . And the physical consequence can be helminthic invasions, inflammation of the periungual tissues, periodontitis up to the exposure of the neck of the tooth. So the child needs help. There is no special medicine for children who bite their nails - bitter pharmacy varnishes do not always help and often only take the problem in a different direction. But sometimes doctors prescribe mild sedatives and nootropics.”


If a child at 3 years old (or older) bites his nails, it is easiest for a parent who is in constant contact with him to wean him from this habit. The main thing is to show patience, imagination and not give up.