There’s nothing worse than seeing a nail biter at work! It is an unhealthy, ugly habit that is mostly common in children but which affects some adults, too.
And as man has an incessant need to name everything, so he too has given this nasty little tendency a tag. Onychophagia, meaning compulsive control disorder, is the name nail biting has been landed with!
It’s not stress or nervous tendencies
Unlike its most common trigger in adults, toddlers who bite their nails are not generally doing so as a result of stress or nervousness. Your little fellow could well just be bored or have picked up the habit by seeing someone else who is close to him doing it. Babies and children take on many habits of their caregivers – moms, dads, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts or even a hired nanny.
How often have you seen a mom, for example, biting her baby’s or toddler’s nails as a means of -cutting’ them? Intentions here are good as nail scissors and clippers can easily snip the skin around such tiny nails, especially when your toddler is active.
But with little ones watching and learning from those closest to them, he just may think this is the accepted thing to do. And if he copies this behaviour he could end up triggering this horrid habit. So think twice before you do such things, remembering he’s watching every move you make. Once he starts biting his nails, it is a tough habit to break.
Finger nails for pudding
We try to do what is healthy for our toddlers but not many of us realise just how unhealthy it is when they put their hands in their mouths for pudding! This habit can easily transfer germs and bacteria from little hands that have been exploring everything in sight to their mouths.
Germs and bacteria are lying in wait and from your child’s mouth they’ll make their way down into your child’s delicate little tummy, resulting in possible stomach problems. With the skin around the nails often tearing from biting these damaged little finger tips will just be a waiting room for bacteria and germs to gain entry to the body.
Nail biting can go as far as causing your toddler one of a number of dental problems in the years ahead. He could also develop gingivitis which is a painful gum disease.
Work out what sparks the nail biting
If you see your toddler having a good old chew on his nails you should watch him carefully to see what the spark is and then try to distract him before that situation arises the next time.
Distraction is an enormously powerful tool when used with children of any age, especially as young as the toddler brigade. He will easily become involved in one of many diversions. As long as there is no serious underlying emotional distress the nasty habit of nail biting could cease to exist in no time at all.
More attention, not scolding
Harsh disciplinary tactics are not necessarily going to work as if he is using his nail biting to manipulate you for more attention. Even speaking to him in an angry voice would just be adding fuel to the fire. You see, kids needing more attention than the norm will simply take it any way they can get it, even if it means being scolded.
And steer clear of anti-biting nail products as they could burn if your young one rubs his eye or it could leave a bitter taste in his mouth which would just upset him enormously.