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Nail biting 3 year old

(20 Posts)
BinToHellAndBack Sun 01-Nov-15 09:35:24

AIBU to try and stop it? It's crept up in frequency over the last couple of months to the point that I'm saying every 10mins or so "please don't bite your nails" and "can you take your fingers out of your mouth" etc. It's often met with "I won't do it again Mummy", only to resume as little as 5 seconds later (I realise it's absent-minded and don't actually expect the assurance of not doing it again to be upheld!).

The fingers haven't take on that really worn down and bitten appearance but the finger at the very edges of the nails are looking a little inflamed and snagged. I once dated a prolific nail-biter who had such deeply ingrained habit that it was unstoppable - his nails were a sore (and occasionally bleeding) mess. I'd like to nip this in the bud before that kind of problem is even on the horizon.

But is trying to nip it in the bud reasonable, or is it just normal toddler behaviour? I only know a handful of 3 year olds, none of whom nail bite, but it's a very small sample size. Any tips to help cut it down would be greatly received, as would reassuring stories from anyone who had a nail-biting toddler who just grew out of it! At the moment it's driving me a little bit crazy and I'm having to bite (ha!) my tongue to not get cross about it. I definitely don't want to make him feel like it's naughty but do somehow want to convey that it's not a good thing to do either.

(As an aside, we had a similar problem with habitual behaviour problem a while back in the form of an excessive amount of hands in pants and um... fiddling. It was much easier to fix as it would leave his fingers smelling of wee (only just potty training at the time). Having to wash hands every time they were found down pants meant it quickly lost its appeal. I can't think of a similar obvious consequence for nail-biting.)

DisappointedOne Sun 01-Nov-15 10:49:06

DD picks her nails sometimes. I find telling her I can't paint them for parties if she makes them all raggedy helps.

Believeitornot Sun 01-Nov-15 10:54:48

It is normal for boys to fiddle? So I wouldn't have been that excessive in terms of hand washing. Give the poor kid a complex.

My ds became a nail biter not long after baby dd arrived and he was left alone in the dark at bedtimes. In my head I connected the two!

First of all I kept on telling him not to but that didn't work. In the end, I realised he did it the most at bedtimes or when bored so I would either hold his hand, give him something to fiddle with or gave him Lego to play with.

He doesn't do it anywhere near as much anymore (he's 6)

I was a nervous child and bit my nails. Nothing stopped me until I decided I was done with it. Mum tried everything and I just got more stubborn about it.

feebeecat Sun 01-Nov-15 11:03:15

Dd started biting her nails just as soon as she grew teeth!
Not sure it's overly helpful, we told her to take hands out of mouth 700 times a day, there was a lot of hand washing going on too! She did at times have sore fingers and think eventually made the link herself. That and fact she couldn't pick teeny things up/peel stickers, do other things her sister did easily. She did grow out of it and I never really noticed when until one day I spotted she had claws & thought I'd best trim them - something I'd never had to do before!
She's 10 now and we go through stages of it, but mostly she's fine and broke the habit herself. But my thumb-sucker on the other hand (literally) am thinking of chopping that one off grin

carabos Sun 01-Nov-15 11:18:27

I've got a 53 yr old nail biting DH. It's revolting. He doesn't know when he's doing it, so shouting "ffs will you stop that" 700 times a day doesn't work. He just says "stop what?" With the confused look.

It's a form of OCD apparently, along with hair pulling / sucking. It's about the most unsanitary thing you can do - and in small children is a cause of worms. I'd put her in mittens for a while, night and day and see if that works. This won't be a popular opinion, but you do need to put a stop to it.

whois Sun 01-Nov-15 13:46:12

I'm a nail biter... Telling her to stop won't help. Mittens might but doubt it.

Need to break the association, try the horrible tasting nail stuff and reapply every day. Should keep her fingers out of her mouth.

Might just move onto another compulsive habit though.

BinToHellAndBack Sun 01-Nov-15 17:28:43

Thanks everyone for the replies. I will try giving him something else for his fingers to fiddle with, and maybe move on to the nail stuff if it doesn't start to move in the right direction. Mittens as a very last resort perhaps! Although with winter descending, lots of time outside wearing gloves might be a big help grin.

Do the adult biters wish their parents had helped them stop whilst they were young?

Beleiveitornot I'm sure you're right that a bit of fiddling down pants is normal. I just felt that it was an excessive amount (think turing round in shops to see trousers pulled down and a good old fondle going on, in addition to every other waking moment of the day) and that it wouldn't be fair to let him become reliant on a habit that would become increasingly hard to break (and also one that would be very socially unacceptable soon). Plus, fingers smelling of wee surely need to be washed; you can't let the kid go touching other things after that. My logic was that it's the same reason (to a large extent) that we teach washing hand after using the toilet.

Footle Sun 01-Nov-15 17:41:16

My parents helped me stop doing it in public and start doing it in private. They made me extremely anxious by going on about it. It wasn't something I could control.

whois Sun 01-Nov-15 17:48:55

Do the adult biters wish their parents had helped them stop whilst they were young?

Yes absolutely! It's a rubbish habit to have - makes you look childish and unprofessional if you keep ending up with your fingers in your mouth at work, and nails have always looked bad. I never bit down to the quick or had bleeding nails/fingers though, just unsightly ragged/shirt nails.

Wish mum and dad had tried the nasty tasting stuff when I had been pre school age. Tried it at about 7 but I just washed it off at school because I didn't want to stop biting.

I am actually using it now and am finding it very useful to beak the unconscious finger in mouth habit. I seem to have moved onto kind of 'feeling' the nails with each other instead tho, and cleaning the nails with a thumb nail. Doesn't look as bad as biting though and I don't think I'm being destructive to the nail by doing so.

I'm also a picker and wil bite the inside of my mouth as well so I defo do struggle with controlling those behaviours.

DisappointedOne Sun 01-Nov-15 18:33:27

I bit my nails for years too. I wore false nails from about 19-29, which meant I could only bite weekly blush. When I found myself importing my favourite discontinued nails from the state's I had a rethink, lost the falsies and haven't bitten them since.

DisappointedOne Sun 01-Nov-15 18:34:08

Sorry - auto correct has added a ' to states.

TheGreenNinja Sun 01-Nov-15 18:40:25

I'm a full-grown nail biter too and I really wish I didn't do it but I've no idea how to stop. My parents tried everything when I was little, including the foul tasting stuff, telling me I'd never have nice nails for painting, etc etc etc but nothing worked. It's automatic, and a bit of a compulsion. I don't know how you can help, but I would say it's an anxious habit, and by making a big deal of it you do risk increasing the anxiety and making them more likely to bite. I wish there was an easy answer because I'd love to stop!

Senpai Sun 01-Nov-15 18:43:00

I used to bite my nails all the time. I stopped so I could grow them out and put nail polish on.

Not sure what to do about boys though. Is he rough and tumble? You could tell him about how cool it is to be able to scratch Styrofoam or something similar, like little monster claws, but he has to stop biting them.

That said, there's not much my parents could have done to stop me from nail biting, I didn't want to and felt like I had to do it. They just ignored it and I outgrew it on my own.

He's young enough to distract, so when he starts finger biting, give him something acceptable to chew on. Like a teething toy or snack.

Brioche201 Sun 01-Nov-15 19:22:25

A 3 year old is no longer a toddler (misses point)
I don't think you can really stop nail biting short of amputation.You could try stop'n grow I suppose but even that doesn't seem to work in most cases

susielovessocks Sun 01-Nov-15 19:32:19

I'm a nail biter. I started around the same time. As someone else has said the only way I can stop is by wearing acrylics so that I physically can't.
It is an OCD behaviour, my mum tried lots of things to stop me when I was young and nothing worked. I have often thought about having hypnotherapy or something but I don't think that's helpful to you.
I don't know what to suggest but please take it seriously and get it dealt with as its a horrible habit to have. In terms of how additive it is, I have managed to give up smoking but still bite my nails sad
Good luck, hope you manage to crack it.

jevoudrais Sun 01-Nov-15 20:26:25

I was an adult nail biter, then I decided to stop, so I did. All you need to do is paint your nails with a thick layer of clear polish. Tastes horrid and soon stops the instant finger > mouth whilst absent mindedly watching tv.

I get very bored very easily. My attention span is shocking and I fidget a lot. I wouldn't know how to get a 3YO to stop, my parents never used to ask me to...

CatsRule Sun 01-Nov-15 20:33:07

My ds, who is also 3, occassionally bites his nails. I've linked it with stress as it seems to only happen at times he's been anxious about things like changing room at nursery. This happened recently, after not biting for quite a few months, he started again when he changed room and I know he was stressed with the room change and he also had a few toilet accidents too until he settled. He's stopped now and seems happy in that room.

GoringBit Sun 01-Nov-15 20:55:25

I bit my nails from as early as I can remember, and although I don't now, it took years to even begin to kick the habit. DPs tried everything, the bitter stuff, telling me to stop, bribery, you name it, nothing worked - not even knowing that it was a horrible habit - until I wanted to stop. Even then, I'd do it unconsciously, so the next step was to be aware of my hands pretty much all the time. Even now, I tend to put my fingers to or near my mouth, it's ingrained behaviour (is it oral fixation?) but I'm aware of it and stop before I start to pull or bite. It's like any compulsion, it's hard to stop, but it can be done.

OP, try the bitter stuff if you think it might help, but the main thing is to encourage your DS to stop, as you have been doing. Hopefully he'll get to the stage where he wants to stop, and you and he can build on that.

Oh and keep a nail file handy wherever you are, so if he bites or snags a nail, you can smooth it down rather than him keep pulling at it and making it worse.

Good luck.

whois Sun 01-Nov-15 21:53:45

How about a massive, massive bribe?

TheWordOfBagheera Wed 11-Nov-15 10:08:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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