Nail biting and thumb sucking in children

Nail biting habit usually does not start before 3-4 years of age. (It can be seen very rarely as early as 5 months of age). Nail biting behavior is seen in 33% of children. This rate lasts until early adolescence. The number of children who bite their nails during adolescence increases to 40-45%. In other words, almost half of the children towards adolescence show nail biting behavior. The reason for this is considered to be that young people do not receive approval from the environment. In addition, most of the families of nail-biting children are found to be nail-biters. It is claimed that nail biting is an imitation and is learned by imitating adults. Most of those who gain social approval in adolescence abandon this habit.
Nail biting is sometimes associated with biting toes and catching toenails with fingers. Toenail eating and biting occurs almost exclusively in girls.


It is necessary to determine the events that cause this behavior rather than the nail biting behavior.
The underlying causes of this behavior are mostly psychological disorders, as in thumb sucking.
The habit is mostly related to the situations where the suppressed emotions are concerned, and it seems to take root when the child understands that this is an undesirable behavior and habit.
Nail biting is considered a sign of insecurity. The main reasons are the implementation of an over-pressured and authoritarian education in the family, the constant criticism of the child, jealousy, not getting enough attention and love, distress and tension.
The life of the parents is also an important factor. Parental incompatibility, frequent quarrels of parents, problems in the family cause behaviors such as nail biting in children. In addition, parents being excessively anxious, protecting the child excessively, and parents discriminating between children lead to jealousy among children. This indirectly manifests itself as nail biting. Nail biting is a behavior that can be acquired through imitation, as we have mentioned before. The nail biting behavior of any individual in the family will naturally attract the attention of the child. In addition, nail biting behavior may develop depending on events. Any event that makes the child uneasy or any situation in the environment that will create displeasure for him causes him to show this behavior.


The most effective method is to ignore this habit by the parents until the age of 3-4. If this habit continues afterwards; The reasons for the child’s tension and incompatibility should be thoroughly investigated, and these should be identified and resolved.
It is not beneficial to use coercive methods such as scolding, scaring or punishing the child. Sometimes it can even cause more serious emotional problems.

It is necessary to keep children away from situations that will cause fear and anxiety. It is undesirable for young children to watch television movies that frighten anxiety and to engage in quarrelsome events as it will excite the child.
Dressing nail-biting children in old lightweight gloves when they go to bed at night. It can be useful as a reminder when the child wants to bite or bite their nails at night. A painful but harmless liquid can be applied to the finger and nail. This is both a reminder and combined with the pain when he puts his nail in his mouth can help to quit.

Children can be distracted. Keeping her mouth busy with something to chew while watching movies, watching TV or listening to the radio can be a substitute for nail biting and biting. Occasionally rewarding children for their achievements can be beneficial in some cases. However, it should be used in a limited and appropriate way. Otherwise, the child can use it to get new rewards. The nail can be cut deep. It can also be helpful for the child to deal with their own nail care. In this, manicure and pedicure materials can be purchased for the child.
As a last word and as a precaution, it should be explained to children that nail biting and biting is not a bad habit and that those who want it can easily abandon it. When the child is convinced of this, he will make an effort to give up this habit. Because external factors are not very effective for the child to give up this habit, and in some cases, they cause the habit to take root and be used as a tool to annoy and annoy others.


In the first 3-4 months after birth, sucking is normally the only way for a child to eat and drink. Up to one year of age, sucking is the main route of nutrition. It seems that children greatly enjoy the sucking activity. It is seen that most of the children get enough satiety from the sucking activity in the diet. The mouth is a source of pleasure throughout life. This activity is in the form of sucking, chewing gum, nail biting in early childhood, smoking, kissing and light biting in youth. (D. Caglar, 1981).

We have said that children enjoy sucking activity in a certain way and degree. A sensory bond is established between the mother and the child through sucking, the child is closer to the mother and the stomach is full. This close relationship with the mother is a very important activity for the child’s mental health, no matter how important it is for the child to be satiated for a balanced and healthy growth and development.

Thumb sucking is common and normal for children up to 1 year of age. Thumb sucking can be seen frequently towards the age of 1.5 years. Thumb sucking is not a behavior that stems from hunger. Sucking is a behavior pattern that does not depend on nutrition at a high rate from 50% to 87%.
If the child’s sucking desire is impregnated prematurely or later with excuses such as spoiling the beauty or similar, the child may try to satisfy the psychological needs that he cannot satisfy by sucking the mother in a different way. Thumb sucking is a common form of satisfaction that children generally refer to. Dr. David Levy points out that babies fed every three hours suck as much thumbs as babies fed every 4 hours. Again, because the teats get old and soft, babies who suck on a bottle for 10 minutes instead of 20 minutes still suck more thumbs than babies who suck on a bottle for 20 minutes.

If the baby sucks his thumb after the feeding is over and his activity sucks for a long time between feeding periods, it should be considered that the sucking desire is not sufficiently satisfied.
Half of one-year-olds suck their thumbs. From 9 months onwards, it is seen that there is a close relationship between sleep and thumb sucking, and the sleepy baby brings his finger to his mouth. This habit, called RITVEL, can last for months. The efforts to keep the child from sucking thumbs are met with resistance by the child until the age of 3 years. Some babies experience thumb sucking as a sign of embarrassment and boredom when their new teeth come out, while others face difficulties. Finger sucking, which becomes more frequent in 18 months, is expected to disappear at the age of 4 years.

Finger sucking, which is related to nutrition, can be stopped at the end of the first year. In some cases it can be cut. In some cases, it can continue. GESEL and 126 state that thumb sucking reaches its highest level in the period of 18-21 month old children and is seen very frequently. In particular, he observed that they sat for hours sucking their fingers without participating in any activity. But even if he does not participate in the activities, thumb sucking stops after the 2nd year. Very rarely, it can continue until 5-6 years of age. There are cases that persist into adulthood.

It has been proven that thumb sucking is not harmful when the research ends at the latest 5-6 years old, but if it continues, it can cause tooth formation. Finger sucking frequency decreases rapidly when he starts school. At the age of 6-12, it becomes a habit that is acquired by 12%.

Thumb sucking has a close relationship with harmony. We said that children suck their thumbs while falling asleep. Some 2-year-olds resist to put their fingers in their mouth while falling asleep. At the age of 3, this habit disappears by itself. Finger sucking activity causes less tooth irregularity than is believed. If thumb sucking occurs after 5-6 years of age, it becomes an undesirable habit. Thumb-sucking is a broken habit, even though bedtime continues.

Parents may worry about the effects on the jawbones and teeth of children who suck their thumbs. It is true that thumb sucking pushes back the upper and lower teeth. How much thumb sucking affects the teeth depends on the duration of thumb sucking and most importantly the position of the finger in the mouth. This change in primary teeth indicates that it does not affect the primary teeth that erupt after the age of 6 years.

It is thought that the child sucked his thumb in the mother’s blood. It has been determined as a result of research that a baby’s thumb is swollen when he is born, and that he puts his finger in his mouth and sucks after his first cry. The child also sucks his thumb when he is not hungry. Sucking gives pleasure to the child and this is how he gets to know his surroundings.

Another view is that the selection of the thumb sucking object is a coincidence. It occurs with the contact of the thumb with the mouth as a result of the random movements of the child. The child finds this activity enjoyable. Then, it starts to use it as a source of pleasure with the accidental contact of the other fingers with the mouth.(D. Çağlar 1981)

In his clinical observations and studies on calves, dogs, and chickens, LEVY found thumb sucking and inappropriate eating activity at feeding time as the main factor and cause. Gesel and ILG argue that this is an insignificant factor. Gesel et al. said, “We have had similar trials in this regard. We have seen children who are fed by mothers suck their thumbs. Later we found that these children were good, well-adjusted children and were developing normally”. They described their investigations as follows. (D. Çağlar1981)
Davis and his associates conducted an experiment in three groups fed with any container, bottle and breast milk. In this experiment, they have seen that thumb sucking is most common in children who are breastfed and breastfed. (D. Çağlar 1981) Thumb sucking usually occurs in the first childhood months. Sometimes it starts in the teething phase and rarely with imitating his peers.

Some movements accompany thumb sucking.
to ear,
patting the head,
curling and pulling hair,
absorbing blanket, Pike, bed sheet and towel,
Rubbing the chin and eye with a blanket,
Pulling the blanket over your face,
Hand and arm suck.
Many children suck their thumbs while holding a blanket, pique, or piece of cloth. A child simply took a piece of silk cloth in his mouth and chewed it. She had given up on thumb sucking. But after thumb-sucking had stopped, sucking and chewing silk continued as a common activity. (B. Caglar-1981)

Tongue Sucking

An activity similar to thumb sucking is tongue sucking. Tongue sucking is a frequent move by the child when the child is restrained from finger activity. It can be seen in all types of children. This habit is harmless. It usually disappears in 2 years. (D. Çağlar-1981) They say that most of the diseases seen in children are related to thumb sucking. In other words, there are those who find thumb sucking related to some deviants. It is said that thumb sucking causes palate disorder, palate and tooth deformations, air swallowing, intestinal inflammation disorders, oral diseases. Among these, thumb sucking is said to cause improper placement of teeth. But it does not cause finger calluses to form. It has not been seen to cause any finger disease. This habit is also not known as harmful. None of the above-mentioned diseases have been proven to be the cause. Because the deformations listed above are seen with the same frequency in thumb sucking and non-finger sucking children. Sucking on a dirty finger causes germs to enter the mouth.


We can say that babies who suckle their mothers regularly and sufficiently are less thumb sucking than their peers. In general, the mother does not know whether the breast is empty or not, she leaves this job to the baby. When a baby finishes the milk in the bottle, he puts down the bottle. Because she doesn’t want to suck that air. The first question that comes to mind about a baby trying to suck his thumb is “if he lets go, will the baby suckle longer?” It will. To answer this question, mothers should allow the baby to suckle for 30 or 40 minutes at appropriate times. The baby absorbs most of the breast milk in 5 or 6 minutes. The rest of the time, it satisfies the desire to suck. The milk that comes in drops deceives him. In other words, if the baby suckles for 35 minutes, he can drink a little more milk when taken from breastfeeding for 20 minutes. When a suckling child is allowed to suckle as much as he wants, the results are surprisingly different. A baby who leaves the breast for 10 minutes at one feeding will attempt to suckle for 40 minutes at another feeding. This is an indication that breastfeeding can be adjusted according to the baby’s own needs. (S. Gizer-1998)
In a child whose sucking desire is not sufficiently satisfied, the habit of thumb sucking may accompany other movements over time. The child may hold his ear, shake his head, pull his hair, Sometimes the accompanying movements may persist after thumb sucking is stopped. (S. Gizer 1996) In thumb sucking, children do it for pleasure and satisfaction, while nail-biting children are seen in tense, easily excited children with mental and psychological problems.


It should be made clear to parents that thumb sucking is a harmless activity. It should be clearly explained that thumb sucking does not cause tooth deformations as we have just mentioned, and that it is not a disease. Because there is a common opinion among the people that thumb sucking is a sin, and what children do as a corrupt means of sexual pleasure, such as masturbation, will even be considered a major sin in terms of religion. The erasure of these superstitions is one of the main measures to be taken. Because parents and family elders who believe in this take very drastic measures to discourage their children from this lifelong bad habit. Even those who put hot peppers on the fingers of children, those who beat them, those who tie their hands and arms behind their back, stick a needle in their hands and inflict painful punishments that they will never forget. These criticisms, scoldings, beatings, hurting the finger may cause negativity to rise in the child. It can reinforce that it remains a behavior to disturb the parents.(D. Çağlar-1981)

Thumb sucking is not a habit that affects adaptation in childhood and later on. It does not require any special corrective measures. However, it may be the cause of many adaptation and sensory problems as a result of the application of inappropriate measures and punishments for children who have started to suck their thumbs or who have made it a habit. The methods applied to break a simple habit may cause some new and chronic adjustment disorders that are unrelated to the situation. (B. Caglar-1981)
At a young age, children should be fed properly. In addition to the quality of food and breast milk, a special place and importance should be given to the child’s attitude while giving food. The child should be brought close to the mother’s breast in such a way that she can feel her warmth while being fed both from the mother’s breast and from the bottle. On the one hand, the child is given food or breast, on the other hand, the mother should pour warm love from her eyes to the child. Keeping the child loose, giving food by being beaten and scolded does not mean much, it has the same effect as giving food to a young person with dignity.(D. Çağlar-1981) . They withhold the sincerity of civilized people while feeding dogs to human babies. Proper nutrition is the biggest obstacle to the emergence of this problem.(D. Çağlar-1981)
Maybe the child can get special pleasure from thumb sucking or rubber nipple sucking. This is never a harmful habit. Through normal behaviors and relationships, this habit can be abandoned at the end of the age of 1 (D. Çağlar-1981)
If the child starts to walk or does this after the age of 1, that is, if he sucks his thumb, this is a sign that the child is too tired, uncomfortable, unhappy, distressed, sad. Examining the child’s condition and corrective measures should be directed towards correcting the whole situation, not just the finger, which is a symptom. Because unless the main reasons for thumb sucking are eliminated, the child will continue to suck their fingers. (B. Caglar-1981)
The child should be provided with appropriate rest, wide and varied opportunities for activities, play environments and opportunities to engage.
Inappropriate behavior of parents should be corrected. Children should not be subjected to violent acts because of this habit and the child should not be frightened with superstitious ideas.
The promise of reward will stimulate the child’s desire and strength to let go, various measures can mobilize the child to let it go. Applying harmless bitter liquid that will act as a stimulant when the child puts his finger in his mouth and wearing gloves at night and even during the day if necessary can be a good reminder to end the habit.
It can be a good reminder to overcome the habit, especially to give the child the belief that he will quit this habit if he wants to for self-control.
If the child continues to suck his thumb when he is 4-5 years old, it may be useful to give him suggestions. The child is told in a language that he or she can understand that what he is doing is a childish behavior and that it is not pleasing to the eyes of others. At this age, children usually try to be like a big person and imitate their parents. Most of the time he acts like them. Parents should evaluate this situation of the child very well. It can often be effective if they say that they do not suck their thumbs because this situation is not very pleasant.(S. Gizer-1996)
It has been explained that early weaning develops a pessimistic, sadistic late weaning develops a confident and optimistic personality.

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