Nail Biting Habit

Nail biting behavior, which manifests itself from the age of 3 in children, is very common, but it is a habit that can manifest itself in adolescence and adulthood. It is necessary to determine the events that cause this behavior rather than the nail biting behavior.

Causes of Nail Biting Behavior

  • Anger, anxiety, confidence and self-confidence problems can occur due to exciting or stressful times, overly controlling and oppressive parents, sibling jealousy.

  • 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 also be acquired through imitation. 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.


  • Nail biting behavior seen in children at the age of 3-4 may be for the purpose of attracting attention. For this reason, the child should not be guided to quit this habit by force or pressure. This habit, which can be seen in this period, can be ignored at first, because the child is aware of the reaction of the parents with this action.

  • Instead of extinguishing this behavior, it may be possible by developing another behavior. For example, the child can be prevented from biting nails by offering alternatives (eg chewing gum or playing with play dough).

  • Observing the situations in which their children exhibit this behavior will also help parents to understand the source of the problem. For example, a child in school may exhibit this behavior during exam periods or while studying, or he may display this behavior when he is afraid to speak during social interaction.

  • Warnings such as “take your hand off your mouth” to the child may cause an adverse reaction, but may also make the child uneasy.

  • Certain “nail biting times” can be established for 6-7 years and later. It may take time to comply with the restriction, patience should be shown. When it adapts, moral and verbal rewards should be given. It should be motivated.

  • If there is a lack of interest and love, which is one of the situations that trigger nail biting, it is recommended that the parent spend time with the child in order to eliminate it.

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 cause anxiety and to engage in quarrelsome events as it will excite the child.

  • Putting nail-biters on old lightweight gloves while they sleep at night can be helpful 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 bought 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 addition, apart from these suggestions, various methods that can be applied in accordance with a certain plan in children aged 6 and above;

  • Corrective and Preventive Response: After learning the alternative response, have them use it to interrupt the habit or prevent it from occurring.

  • Connected Behavior: try to identify the behavior that he did just before the obsessive act and have him use the alternative response to stop the previous connected behavior. For example, if you both notice that she starts shaking her feet before she starts biting her nails, that’s connected behavior.

  • · Relaxation practice: There are many relaxation techniques to choose from. You can get information from the school counselor.

  • · Community Support: This support can come from you or a close friend as encouragement or praise for their efforts.

  • · Experiment: Guide your child to make a routine by repeating the alternative behavior every day. Also suggest trying the alternative response when considering situations in which the obsession arose.

  • · Log: log the frequency of occurrence of the habit daily to see how much progress you have made.

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