How to Prevent Nail Biting in Children

Nail biting is a very common habit during childhood, and keeping children from biting their fingernails can be a challenge. Check out today's article for some helpful advice.
How to Prevent Nail Biting in Children

Last update: 30 April, 2019

How can I prevent nail biting in children? You’ve likely asked yourself this question a million times. The fact is that onychophagy – more commonly known as nail biting – is something completely normal during childhood.

There are many cases when parents think their children bite their nails to get their parents’ attention. However, that really isn’t true. Most children bite their nails unconsciously – in other words, they don’t even realize they’re doing it.

There’s no point in scolding them or even pushing them if they continue to nibble. Below, we’ll present a series of ideas to help prevent nail biting in children.

How to prevent nail biting in children

Use dialogue

The first way to keep children from biting their nails is by talking with them. As we’ve said before, it’s pointless to yell, criticize or threaten your children when you see them biting.

It’s important to understand that, in most cases, nail biting is a symptom of stress or nervousness. It may have to do with environmental factors or with a child’s personality. Therefore, scolding children for biting their nails will only make them more anxious and, therefore, make things worse.

Instead, calmly and peacefully, ask your children what they’re thinking about in that moment and how their day was. This will help you discover if something is worrying or upsetting them. When it comes to children, nail biting is usually due to three causes.


When it comes to children who bite their nails, dialogue is essential. You should find out what’s worrying your child and try to help find a solution to the problem he or she is facing.

How to Prevent Nail Biting in Children


On many occasions, nail biting is associated with a specific activity that children carry out, normally for distraction. Watching TV is a common example. In this case, we should control the times that our child bites his or her nails and explain why it’s a bad habit .


Everyone knows that childhood is a time when children imitate everything they see going on around them. Below, we’ll explain how to help children who bite their nails out of imitation.

How to prevent nail biting in children who do so out of imitation

The mirror they see themselves in

It’s a fact that nail biting is more common in children than in adults. That being said, there is a high percentage of individuals who carry this habit on into adulthood .

If you find yourself in this group, you should be aware of two things. First, children copy everything that goes around them, especially the action of their parents.

If your little ones see you biting your nails, they’ll follow suit. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is avoid biting your nails in front of your children.

In second place, to help children overcome this behavior, you need to do the same thing. 

How? We suggest proposing a game between you and your child. Whoever catches the other in the act of nail biting makes a specific gesture to the other as a reminder to stop.

That way, children assume more responsibility for their actions and feel a sense of complicity with their parents. At the same time, when they see their parents overcome their bad habits, they’ll likely do the same.

Utilize other activities

As parents, we spend hours and hours observing what our children do. That means you nip nail biting in the bud before it becomes a habit.

To do so, as soon as you see your children with their fingers in their mouth, suggest an activity that requires them to use their hands. 

For example, painting, drawing, putting together a puzzle, building a tower, playing with dolls, etc. Use whatever option is closest to your children so that they occupy their hands as soon as possible.

How to Prevent Nail Biting in Children

Show them your nails

If you yourself don’t bite your nails, explain that to your children and show them your hands. That way, they’ll be able to see the advantages of having nice, healthy fingernails. 

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.