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Kicking the habit

Many of our kids will develop bad habits – it’s inevitable. Anything from the reasonably tolerable nail biting to the disgusting nose picking, it is a common part of growing up – unfortunately. Lets face it, it doesn’t always stop at childhood though, some of us adults have bad habits too, most likely ones that started when we were just yay high. Today, I am going to focus on nail biting. Why? My son does it and my husband does it and it drives me so, so crazy. So, here is all the whys? The whats? And the whens?

Children (and adults) can bite their nails for a number of different reasons. I’ve been told that some include, anxiety, curiosity, boredom or imitation. It has been found that in children, most of them bite their nails as a nervous habit. Along with other habits such as, sucking their thumb, twisting their hair, or grinding their teeth. Apparently, if you bit your nails as a child, chances are you still bite them now as a grown up – just something we can’t give up, I guess.

Getting older naturally comes with more anxiety, whether it is starting school, a trip to the dentist or taking major exams, there are many anxious periods in our lives from such a tiny age. Many of the tensions and pressures on our kids can go under our radar however. Our children’s way of dealing with some minor anxiety then comes out in different ways, generally nail biting and nose picking – yuk. These are habits our kids tend to do unconsciously while sat watching television – I know that this is when my son does it.

I know how annoying it can be to watch your child do it and even if it may pass on its own, I also realise it may seem a lifetime before it does. I mean, I tell him again and again not to do it! So if you want to encourage your child to stop biting their nails, I have a few (hopefully helpful) pointers below – they helped my son stop biting his nails (woo, victory dance).

If you suspect that your child’s habit is linked to anxiety or stress in their life, it is then important to look at any underlying causes for the anxiety and address them. Perhaps your child has just started school, or maybe your are going through a divorce and it is tough on them. There are many things that could be upsetting your child, but sitting them down and discussing these situations with them might help them relieve their stress and worries. You can always get your child to write down his or her worry on a piece of paper, then let them tear it up and throw it in the bin (throwing it out their lives.)

Most bad habits are done unconsciously so your child won’t actually realise that they are doing it. So, yelling at them or punishing them really won’t work at all. I have found that the best thing to do is to keep my sons nails trimmed quite short so that he is less tempted to bite them in the first place. This is a good approach as long as your child isn’t hurting themselves or isn’t becoming overstressed. The less fuss you place on the issue, the higher chance there is that your child will stop biting their nails on their own accord.

Just remember that you know yourself how hard habits are to break, kicking that caffeine habit os one i’m still working on. Be patient with your child, yet persistent at the same time. If they are struggling to break the habit, chances are that at some point in their life as they grow up, they will actually want to break it on their own.


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