Stop nail-biting before it becomes a habit

Q: My 2½-year-old has started biting her nails. Is this a nervous habit? How can it be stopped?

A: Children choose different ways to reduce their stress and bring comfort. If your daughter has recently given up her bottle or pacifier, biting her nails may have become her favourite new stress reliever — hard to stop once it becomes a habit. Nagging, reprimanding and bribing don’t usually stop the behaviour, and can even make it worse. You can try putting mitts on her hands or bitter-tasting substances on her fingers but, again, your chances of succeeding this way are limited. Your best bet is to figure out the times she’s most likely to bite her nails and give her something else to occupy her hands such as a worry ball, Silly Putty or a string of beads. Fortunately, many toddlers simply outgrow the habit, but the more you can do to help the process along, the better.

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