Nail biting is a common behavior in childhood and may affect up to 50% of children. Nail biting, or onychophagia, typically emerges in children around 3-4 years old. As your child ages, he or she will most likely grow out of it. You child may chew on his/her nails for a variety of reasons.
Nail biting is the most common of the "nervous habits", which also includes nose picking, hair pulling and thumb sucking.
So long as your child isn't hurting himself/herself and doesn't seem overly stressed, simply keep nails neatly trimmed and allow the habit to break on its own. However, keep an eye out for chronic nail biting.
Chronic Nail Biting
If your child's nail biting leads to sore and bloody fingers, he or she is doing other worrisome behaviors (hair pulling, picking at the skin) or not sleeping well, consult your doctor. There may be psychiatric reasons behind it. Chronic nail biting can lead to serious problems in the nail bed and beyond including:
Tips to Prevent Nail Biting
It's important to not punish your child for nail biting, as it may worsen the problem. However, if the problem persists long-term, there are options to help curtail the habit including:
When beginning to work with your child on correcting the nail biting behavior, it may be necessary to talk with his/her doctor or psychologist to determine the best approach for your child. They can also discuss the best way for parents to respond to or manage their child's nail biting.