Nail biting is an annoyance for many parents. It’s unsanitary and can cause bleeding around the nail bed. Biting nails also results in cracked and peeling nails that don’t look nice. Nail biting can become such an ingrained habit for children that parents have a difficult time helping their children to not bite fingernails.

5 easy parenting tips to get your child to break their nail-biting habit.

Figure out why your child is biting their nails.

Simply ask your child why they bite their nails or what makes them feel the need to bite their fingernails. It might take a little detective work, but if you understand why your child bites their nails, it’s easier to find the right solution to stop the behavior for good.

Give them something to do instead of biting their nails.

For instance, if your child bites their fingernails because they are nervous you could work on getting them to find comfort in something else instead. If your child bites their fingernails because their hands are idle, you could give them a ball to throw and catch or try to prevent their boredom in another way.

Use a reward chart.

Track progress and motivate your child to not bite fingernails by using a mobile reward chart. Start out with keeping track of every minute your child goes without biting their nails and gradually work up to every hour. Pretty soon you will be counting the days between nail biting!

Use Band-Aids or nail stickers as a visual reminder.

Band-aids cover the nail preventing biting, and serves as a visual reminder to help your child break the nail-biting habit. An alternative is to use fun nail stickers. These won’t cover the nail completely, but it’s a fun, positive way to help your child refrain from nail biting.

Do not punish your child or ridicule the behavior in front of others.

Nail biting is most likely a nervous habit. Making your child more anxious is likely to worsen their nail-biting. Find a gentle way to remind your child to not bite their fingernails while in public so you don’t embarrass your child in front of others. A simple pat on the back or hand squeeze might be enough. You could also just excuse yourselves and find a private area to remind your child to not bite their fingernails.