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Nail-biting: Bite back

Some 40 percent of youngsters—the majority boys—bite their nails. Child experts aren’t sure why. Whatever the cause, you can help your child stop by:

  • not punishing the behavior—that might make it happen more often
  • calmly explaining why nail biting bothers you
  • asking the child to suggest ways he or she can stop
  • praising (or even rewarding) when the child’s nails grow in
  • staying patient and anticipating setbacks—breaking the habit can take several weeks
  • remembering that, if all else fails, almost every child outgrows nail-biting

Some parents report success using bitter liquids applied to the nails. They’re available at the drugstore, but bear in mind that even the foulest taste may not stop a really determined nail-biter.