Are you starting to bite your own nails over nail-biting in the children you call your own? It’s funny how we sometimes start doing the very things we don’t want our kids to do, but the good news is that it’s not something to warrant much worry.
Millions of children around the world are nail-biters. It crosses cultural and gender boundaries with no apparent singular cause except that many kids find it a naturally comforting and harmless way of working through the tensions of their little lives. Others just do it because they are bored or because it’s become a habit over time, very much like nose-picking or other nervous twitches. You may even remember your own childhood patterns that your parents were anything but happy about.
And do you still have any of those habits? If any, it’s probably nail-biting, since that one is the most likely to stick it out until adulthood (maybe because it’s still far more socially acceptable among grown-ups than nose-picking!). But even then it doesn’t matter. Any habit you’ve got, regardless of how long you’ve had it, is changeable. The key is always to become aware of what emotional state you are in when you do the behavior. All actions are dependent on emotional state, so finding ways to take yourself out of those emotional states quickly will also short-circuit the patterns you don’t want to continue.
The same is true for nail-biting in children. Of course, your little ones won’t have quite the emotional awareness that you do, so it’ll pay for you to take notice of where their stresses might be. Could it be from their pre-school separation with Mommy, from a surly older sibling or even from a somewhat recent divorce? Kids often don’t know how to cope with these circumstances because they don’t understand how to process them, so some extra time and care from you to talk through things can go a long way to dissolving their worries and the nervous habits that come along with them.
Above all else, be gentle. Scolding your kids for nail-biting is highly unlikely to do any good, especially since the habit is usually triggered unconsciously. Instead, help your children to become aware of when they are doing it and how they’re feeling right before they start doing it. Then you’ll be leveling the ground with the adults out there who are more aware of their actions and the underlying triggers.
Remember, be patient. With a little time and some love to grease the groove, nail-biting in children can be just another phase of growing up instead of a lifelong nag.