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My Toddler Biting His Nails, What to Do?



Reply Date

Dec 02, 2017


My son (2 years 6 months) often bites his finger nails and the skins around them. They sometimes get the the point of bleeding, and his finger nails are starting to get deformed. We have tried stop it (the yuck tasting nail polish) but it had no effect. He didn't seem to care. We have put plasters on them, but he just rips them off. Any advice on how to combat this?



As salamu alaykum,


Shokran for writing in to our live session. While some nail biting is normal in children, it appears your son has taken it to extremes and it is to the point of harming himself, even if just slightly. Often times, excessive nailbiting can be the result of attention deficit disorder, anxiety disorder or it may be just a habit your child has gotten into to sooth himself. The Baby Center states it is commonly a “nervous” habit that children engage in and it is often done unconsciously. However when access is denied (such as putting socks on the hands or plaster, nasty tasting nail polish) the child will find a way around it as you have seen. In cases such as your son’s, I would kindly suggest sister that you consult with your child’s pediatrician about his condition. I would inquire about his general health to ensure there are no underlying medical conditions which is causing this (which I am sure insha’Allah there are not), however it is always best to rule out any underlying causes.

I would kindly suggest that you keep an eyes on your son and keep a journal on when he bites his nails, are there any events which precede his nail biting as well as his general emotional state before, during and after the nail biting. Also notating the number of times a day this occurs. This information will be helpful for the doctor in recommending a treatment or referral.

Insha’Allah, by keeping a journal for a few weeks, you will also begin to find the root problem of his possible anxious behavior. For example, if his name biting increases when there is tension in the home-that could be a possible cause. If it increases when he is about to get ready to go to a babysitters home, I would investigate this. While these are just example scenario’s, please do insha’Allah check out anything that correlates with his nail biting.

Additionally, after you have kept a journal for a few weeks and ruled out any environmental factors, you can help him curb his nail biting by diverting his attention to another activity which involves his hands when he begins to bite his nails. Do not keep telling him to stop as this will only increase his anxiety and the nail-biting but rather praise him when he switches from nail biting to an activity which you present to him. Persistence will be the key sister.

Insha’Allah sister this is just a passing phase that he will outgrow, but please do consult with his pediatrician.

You are in our prayers, we wish you the best.

About Aisha Mohammad-Swan

Aisha Mohammad-Swan received her PhD in psychology in 2000. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York with a focus on PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, and Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. She is currently studying for her certification in Islamic Chaplaincy, and takes Islamic courses at SHC. Aisha works at a Women's Daytime Drop in Center, and has her own part-time practice in which she integrates counseling and holistic health. Aisha also received an MA in Public Health/Community Development in 2009 and plans to open a community counseling/resource center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah.

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