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Why does my son bite his nails all the time?

Q: My 4.5 years old son tends to bite his nails all the time. He started doing this 2-3 years back. All his nails have become blunt and sometimes he bites off his skin too. We've tried unsuccessfully to persuade him to get rid of his habit. What can be done? He sometimes even bites off his toes. Please suggest some remedy.

A:It seems that the problem started two to three years ago. It would have been easier to nip it in the bud, or take care of it when it began. Home remedies followed by our grandmothers included putting neem oil on the tips of the fingers, so that the bitterness would induce him to give it up. This could be tried, of course. You have to make it difficult for him to continue biting his nails. I have seen the habit persisting into adulthood and it is disgusting and unhygienic. It reflects some anxiety on the child's part. It might be a good idea to consult a Psychologist or School Counsellor, if you have access to such a person. This is important. Provide him with activities where he has to use his hands a lot. Organise activities like games and drama with other children his age. Make it worthwhile for him to be socially acceptable and a welcome member of a group. Give him hugs and cuddles to assure him that he is loved.

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