Teenagers and nail biting
My two teen boys (15, 17) constantly chew their fingernails. They can't go a minute without sticking their fingers int heir mouths. Should I care? They don't even know they are doing it and often bite their nails in public or in large groups. The nails and cuticles on my youngest son's fingers look like hamburger. I find it gross and constantly scold them for chewing. I'm pretty sure that's not a good idea, but it really bugs me to no end.
How can I put an end to this?
Before reading further, perhaps you might want to flip through these forums to see some of the terrifying and heartbreaking things that can happen with teens. You'll find hundreds of parents who would think they won the lottery if nail biting was their worst teen problem. Next, understand that these sorts of habits can only be broken when the sufferer himself has had enough. Nagging teens into stopping these non-lethal behaviors can cause parents to win battles (of nail biting) and lose wars (of a close relationship with their children). The gross nails won't kill your kids, but losing your connection to the hearts of your sons might. Finally know that there are "natural consequences" that might get this done for you (such as pretty girls getting grossed out by a boy's gross nails, or getting a nasty infection).
So what to do? First, get your pediatrician to chat with the boys (with you not there) about the health risks of nail biting and quitting options. Beyond that, apologize to your sons for scolding them, tell them how proud you are of who they are as human beings, and offer them hugs. Then go thank whomever/whatever it is you thank in this universe for giving you wonderful sons who only bite their nails. Take care.
Dr. Mike Bradley