Help! Daughter's fingers constantly in her mouth : LUSENET : Country Families : One Thread

I haven't posted for a long time, but I've been alurkin'. I need your help, guys. My soon-to-be 7 year old *cannot* keep her fingers out of her mouth. She not only chews her nails, but the skin around them as well. I'm really nervous she's going to ingest some vicious germ or virus when there's no need to. We've had problems with her nail chewing before, and broke it by cutting her nails so often that there was no excess to chew. Nagging when I see her do it doesn't work, what can I do to get her to stop. Explaining how sick she can get doesn't work. Putting on nail polish to remind her not to do it hasn't worked (her idea). Ahhh!!!

-- Rheba (rb@notmymail.notcom), February 18, 2002


My sister quit chewing her nails when my grandmother promised her a manicure set. She wanted it SOOOO bad. To this day she has beautiful nails. On the other hand, I still find myself chewing my nails; no amount of bribery would ever have worked for me. Part of it is the personality of the child.

You could try some sort of award system whereby you give her a roll of quarters ($10) at the beginning of every week. Every time you see her munching her fingers, she gives up a quarter. Let her keep whatever's left at the end of the week.

You could also have her wear mittens all the time while not out in public. This helped my niece at about the same age with a hair-twisting habit. Her hair was so broken, torn, and tangled that she had to have it boy-short for several years.

Whatever you do, try to stop nagging her about it. I have found that nagging seems to make these kinds of problems worse.

-- Cathy N. (, February 19, 2002.

One more thing: this sounded strange when I first heard it, but I have had several people tell me that when kids chew on things they may be deficient in some mineral. I don't know how true that is, but it might be something to consider. Also check for stress. Think back to when the habit first started and see what was going on in her life at that time. Are there certain times of the day when she does it more? Is she bored? Maybe you could get her involved in some type of craft that requires both hands working constantly--crocheting, knitting, cross stitch on plastic canvas, etc. Encourage her to pick it up when she starts chewing, but again, don't force the issue. Let it be something she will enjoy.

-- Cathy N. (, February 19, 2002.

Hello Cathy,

Your post was very interesting as I discovered my daughter would eat paper! When I talked with the doctor about it, she told me that I should feed my daughter more protein, (how that connects with eating paper, I'll never know). When we gave her more meat and peanut butter....she quit eating paper!



-- (, February 19, 2002.

Yes, it is a mineral defecinity. As a child I could not stop tasting anything yellow or orange. Fingers in the margarine, stold lemons from the grocery store; there was too much pasta in my diet; too much low cost food. Mac and cheese was heaven, felt like total sin to eat it; my beast mother allmost lost us to the state, fill the gap correctly.....

-- mitch hearn (, February 19, 2002.

I used to suck my thumb, didn't stop til I was 6. They tried everything to get me to stop, including hot pepper. That didn't stop me. And to this day whenever I'm upset, the first thing I want to do is eat something with hot pepper on/in it. Very comforting.

-- Cindy (SE. IN) (, February 19, 2002.

Thanks for your thoughts, guys. I, too, was a thumb-sucker. Believe it or not, until I was about 11 or 12 (only in bed, by that time). I chewed my nails during the day, and stopped both around 12. I stopped chewing my nails by sitting on my hands when they were not in use. I stopped sucking my thumb because I knew someday I'd be married, and couldn't have my husband roll over in the middle of the night to see this! LOL There's motivation for a teen girl! Unfortunately, when I stopped both, I began smoking. When I'm not smoking (yes, I know, BAAAAD), I'm chewing the inside of my cheek, clenching my jaw, or even grinding my teeth. This is what my daughter does when I tell her to take her fingers out of her mouth. So...obviously we have some type of "oral" activity problem. I know the nagging just stresses her out, but I don't think the reason she does it is stress. Maybe I'll just have to make sure she washes her hands an awful lot until she can find the motivation on her own not to do it. Or...just had a thought. While she couldn't do it in school, maybe a good dental-type gum could keep her mouth busy?

-- Rheba (rb@notmymail.notcom), February 19, 2002.

Have you tried the stuff you paint on their nails and it tastes bad? My one thumb sucker was about six when he gave it up. He cried if we painted his nails, so we only did it once or twice. But seems like that was about the time he stopped.

-- mary (, February 19, 2002.

ive heard alum will help, put in on the fingers. it is very bitter if she just has a bad habit to break

-- js (, February 21, 2002.

Have you considered giving your daughter an alternative object to chew on? Yes, a chew toy.

One of my kids was a teether, so I gave her an interesting shaped oak blocks to chew. She would wait until we were home in private to chew her block. She eventually gave them up and has not resumed the damage to her fingers.

-- Laura (, February 21, 2002.

When my brother-in-law was three, his mother tried the bitter-tasting stuff on his thumb. When she went to check on him that night, he was busily wiping off his thumb with a spit-drenched corner of his bed sheet! Got his thumb all nice and clean, and resumed his sucking!

-- Cathy N. (, February 25, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ