Saturday, September 15, 2012

Onychophagia

Rahul has taken to biting his nails. It's one of the beastly little things he is learning in school. If I don't remember to trim them as soon as ever they grow, I find his fingernails bitten down. It bothers me because my brother and I used to bite our nails. I stopped when I was thirteen and decided I wanted nice nails when I grew up but by then a couple of fingernails were permanently damaged.

Repeated reminders, warnings and explanations have not worked with Rahul. He looks guilty and denies biting them at all but the evidence is on his fingertips.

Last night I carried out my threat and painted two of his fingernails. I applied a coat of clear varnish and told him, next time, I will paint them bright red so that everybody can see. I just hope the bitter taste of the polish will remind him not to bite the nails.

He was tired and took it very badly. He first begged and then howled his little head off. It felt a bit like thrashing a little puppy.

I wonder if punishing me also hurt my parents. I always believed that they quite enjoyed it.

7 comments:

Aathira Nair said...

Biting nails is something which I see some folks do even today. Why they do it is something which I have not understood... is it really an involuntary action?

darkandcomic said...

I love your posts but hardly ever comment. This is a post that, weirdly, is close to my heart because I have bitten my nails all my life.. and stopped last month. So that's over 25 years of nails at the least :D I just wanted to say that I hated being asked if I had bitten my nails because I never did it voluntarily.. this is something many nail-biters vouch for. It makes a child feel ashamed to have to answer this question. It's a bit like bed-wetting. All I'm saying is that nobody including my mom or aunts or boyfriends or husband could get me to quit it, whether their arguments were about hygiene/ aesthetics/ how grossed out they felt.. it is that involuntary. However, nail paint is an effective method for many people (didn't work for me, and eventually my mother stopped because it seemed I liked eating nail paint even better). Perhaps you could make it neutral nail paint and talk to him about it being a medicine or something. Band-aids for shorter periods also work. In rare cases, it is a calcium deficiency. For older people, sessions of hypnosis are recommended but I'm not sure if there's something similar for kids.

Sachinky said...

I have bitten my nails all my life. Still do. But I never thought of it as an involuntary action, I just like it -- sometimes when I am nervous I'll do it. Other people rock their legs. I stopped doing it constantly when I was around 18. I like my nails long and pretty and I love wearing nail polish. Sometimes I'll let them grow really long and THEN bite all of them off. My husband thinks it's totally creepy. My cousins used to do it too. The older one especially would bite even the skin off on the sides and her fingers look a bit damaged but mine are fine -- I stuck to the nails.

Subhashree said...

It is an involuntary thing. I'll not even realize I'm biting my nails/skin around the nails, but I so want to stop it. This is the main reason I don't go for manicure, because the skin around the nails burn and is very uncomfortable. I want to have nice nails too, and I can't really help it. I am going to keep reminding me to stop, I wish somebody reminded me when I forget :(

Cee Kay said...

Poor Rahul :( M howls her head off if I proceed to set a timer to get her to eat her food within a reasonable amount of time.

Sue said...

Aathira -- It becomes a habit that is at once soothing and also involuntary. I decided to stop when I was 13 but I know I would bite sporadically for much longer.

DarkAndComic -- Well, all the best to you on your efforts. :)

Sachinky -- I worry because my brother ruined all his nails and I ruined a couple of fingers when we were kids. I have never been able to grow healthy nails on those fingers.

Subha -- You know what I did when I decided to stop? I took to biting my whole finger tip. It still gave me the satisfaction of gnawing without having a ruined nail for my pains. Eventually I stopped even that. See if it helps.

Sue said...

Cee -- Poor Missy M! These kids. :(