Your 7 1/4-year-old: Nail biting

Your 7 1/4-year-old: Nail biting

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Your 7-year-old now

Hmmm, have you noticed you haven't needed to trim your child's nails lately? Nail biting is an annoying but all-too-common behavior among second graders. Some flexible kids even manage to gnaw off their toenails. (Eww!)

Aside from the gross factor, nail biting is a bad habit because of the germs your child can ingest. When you're dealing with a behavior like this, it helps to understand why kids do it. Nervousness is the main reason; there's a lot of stress involved in growing up, even if your child doesn't talk about it or outwardly show it in other ways.

To clip the habit: Don't nag. Many kids aren't even aware they're doing it. Better: Set limits, like no nail biting at the table. Develop a secret signal, like tapping your fingers on the table, whenever you see her biting her nails — this can help draw her attention to it. Some girls kick the habit after being allowed to wear nail polish. (Others, alas, add polish to the list of questionable substances they ingest by biting.)

Your life now

Does your child run outside in winter without hat or gloves, or resist the sunhat you thoughtfully provide come summer? Let it go — to a point. While you can provide the items and issue the reminders, you can't hover over your child every moment to make sure she's warm and safe.

Make a rule about putting on sunscreen before heading to the beach but don't expect her to reapply without being told. Going hatless or mittenless in winter probably won't harm your child — if she's cold, she'll remember.

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