As a life-long nail biter, I feel for you. My wee 5 year old granddaughter is starting to bite her nails too and, as you point out, she does it without realising.
The in toy at the moment here is a squishey which is a type of stress relief toy which comes in many appealing forms and I have sent for a couple - one for her house and one for here - that she can play with when she is reading or watching a movie. We’ll see if that has any effect.
In addition, it is her birthday next week and one of her presents will be a couple of bottles of shiny nail polish as an incentive.
I bite my nails too, have done since I was very small. My Father bit his as well until he had to have his teeth out & then he couldn’t. I did manage to grow my nails for a while, but they split easily & I only have 4 proper nails now, though one of those is short because it broke, the others are still bitten. I don’t realise I’m doing it either.
My Son bites his, but Daughter did & stopped & now she has lovely nails, but hers split easily too, she no longer bites them.
I have bitten my nails since I was a kid, and find it a satisfying habit. My mother used to paint stuff on my nails in order to get me to stop, but it never worked. Maybe she will grow out of it when she is older and wants to look her best to attract the male of the species, if she is so inclined.
I had the bad habit of biting my fingernails from as far back as I can remember. My paternal grandmother told my mum to put Bitter Alum on my nails…which she tried more than once to no avail. When I was about 13…mum promised me that if I stopped nail biting she’d take me shopping for a whole new wardrobe…and again, she and I were both disappointed in me. Couldn’t even stop for my wedding day when I wore a gorgeous ball gown…
Fast forward to my daughter’s wedding…I actually stopped about six months before and by the nuptials…my nails were absolutely lovely… That was in 2004…and I’ve not bitten them since… I love going for manicures now… Wish I’d done it for mum…
Neither of my children picked up on that nasty habit…
I’m not forcing her she asked me to help her, she doesn’t want to be only one can’t wear lovely nail colours. She enjoys painting my nails and is getting quite artistic about it with the nail art she’s copying off the internet. But she can’t do her own because they are so short.