Children Pinching

Archived Q&A and Reviews


20-month-old is pinching at daycare

August 2003

Hi there - I hope I'm not alone in this. My sweet little 20 mth- old boy is the pincher. He started doing this frequently about 2 months ago when he started daycare. He also had started biting a month or so before. This is the same child that people often tell us is such ''a happy, smiley child''. The biting has ceased quite a bit (in fact, he's only bitten a kid at daycare once) but he still forgets and tries (at least at home). The pinching bewilders me. We don't pinch him and as far as I know, he has never been pinched. His caregiver says that she has watched him daydream at the table and while doing so, his little hand will reach out to pinch the kid next to him. At home, he tries pinching and biting when we say ''no'' to something and he's irritated - I have more or less reduced his biting and pinching me by ignoring it and moving his hand/face away while I pretend to look away or just sing a song. I can't expect a bunch of 2-5 year-olds to do the same. What am I doing wrong? Where is this aggression coming from? There's also the screaming/screeching that drives me and my husband nuts. I see all of this as agression that needs to be dealt with (and any advice on the screeching will alsobe appreciated) but first and foremost I'd like to put an end to the daycare pinching. I am really stessed out by this so any help will be most appreciated. Tired of Pinching

The pinching is actually not really aggression in the sense you're thinking. It, just like biting and hitting, is more due to an inability to cope with frustration, and also to a desire to communicate and have an effect on the people around him. You are doing nothing wrong, kids just do this, it is perfectly normal, and will go away if you keep doing as you do. My little son's 2 1/2 year old friend was quite a biter when she was 15 months old -- my son came home with bite marks more than once -- and now that she can talk well, she is a delightful little girl who gets very concerned about the other kids at daycare when they cry, running over to kiss, hug, and comfort them. Our daycare provider simply removed her when she bit, and explained, over and over (and OVER) to her that it wasn't nice to bite the other kids, and it made them sad. But the daycare provider also assured all of us that this was normal and nothing to worry about.

I know exactly what you are going through and it is so frustrating. My son didn't really pinch, but he grabbed other people's faces and hair. He did it without thinking...without being was just like this mechanical thing he did. And, like you I was so frustrated b/c we never were violent towards him at home. I read books, talked to my pediatrician, and all the advice didn't really help. I think the problem is that all kids do things for different reasons. For my son, it seemed like it was just and impulse he had and he was at an age when he had no impulse control.

We worked with him for months, telling him no and even doing time outs. Sometimes the more I told him no, the more he would do it (that's the other thing, sometimes the motivation then changes. it started out as a random act, then it became an attention getting thing.)

So the good news is that my son has gotten much better. He still occasionally grabs and hurts other kids, but he does it much less frequently. In his case, what really seemed to help was teaching him the word for ''hurt.'' We taught our son that certain things were ''ooowie''. When he fell down or hit his head, that was ''oowie.'' Then, whe he grabed my face or pulled my hair, that was also ''oowie.''

Also telling him ''no'' has helped. The first clue that we knew he was getting it was that he would say ''no'' before he grabbed. It was like he knew it was wrong but just didn't have the impulse control to stop himself.

Also we changed caregivers for our son. His original babysitter, while very loving, was not being very effective in dealing with his behavior. he was sharing childcare and he and the other boy were apparently hitting and grabbing each other all day long. She was primarily spanish speaking and I had a hard time conveying to her how to handle the situation. Now we have a caregiver who I communicate with more clearly. He is still in shared childcare, but the caregiver is really on top of the situation so that my son is getting the same responses from both of us. The caregiver reports that my son rarely if ever touches the other kids he shares with.

Finally I would like to say that having a child who even inadvertently hurts other children is a really isolating experience. I got to the point where I wouldn't even take him to the park or go over for playdates anymore. Everyone seemed to have advice and none of it seemed to apply to my child. Parents who have children who don't have this problem just don't understand. I had so many people telling me about the one time their daughter hit someone and how they handled it so well that their daughter never did it again. The breaking point for me was when my pediatrician, after consulting her about this, gave me a hand out saying that children who hurt other children don't feel loved. I could have died!

Anyway, the only thing I think that could help is if you really get frustrated, have a behavoral therapist or someone who specializes in child behavioral issues come out and do an evaluation specifically of your child and then give you advice. Because if the person doesn't know your child specifically, I think the advice probably won't be that useful. I wish you well

9-month-old Pincher

Sept. 2001

my 9 month old daughter pinches and I am at a loss of what to do. she pinches my neck, face and arms when I hold her and when nursing she pinches my chest and ribs. she pinches surprisingly hard! it hurts and if her nails aren't cut short enough she leaves little nail scratches. when she pinches I grab her hand and firmly say no. sometimes she smiles and sometimes she just looks at me but it does not appear to curb her habit. I tried to put mittens on her hands for nursing but she gets very angry and kind of freaks out. I'm afraid this is going to lead to an even bigger problem when she gets older but I have no idea how to teach her to stop. gael

My daughter pinched at around the same age, maybe older. And it was also surprisingly painful. What worked for me was to take her little pinching hand and hold it in front of her body in my hand. She didn't like to be restrained and cried. Then she got clever and would pinch me with the other hand, the little devil! So, then I'd capture the other hand and hold both of her hands in my one hand in front of her body. I'd let her be mad and cry for 15-20 seconds and then release. She stopped doing it. I'd love to claim credit but maybe she just grew out of it. I also found that I needed to keep her nails really short so that any scrabbly behavior on my chest while nursing was not so irritating. Good luck. Cheryl

My daughter developed the same habit at about 11 months and it is now tapering off at 14 months. She would pinch my neck and arms while I nursed her or cuddled her to sleep. Telling her no pinching didn't work. It seemed to me like she couldn't not do it, like it was somehow soothing her. At first I was concerned about her becoming a pincher, but she only does it to me (the pleasures of motherhood!), and like I said, it seemed to soothe her, she wasn't doing it to hurt or because she was frustrated. Here are a few things that worked: wearing a long-sleeve turtleneck when I cuddle or nurse her, having her cuddle a stuffed animal while I cuddle her and telling her to pinch that. Once when we were reading a book, she pointed to a crab and I told her that crabs pinch and that baby girls do not pinch. For some reason, that made an impact. Now when I tell her not to pinch, pinching hurts, she says crab and stops. Good luck! It seems to be tapering off here. Hardin

My son was also a pincher for a while, around that age, it passed after a short time. My general approach to many behaviors that I don't want to encourage is just to ignore them. I feel that no, no no from the parent just draws attention to the unwanted behavior and the child likes to see that reaction. Not everyone would agree with me on that... So when my son pinched, I tried to be ready for it, his hand would be touching my skin, and I would try to be ready to stop him as soon as I could. I didn't even say no pinching. Just stopped the behavior and moved on. For your daughter, I might consider putting her down with some toys if she pinched while I was holding her and quietly stopping the nursing when she begins to pinch. Good luck. Jennifer

Do you have some interesting objects she could pinch while she nurses or that you could put in her hands when she starts to pinch? Maybe a necklace with large beads, a koosh ball, a beanbag, a novel squishy toy, anything that she can squeeze easily between her fingers. She may be discovering how her pincher grasp works and enjoying trying it out wherever she can. Redirection to something fun and more appropriate than your skin might meet both of your needs. Jen

Pinching is normal at this age. Both my kids did it and stopped after a few weeks. My oldest is now 3 and he has never been a physically aggressive child (no hitting, biting, pinching other kids).

Our son also pinched at around 9 months and we were not thrilled either! His older brother never did this and only played with our hands. I let him pinch the least painful places, hands, arms stomach etc. he finally began to gently pinch/grab his neck area while having a bottle or nursing and gave pinching up altogether around 1 year. Now he will sometimes pinch or grab our skin slightly but it doesn't hurt. I never tried saying no cause I didn't think it would work and because I thought that this is just his way of calming down and falling asleep. I tried all kinds of hand caressing in hopes that he would prefer to do that, but he never did. I think it will probably pass. Annie