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7 Ways To Stop Your Toddler Pinching

What do you do when it’s your little one who’s pinching others? Do you push their hands away? Unleash your own pinching fever? Have no fear, because this article will tell you exactly how to stop your toddler from pinching. 

That Dreaded Day

Let’s say you’re feeling great from the parent marathon of waking the children, sending them to school, performing at work, and giving the most wonderful presentation. As you make the turn into the pre-school, you feel a jolt in your stomach when the principal gives you a tight smile while holding the hand of your precious daughter.

In no uncertain terms the principal gives you a dressing down: your daughter pinched two other kids in school who made a fuss, and their parents were informed as well. 

That’s right. Your innocent, sweet, baby girl who snuggled into your chest last night is turning into…a pincher. The horror. The stigma. What do the other parents think of our family right now?! You shrivel a little on the inside when Hannah and Lisa’s mothers turn to give you a cold stare. “Let’s go home, little one.” 

Here is a summary of what you’ll see in today’s article:

  • Why Children Pinch
  • 7 Ways To Stop Toddlers From Pinching
  • How To Prevent Children Pinching 
  • What To Encourage In Its Place


I earn from affiliate links here if you click on them, at no extra cost to you. I hope you find the information here useful! Cheers. 

Alternatively, you can equip yourself with information on behavior modification:

Pinching Monsters

First of all, why do our sweet, dear, toddlers pinch others? There are two main reasons for this behavior. 

The first reason children at the toddler stage pinch is because they have yet to develop communication skills to express feelings. They have no words to say how they feel! Imagine a volcano at eruption point, smoking and puffing, but unable to release the pressure from within. Toddlers have to use their physical bodies instead, choosing to pinch when they are excited, upset, or hurt. 

Secondly, toddlers may pinch because they have seen other children doing it. Either it happened during a fight or some rough play at a social gathering. At the stage of exploring, your child is experimenting with new behaviors to see how others react to it. Although pinching looks fun as it mimics crabs, children do not know that it is also painful for others. 

Read these articles to understand your child’s development:

stop toddlers pinching
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

7 Ways To Stop Children From Pinching

1 – Set boundaries 

To stop your toddler from pinching, use a clear, verbal way of responding. Tell your child, “No. No pinching. It hurts mummy/daddy”. It is important that they understand pinching is not allowed. Additionally, they know how you feel when they pinch you. 

Always set clear and realistic expectations on how you want your child to behave. That way, they learn what they can safely explore within the guidelines that you set. 

For more help, you can read this book on Boundaries with Kids for an award-winning bestseller on helping children take responsibility for their actions. 

2 – Immediate consequences 

Many parents are unaware that children crave for their attention. When you shout, scold, or punish your child for misbehaving they are unfortunately also reinforced by the attention they receive. 

How so? When you stopped your work conference to discipline them for screaming, they received your full attention. 

This does not mean that you should always ignore your children. Rather, direct attention away from them by not maintaining eye contact. Stay slightly distanced and say, “Pinching is not allowed, use nice hands.” Then turn away or move to a different room. 

Alternatively, you can also remove your child from the room to take a short break from friends.  

Find some articles on disciplining your child the healthy way:

3 – Remain calm

It is crucial that you remain calm during any interaction after pinching. As mentioned above, you do not want to accidentally reinforce the pinching behavior by giving your child more attention. 

When you are cool and collected, you are also modeling good behavior for your child. By seeing your response in a positive manner, your child will learn that it is possible to express themselves calmly without pinching.

4 – Be consistent 

Nothing is more confusing for a child who gets their way with pinching on good days, but gets told off on other days. Your toddler needs to understand that when pinching is not allowed, it is not allowed across all situations. Pinching will have to stop. Period.

Otherwise, you may be setting yourself up for failure when your child figures out that your rules are not always enforced. Go through with the warning given to your child, “Mummy will take away your toy if you pinch again.” 

You will find that being consistent makes managing other misdemeanors easier too! 

5 – Role model for your child 

You are always the first and most important role model for your child. They look up to you tremendously, and want to become you when they grow up. “I want to be like daddy!” 

Similarly, your actions and words make the most impact on your toddler. Use words expressing feelings in a calm manner after they pinch. “Mummy can see that you are feeling angry. But, pinching is not allowed.” 

This way, they learn about talking, feeling, and behaving all in one go! Use shorter sentences if required to adapt to your child’s age. 

Read these articles on role models:

6 – Intervene in social situations

When your child pinches another child, get into the situation quickly. Apologize to the child and the parents. With your child, comment how the other child is feeling by saying, “Peter is crying because you hurt him by pinching.” 

You might also want to send a text message or a short phone call to the other parent if necessary. At the end of the day, your child should receive the message that pinching is not allowed both at home and with others. 

7 – talk to a professional 

You are the necessary ingredient in your child’s growing up years. If you are not feeling able to cope with your child’s behaviors, it may be a good idea to get some help. 

These are some of the red flags to get help:

  • You remain upset long after your child misbehaves
  • Dreading social interactions because of your child’s behavior
  • You find yourself shouting or punishing your child even though you don’t mean to
  • Worries about your child seems to never go away 

You can consider:

How To Prevent Children Pinching

Here are some general tips to prevent toddlers from pinching:

  • Teach coping behaviors like stomping
  • Distract your child when they are upset with a walk 
  • Keep to a daily routine 
  • Avoid unexpected situations 
  • Prepare your child for changes in environments or situations

What To Encourage In Its Place 

stop toddlers pinching
Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

1 – Introduce Pinchy

Let your child play with a soft toy that has pinchers. Introduce him to Pinchy, a crab who pinches. When your toddler starts pinching, reinforce the idea that only crabs pinch. You can say, “boys/girls do not pinch. Crabs like Pinchy pinch.”

This way, your child will know what is suitable behavior. Repeat this step every time your toddler pinches to help them learn. 

2 – Demonstrate “nice hands” 

There are a few steps involved here: 

  • Point to the area where your child pinched if it turned red
  • Tell them that rubbing is nice
  • Take their hand and rub over the area where they pinched
  • Then, rub your child’s arm too to show them how it feels
  • End by repeating, “Rubbing feels nice. Thank you.” 

3 – Reinforce good behavior 

The best way to help your child remember what you expect from him is by giving good reinforcers. At the toddler stage, snacks work very well. Give them pieces of snacks every time you see good behavior. This will help to stop toddlers from pinching.

For example, when your child interacts with you or plays with friends without pinching, give them a snack. Tell them that you are proud they did not pinch and they did a good job. 

Make sure that you do not provide snacks that are readily available at home. Otherwise, your child may not experience the full benefit of your reinforcements. 

Some good choices for snacks:

The bridging point 

Most toddlers engage in some misbehaviors at this stage. They could be pinching, biting, shouting, or having tantrums. Remember, this is normal and you should always stick to the same strategies that work for your child. 

Having a consistent parenting style and environment for your child is important. They will feel safe and less likely to engage in undesired behaviors. 

Talk to a professional if you are concerned about your child, or if you feel like more help will ensure a warm and loving family life.

If you are looking for other resources that will help you on your parenting journey, you can refer to: