I had a Mum call me last week to talk about her infant son who had recently started pinching. She thought it was likely that he was frustrated or grumpy, as he had been sick over the past few weeks.

She had sought out some advice, and was told that she should either pinch him back or tap him on the hand each time he pinched her, as a way to teach him not to do it. She really wanted to do something about the behaviour, but wasn’t keen on the thought of hurting her son in any way.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you will probably know that I’m not an advocate for physical reactions or punishments of any sort, particularly when used as a way to manage children’s behaviour.

In saying that, I can certainly understand how it would be a natural reflex, a “go to” move in a moment of frustration or used when it feels like there’s just no other option, and all you want is for the behaviour to just stop there and then (especially if they have hurt you!).

So, we had a bit of a chat, brainstormed together, and came up with an interim solution to try:

Each time he pinched, she would hold his hands firmly and say

Stop. Pinching hurts.

She thought it would be worth giving that a go for a week to see if it worked, while I promised to do a bit more research during that time, to see what else I could dig up, find out if this is a common behaviour, and what other strategies are out there.

During the week, I found that most mother’s report that their children start using some form of physical force (such as biting, pinching, scratching or hitting) from around 6 months of age. It is thought that these actions are used as a form of communication, as an interim solution until they have developed the verbal skills to tell their parent/s what is they are after, or frustrated about.

So, it’s good news that most children will stop these behaviours when they are around 3-4 years of age… but what do you do about it between then and the 17520 hours or so until they “grow out of it”?

I put the word out to our parenting community, and it seemed as though this was a pretty common thing people had experienced, but unfortunately, many people just weren’t sure how to make it stop!

In saying that though, a couple of pretty handy tips came through… Click Here to find out what they were!


  • Smaling, H.J.A., Huijbregts, S. C. J., van der Heijden K. B., Hay, D. F., van Goozen, S. H. M., & Swaab, H. (2017). Prenatal Reflective Functioning and Development of Aggression in Infancy: The Roles of Maternal Intrusiveness and Sensitivity. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 45. pp. 237–248