“My kids secretly pinch one another, how can I stop this?

From the mailbag:

"Dear Mama Bear,

I have two young children who generally get along well, but sometimes get really mad at each other and pinch each other when I'm not looking.  How can I get them to stop this habit?

Thin-skinned in Washington"

Dear TSiW,


MamaBear assumes this has been going on for some time, aye?

Gentle parent, might I inquire….

Why the hell didn't you stomp on this action the first time it happened?


That's the challenge of parenting kids; if you let them get away with something once or twice or 849 times, they'll simply up the ante until something (generally, *you*) give way in a screaming howling fit of anger and angst.

Not good at all!

The very first time one kid pinched another, you should have:

  • Quietly read the instigator the riot act

and then

  • Told the pinchee that he could pinch the pincher as punishment.  Then comfort/cuddle the pinchee and turn your attention to the pincher.

and then

  • Explained to the pincher that you will now show him just how it feels times 3… and pinch him.

The next step would be:

  • After the crying is over, sit the pincher down.  Try to get at what drove him to the actions of hurting his sibling.  Ask, what other actions might have been better?  How else could he have dealt with whatever issues were bothering him?
    (really spend time here as well; getting at the root cause will be quite helpful for the next step).


  • Ask the pincher if he enjoyed being on the receiving end of the pain.  Ideally, the answer will be "no."  Emphasize how this is what he deliberately did to his brother, and didn't he love his brother?  Ideally, the answer will be "yes."  Have him apologize to his brother.


  • Have him write a story about what he did wrong, why he did it, and how he could have behaved differently in the future.


It's draining, sure, but consequences like the above really get to the heart of the matter.

The plain fact is, telling one sibling, "we do not pinch our brothers" or "we do not push our sisters" etc. is just plain B.S.

Unless you proactively *make* the child *feel* what it feels like, the point just will *not* be made.

And it's critical to make sure you deliver the consequences asap so that not only is the importance of the situation not lost…but the pinchee will see he's just as important as the pincher to you.

Additionally, don't forget – it's critical to tell the pincher that you believe in him 110% that he will learn the best way to deal with things and not hurt his brother, and that you tell the pinchee how proud you are that he's handling the situation so well.

Find reasons to praise both and keep their spirits up!

In MamaBear's case, there's been hardly any physical altercations between her cubs because they learned that whatever they do unto each other will be done 3 fold unto them.

Kids aren't dumb, TSiW…they'll learn.  But they need to have boundaries proactively shown to them…and they need to experience the consequences of their actions bigtime.

So take back your parenting power and start alpha-parenting your cubs.  Trust me, you'll see improvements in no time fast.

Thus speaks MamaBear

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