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How do I stop my child from biting or pinching?



Annie the Nanny has a wealth of experience, and she has given some solutions to the age old problem of your child biting or pinching others.

A new stage of life

That’s a great question and its answer lies in the coming to a very important understanding that your child is entering a new stage. In babyhood you did everything for your child. You provided love and took care of her every need and she was entirely happy with that arrangement. Now however, she is entering a new stage, one marked by two definitive new needs. The first is that she has gained a few very simple abilities and she wants to show them off to you, the people she loves. Perhaps she can put her wellies on by herself or climb in to her carseat. Whatever it is, she has joy in her burgeoning abilities and wants to share that joy with you.

The other need she has as she enters this stage is to find out more about her world. Some people misunderstand this as a need for independence and that’s where we have to be very careful because she doesn’t want independence, she wants to know the boundaries of what she can and can’t do. Do I have to go to sleep at bedtime? Do I have to eat what mommy has put on my highchair tray or if I scream or shut my mouth will I get something tastier? Of course she doesn’t sit down, contemplate her navel and psychologically examine these ideas but nevertheless, she is driven to find out.

Testing the boundaries

Biting and hitting are part of finding out what is and what is not ok. Generally children hit the first time because they’ve seen it somewhere, either a little friend doing it or on a TV show. They give it a try and often something odd happens. Perhaps you’re in the park and as a parent you want to avoid a scene and so although truly horrified, you try and smooth it over. However, even though you are trying to ignore it there is a truly disturbed look on your face. Your child suddenly sees you looking shocked or out of sorts. Perhaps you’re rubbing a big bite on your arm and are truly upset. Either way, the calm confident you is looking anything but and as a result, your child suddenly feels lost.

Children need love and I’m sure you already give her tons of that but they also need leadership. They need you to know what you are doing and where you’re going so they can follow you and they need you to be clear in your expectations. Children need you to provide the boundaries of their world because that’s what makes them feel safe. When you fail to provide them they don’t just stop asking. They actually keep going and their behaviour tends to get increasingly hard to manage. You see, children show their discomfort through their behaviour and so if you fail to provide boundaries you’ll see the discomfort that creates show up in what they do day to day. They’ll hit and bite, throw temper tantrums and generally be difficult.

Sticking to your guns

So what does getting rid of this behaviour mean practically? It means to say what you mean and mean what you say. It means offering encouragement and appreciation for what she does right and a consistent approach to her misbehaviour. Whatever you decide is an appropriate measure for hitting or biting needs to be followed through on each and every time. The bottom line is if someone hits you, you don’t want to stay around them. That’s logical, so I’d do exactly the same to her. Simply isolate her for a few minutes each and every time she does it. Believe me when she realises that she gets no attention at all from doing it and more attention from doing things right, she’ll
stop. After all nobody likes being ignored.

I hope that helps.


Have you experienced your child biting?  How did you overcome it?  Do you have any questions for Annie?  Please leave a comment on the blog and we will pass them on.

Anna Lussenburg, commonly known as ‘Annie the Nanny‘ loves her job of solving every kind of young child’s behaviour problem you can think of. Since starting her business in 2004, she has been giving practical advice to families, dealing with everything from temper tantrums, to sleeping issues, to picky eaters and more through her behaviour intervention service, helping turn chaos in to calm. She’s featured in all kinds of media, has a regular TV segment and helps people all over the world through her Skype services and informative website.

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