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Maybe Not My Proudest Parenting Moment

Today I stumbled across a section of the Family Matters blog site that focuses Raising a Child with Special Needs.   I read the most recent post and found myself in tears.  After a break to collect myself, I went back to the blog to explore further, and found myself in tears again and hugging the Bean close.  Okay, something is going on with me today.  Obviously I have some unresolved pain around the Bean’s Journey so I decided to explore it…in public on the blog of course.

In general, I’ve tried to remain positive on this blog:  I acknowledge challenges but try to put a positive spin on them.  And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that; there is something to be said for maintaining a positive attitude.  But it would be dishonest to pretend that I always deal with those challenges in a constructive way.

One of the Bean’s persistent “bad” habits is pinching.  She finds the most sensitive bits of skin on my body, such as the tender skin at the back of my upper arm, on my throat, or on my breasts, and squeezes them hard in her considerable pincer grasp.  She’s not doing it to be mean or spiteful.  It’s something she does to comfort herself when she’s upset, or to show her affection, or to get my attention when I’m focused elsewhere.  It almost seems totally unconscious.

I hear that this type of pinching is not the exclusive domain of Special Needs kids – my friend’s 3-year-old once pinched her regularly, and her 1-year-old currently tortures her with pinches.  But with the Bean, the habit is not going away as she gets older.  I tell her that Mommy doesn’t like her pinching and ask her to stop, but that doesn’t work at all.  Sometimes I make a joke about it and tickle her to distract her, but that only works temporarily.  I pull myself away, or tap her hand to remind her that pinching is not okay, but she only goes back to it.

These emotions portrayed by Jane Lynch show exactly how I feel when the Bean overwhelms me. (photo by Howard Schatz)

Yesterday, I was trying to make dinner and the Bean was being needy and clingy.  I had been trying to keep her entertained while doing dinner prep and nothing was keeping her attention for more than a couple of minutes, not even the all-engrossing television.  I got frustrated and snapped at her for the constant whining, feeling totally overwhelmed.  My Sweetie came home and took her off my hands for a few minutes (thank goodness!) but then left to dress down and get ready for dinner.

The Bean continued to complain, and I finally gave in and carried her on my hip while I stirred the food on the stove.  As usual, she started to pinch and I used my well-worn ineffective tactics to no avail (definition of insanity: doing the same thing and expecting different results?).   Annoyed, but not yet angry, I very calmly decided to teach her a lesson.  She obviously did not understand what I was telling her about the pinches hurting Mommy.  So I evenly said to her, “This is what your pinches feel like”, and I pinched a small portion of her tender skin between my thumb and forefinger.

She looked at me in shock for a second before her lower lip puckered out and she started to cry – a good honest cry – no whining anymore.  My Sweetie came into the kitchen to see what else needed to be brought out to the table and I gave him the Bean, explaining what I had done.  I felt a little bad for making her cry, but only a little.  This girl pinches me A LOT!  He comforted her, we had dinner, and then I put a very tired Bean to bed.

Looking back, I’m not sure how I feel about that moment.  Was it wrong of me to pinch my little girl?  I didn’t do it out of anger, but as a genuine attempt to help her understand what she was doing to me.  Still, was there a less violent way for me to teach that lesson?

I’d love any suggestions from my wonderful readers!


About Bethany Seto

I am a first-time blogger and a Stay-at-Home mom. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my husband and daughter.

8 responses »

  1. I read your post, and I’m not sure what I would say. I don’t know exactly what I would do in that situation. When Silas was hitting me, I’d put him in his crib and leave the room – it took a few times before he got it. You’ll just have to see if it affected her – does she stop, or not?

    • We had less pinching today, and the one time she really got me good was when she was trying to use my leg to help her stand up – a totally different kind of scenario. So maybe it did help.

  2. First off, I want to tell you that I admire the energy and love you put into parenting. I can’t imagine how emotionally and physically exhausting it would be to raise a child with special needs. I hope you get some respite care for her so you and Devon get a bit of a break. I’ve flicked my kids when they bite while nursing and see it as something similar. I wouldn’t feel guilty about it and hopefully she catches on. If she doesn’t, I’d try something else.

  3. I think are an amazing mom and I don’t know how you do everything you do. Reading your post I’d have to say that I totally support you in what you did–you’ve tried everything to no available and this was a diffferent approach to have Jenna understand what she’s doing. I hope it works. You had no mean intention in pinching her and wasn’t trying to hurt her in any way. I’m sure it wasn’t very hard–but what if she starts pinching other kids or Sakari? Hang in there–and keep trying!!!

    • Thanks, Lana. Sometimes I think she thinks it’s funny, and I certainly don’t want her to start doing that to other kids or pets. Often, though, it seems totally unconscious, like she’s falling asleep and her fingers just kinda pinch on their own. It’s weird.

  4. I hope you don’t mind that I smiled when I read this post…it just rang so true to me this week! Julia does a version of tiny pinches/scratching at any little bump on my face and neck (aside: clearly i am overdue for a facial) especially when nursing and settling to sleep. This has been going on for many, many months, but this week it is driving me NUTS because it does hurt. I’ve tried many strategies over the past months, including pinching her back to help her understand (for which I feel no guilt! I consider it empathy training in a way) but ultimately it seems too unconscious a behaviour to respond to logic. The only thing that seems to work is removing the “temptation” by redirecting (sometimes constantly) her hands to something else like holding my fingers and making my face off limits entirely. It’s sure hard to break a habit, though. Slow and steady….that’s my mantra on this one.

    • Slow and steady for sure. Empathy training is kinda what I was thinking too. How can she really understand that her actions hurt someone else when she hasn’t had the experience. As far as I know, none of her little friends have been pinching her at school. 🙂 And yes, I’m constantly moving her hands away from my neck and face when we’re snuggling her to sleep. It’s the opposite of relaxing, and when I’m super tired or hormonal, it can be quite stressful. I guess that’s when I use (my sister) Julia’s suggestion to remove myself from the situation. 🙂


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