9 ways to trim your kids’ nails without a total meltdown

Photo: iStockphoto

You’ve never cut their skin or caused any pain, yet your kid has somehow developed a fear of having their nails clipped. Since letting nails grow indefinitely isn’t exactly an option, what can you do (besides holding your kid down and enduring the screams)? Here are a few ways to trim kids’ nails without a serious freakout.

1. Try a different tool

Something about those darn clippers can really stress kids out. Next time, try nail scissors instead, or even just a nail file. That could be all it takes!

2. Give them control

Sometimes, a kid’s fear of having their nails trimmed comes from feeling out of control. Hand your young kids a nail file and older kids the clippers, and let them try to take care of it themselves. They gain a life skill and you have one less thing to do. Alternatively, some parents swear by the “clip and pull” method: You do a little clip, and let them pull the rest of the nail off. Some kids find this fun and, again, it gives them a sense of control.

3. Do it in the bath

A little girl screaming in her crib
How to handle a screaming toddler
Some parents swear by clipping their kid’s toenails and fingernails in the bath. It softens the nails, making them easier to trim, and if the tub tap is running, kids won’t hear the dreaded snip-snip sound, which can be a trigger (even if you aren’t aware of it).

4. Try a bribe

Bribing your kids really shouldn’t be your go-to parenting strategy, but promising some iPhone time or a lollipop in exchange for compliance may be all you need to get those nails trimmed without any screaming. Desperate times call for desperate measures! And if you can get it done without trauma, your kid will slowly get used to it and the bribes will be come less necessary.

5. Scare them with the truth

Overgrown nails can rip and cause a lot of pain—your kid has probably already been through this. They also can trap dirt and germs, increasing the chances your kid will get sick. Some parents find that telling or reminding their kids these of these hard truths leads to cooperation.

6. Schedule a professional manicure

Let a pro try! The fanciness of the manicure and the promise of painted nails might help your kid feel excited instead of dread.

7. Let them watch you trim your nails

Have your nail clipper-phobic kids ever watched you clip your own nails? If not, consider letting them watch next time. It will serve a gentle reminder that there’s nothing to worry about.

8. Don’t do it all at once

Do a couple of nails at a time. You kid may find the experience very intense and may be more tolerant if it’s over quickly.

9. Wait till they’re passed out

If you have a deep sleeper, skip the drama and clip their nails when they’re sleeping.

Read more:
How to get your kids to stop biting their nails
An age-by-age guide to kids’ phobias


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