Screaming when getting nails cut

My 4 yo screams uncontrollably when getting his finger nails cut….and won’t let us touch his toenails in the light of day (have to cut at night when he’s sleeping). Is this a sensory issue and if so, what can we do to help. Looking for all the tips/help/advise. Thanks!

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My son (about to be 3) has given me trouble with this too. Would curl in his toes and scream. I started giving him warnings. “When the timer goes off we are cutting your nails.” Or “today we need to cut your nails, what is something we can do after?” It wasn’t perfect, but I started to see an improvement. Then I heard him say “it’s ok, it doesn’t hurt me.” And it made me realize he was just purely afraid of being cut. So that’s been our experience. I also let him have a turn with the clippers and cut my toes to help him just explore. It literally too 5-6months of being consistent, but now he tolerates it and doesn’t need anything extra to go with the activity.

You could also try an electric nail file: Robot or human?

Great question! It really depends. Are there any other areas where you are noticing tactile sensitivities?

Both of my children were, and still are, skittish when I cut their toenails. Maybe try nail files? You can even let your child try the nail file first and you finish the task.

Hi! Thanks for the reply. Only other challenge is washing hair (getting water in eyes).

Thank you. I’m so glad you’ve found something that works for you guys!

My son did this, too. For 3 years, I cut nails while he was sleeping. I started clipping my nails around him a LOT. Most of the time, didn’t actually clip, just pretended. I made a big deal about it, too. He’s a very curious kid. Then, I started leaving the clippers lying around where he would see them. One day, he brought them to me with his foot up and said “toes”. Now, no problem clipping! I just try to do it once a week so he doesn’t forget about it. Sometimes just pretending. I can only do his toes. He’s still not ok with fingers.

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I feel like this could just be a stage-it does feel weird! If you’re not noticing sensory sensitivities in lots of other areas, then I wouldn’t make too big a deal out of it. The calmer you are, the better.


My son did this too (he is 5 now) but only with his toenails. I had to cut his toenails for 4 years at night when he was sleeping. One day he realized I had just cut his toenails on one foot (I didn’t finish because he woke up) and the other toenails were still long, so he came to me and told me to cut his toenails! I was like “are you sure?” and he said “yes” so I started cutting his toenails really slow and explaining to him at the same time that it was safe, that it didn’t hurt and that they we’re pretty this way! That we didn’t like long toenails because they were ugly and were going to hurt his toes. We joke about it, making silly sounds so he would laugh and not be nervous and at the end I told him he was so brave for letting me cut his toenails! And now I have no problem at all! I think is really important not to force it, if he is not ready keep cutting them at night and then little by little show him the clippers, pretend you are going to cut the finger/toenails to his stuffed animals and then it’s his turn or your turn. Make it funny so you can erase the bad association he has with cutting his finger/toenails. Hope it helps!