No hugging

I join a lot of parenting circles online. I do this so that I am exposed to a variety of parenting methods, ideas and support that comes from all over the world. I don’t have time to read full books, so this is my way to absorbing as much as I can to make better decisions about how to raise our children.

On one such Facebook Page last week, I came across something that I just can’t get out of my head. A woman was asking the other followers how she could respectfully ask family members not to show her son physical affection. Her reason?

He doesn’t like to be touched.

Ahem. Excuse me? Is this for real?

This child has no disabilities or special needs in the traditional sense. He is between the ages of 2 and 4. He simply just doesn’t like hugs, kisses, pats on the back, and the like. I was sure that people were going to chime in on the crazy in this request so I read the comments and was shocked.

Guys, this is a thing. In fact, it’s a whole movement. These parents claim that they are helping their toddlers claim ownership of their bodies and if they don’t like hugs (and the other touchy-feely stuff), the parent will step in and let the adult or child know (family or not) that the deal is off. They are encouraging their children to ward off physical affection if that is their choice.

I am out of my element here and just don’t understand it at all. Furthermore, it’s struck a major chord with me because my child has been bullied because of a parent who’s subscribed to this movement. And when anything is used to hurt my child, OH, you better BELIEVE I will speak up.

My child is a hugger. She was born a hugger. She gives approximately 500 hugs every single day. It’s who she is. She’s even been known to hug inanimate objects because the hugs just cannot be contained. She hugged a shoe yesterday, no joke. I absolutely adore this part of her personality.

She's a hugger.

She's a hugger. by Megan Spreer

When she was in full-time daycare, she would greet each child at the door with a hug and sometimes a quick kiss on the cheek. She was absolutely delighted to welcome her friends each day. There was one child though, who did not like hugs and whose parents worked very hard to make sure that she was never made to feel uncomfortable. When the mother witnessed HJ give her screaming toddler a hug, she lit into my child. She told her to stop instigating trouble and to knock it off or HJ would be disinvited to her child’s upcoming birthday party. FOR. HUGGING. HER. CHILD.

Seriously? HJ wasn’t even two years old at the time. Thankfully, the daycare provider went to bat for my child and she was so young, she forgot about it in five minutes.

Aside from the fact that this particular parent is off her rocker, this whole movement breaks my heart. I realize that I may just not understand the whole concept. I hope to talk to more people to better grasp it.

Everything I’ve been taught goes against the whole idea. Hasn’t research shown that human touch is an important part of our physical and emotional health? I get not allowing strangers to touch your child and I would never force my child to hug someone against her will, but to rule out touching altogether as a way of life? And to forbid family members and friends to touch or hug your child? Really?

Are you going to follow your kid to their first job and demand no one shake his or her hand because “THAT’S TOUCHING!” Will you also give all of his friends high fives for him when he scores his first goal or just leave them all out there awkwardly hanging with empty hands in the air? Can you stop for a second and imagine a whole world where no one touches?

It makes me so sad. It just seems kind of sterile and cold.

Like I’ve admitted before, perhaps I missed something. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been drop kicked off my soapbox.

Tagged: touch, hugging, parenting


Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 7 months ago

Sorry, but I am going to go with the anti-hug group. My granddaughter who was at KU had and has many international friends who always hug and kiss when they run into each other. She told them I am uncomfortable with this and so they didn't. I don't have a problem with people who want to do this. There is such a wide range on where people put their boundaries, how much space they need around them, how much touching they are willing to tolerate.

I think that children should be taught to wait for a signal from the other person before they proceed with the physical affection.

I assure you that within my family all three generations of us hug and kiss whenever we meet and I was delighted when my granddaughters fiance called me Grandma and gave me a hug which I returned.

I am not sure what all this means other than humans are so complex and can over think the simplest thing. Your daughter sounds adorable and like a very loving and caring person and I hope that never changes.

Thank you for sharing this.

Megan Spreer 4 years, 7 months ago

Thanks for your perspective, Leslie! I can respect that different people have different boundaries. I guess it more so bothers me that parents are declaring these boundaries and setting rules regarding their kids rather than teaching them how to handle a situation on their own. Don't want a hug? Teach the child to say "No, thank you."

Kris Adair 4 years, 7 months ago

I have a sometimes shy preschooler. She can at times back away from physical contact from friends and family. If I allow my child to make her own choices she usually allows contact eventually. It is my opinion that children can be misunderstood.

Jean Robart 4 years, 7 months ago

I feel sorry for parents who encourage their children to rebuff friendly advances--and feel sorry for their kids, who may never know this display of love, because their parents were too uptight to teach their children to give and receive affection or friendliness. How will these kids behave when they grow up, and how will they deal with life if never taught how to give and receive?

Randy Erickson 4 years, 7 months ago

I think if we saw a list of all the mini-movements in parenting out there, we probably wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Julie Jacob 4 years, 7 months ago

You are forgetting the real possibility of an autism spectrum disorder called Asperger’s in formation. Many people with Asperger’s do not like to be touched, at times even their own clothes cause discomfort. At the age of 2-4 I am not sure a toddler is equipped to ask people not to hug, pat etc. He or she is more likely to act out. As a parent, if I needed to place a “no touch bubble” around my child in order to prevent them from becoming upset by it….. I don’t care of you are offended, my child takes priority.

Megan Spreer 4 years, 7 months ago

No, I said in the post that the child(ren) to which I'm referring do not have any challenges. OF COURSE I would be sensitive and respectful to a child with some type of disability or need.

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