Dr. Phil Loves Us

The Dr. Phil Show uses Care4hire.com Companies as a resource for guests on the show.

100 Tips for Nannies and Families

The advice in this book comes from Candi Wingate, President of Care4hire.com.
Click Here to Learn More

When Your Toddler Won’t Hug Relatives

Your toddler refuses to hug one of his relatives.  The relative appears to experience this as rejection, and you want to soothe hurt feelings.  You also want your toddler to feel safe and secure hugging his loved ones as you want him to be an affectionate child.  Here are some tips to help you accomplish your goals.

  • Privately ask your toddler why he doesn’t want to hug this relative.  Be mindful of your tone of voice, facial expression, and body language as you have this discussion with your toddler: ensure that you are conveying  a non-judgmental approach to your inquiry.  Tell your toddler that you understand that he has some concerns and you want to understand them and see if there is anything you can do to help him.  (Note: never hold this discussion in front of the relative that your toddler does not want to hug.  This conversation needs to be private so as to respect your toddler’s feelings as well as the seriousness or hurtfulness of any information that he may share in response to your question.)
  • If your toddler is hesitant to answer your question, assure him that there’s nothing he can’t tell you.
  • When your toddler answers your question, calmly and non-critically respond to whatever concern he shares.  If he says, “I don’t like hugging Uncle Jack because he’s always sweaty, and that’s icky.”; you can reply, “I know Uncle Jack has some sort of health concern that makes him sweat a lot.  He doesn’t like sweating that much either.  I support your right not to hug Uncle Jack if you want; I just ask that you consider how you’d feel if you were ill and someone wouldn’t hug you as a result.  If you decide that hugging Uncle Jack just makes you feel too icky, then is there some other way for you to lovingly greet Uncle Jack?  How about high-fiving him?  Would you be comfortable with that?”  If he says, “I don’t like hugging Uncle Paul because he touches me funny”; you can reply, “What is it about the way that Uncle Paul touches you that is different?”  If he ultimately tells you that Uncle Paul has touched him inappropriately, then you should praise him for not hugging Uncle Paul and for having the courage to share his concern with you; you should also take every reasonable step to ensure that Uncle Paul no longer has any access to your toddler.  After the immediacy of the moment has passed, you may need to seek counseling for your toddler so that Uncle Paul’s bad behavior does not adversely affect your toddler long-term.
  • If the relative that your toddler refuses to hug is not guilty of the kind of bad behavior referenced above, you should follow-up with the relative and gently provide feedback.  For example, if the relative is accustomed to direct speech, you may say, “Uncle Jack, I spoke to my son about why he doesn’t hug you.  It turns out that it’s not that he’s mad at you at all.  I know you were worried that he didn’t like you or something.  That’s not it at all.  In fact, he thinks you’re really funny.  He’s just a little boy, and he’s not sure what to make of your medical condition.  So, we’ve talked about it, and he’s going to high-five you going forward.  Is that ok?”  If the relative is not accustomed to direct speech, you may say, “Uncle Jack, I spoke to my son about why he doesn’t hug you.  It turns out that it’s not that he’s mad at you at all.  I know you were worried that he didn’t like you or something.  That’s not it at all.  In fact, he thinks you’re really funny.  He’s just a little boy, and he’s going through that phase where it’s important for him to be able to set his own boundaries.  Among those boundaries, he’s choosing who is a hugger and who is a high-fiver.  You’re a high-fiver, apparently.  He hasn’t high-fived you because he wasn’t sure you’d be ok with high-fives.  Is that ok?”
  • If the relative that your toddler refuses to hug IS potentially guilty of the kind of bad behavior referenced above, you, your toddler, law enforcement, and a counselor will need to decide how to proceed.  For example, will Uncle Paul be arrested?  How will the family members be notified about what is happening?  How will your toddler be protected from Uncle Paul going forward (i.e., when/if Uncle Paul is not incarcerated)?  How will your toddler be protected from the difficulties of Uncle Paul’s trial?  How will your toddler handle others finding out about this situation?  How can you reinforce your toddler’s sense of safety, self-esteem, and ability to move forward with healthy boundaries in place?  How can you acknowledge that your toddler has been victimized and help him heal without teaching him to see himself as a victim?
  • Never force or shame your toddler into hugging a relative that he does not want to hug.  If you force the hug, you will make him feel like his body has been violated, his feelings have been disregarded, and he has no control over his life whatsoever.  If you shame him into hugging a relative that he does not want to hug, you will not make his original concerns go away; you will just make him experience shame for having those concerns.  In either scenario, he may resent you for your actions.

By following the tips above, you can handle constructively both your toddler and the relative that he does not want to hug.

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>