April 26, 2008,
B.A. asks from Naperville, IL on April 24, 2008
Overly Affectionate Preschooler
My almost 3 year old has been hugging random children at the park recently and today I found out he was hugging a classmate during circle time. I am not sure how to explain to my toddler that he shouldn't be hugging strangers. Does anyone have any ideas? I am afraid one day he is going to hug someone who will become angry.
A.A. answers from Chicago on April 26, 2008
What has the world come to when we are concerned that are children are affectionate and like to give hugs! As long as your son is just hugging other kids I don't see the problem. Tell him to ask the person first if you want. As far as him hugging adult strangers, when would he have the opportunity? He's three years old. Its not like he can just go to the park by himself and just start hugging people. Redirect his attention if you see him going to hug the neigborhood weirdo, but other than that just be glad you have such a loving little boy. I am sure the time will come all too soon that he won't want to be such a cuddler. You will miss it then! You don't want to make your little guy feel bad about his loving personality. Just my .02
K.T. answers from Chicago on April 25, 2008
Ha, my son hugs too. I stress the "ask first if you can hug them" too.
A.T. answers from Chicago on April 25, 2008
We had a very similar issue with my now almost 5 year old. Hugging other kids would not be as much of a concern to me as it would be if he started hugging grown ups. Our daughter hugged everyone and we were concerned that she did not have a healthy degree of "stranger anxiety" for her age. I had to ask people to not hug her back..sounds strange...but I finally asked people in a group Mom and me play thing not to return her hugs but to let me come get her if she did that. We also had to start limiting her "circle" of grown ups so she started to somehow relate seeing people over and over to being friendly toward them.
Little kids have a hard time when we explain things to them---they are kids not short grown ups. Sometimes we get so caught up in "being sensitive and explaining" that we forget kids that age can't process like an adult...you lose them after a few seconds.
It is perfectly acceptable when your son hugs a kid to take him away from the child and tell him "do not hug people unless Mommy says it is ok". If he asks "why not" a simple answer like "not everyone likes being hugged". If he continues with "but she likes it" or "I asked her and she said it was ok", you can always say "I understand what you are saying but you must ask Mommy first before you hug someone. That's the rule."
Kids do not understand the word stranger, so don't go the "don't hug a stranger" route...We tell our girls that you do not talk to anyone unless Mommy and Daddy says you can...unless Mommy or Daddy tells you a person's name and that it is ok to talk to them they are a stranger....anyway, I digress. In your case, just physically walk your son away from the other person and say "Do not hug anyone unless Mommy says it is ok . That's the rule". Case closed short and sweet. Good luck!!
C.D. answers from Chicago on April 25, 2008
We have told my son that we only hug family. He can hug his friends only if mom or dad is around and if he asks first. And, we only hug our best friends after we ask if it is ok. I think you need to make it very clear who he can hug because this day in age (it's unfortunate I know) people get very turned off and the schools can punish him for hugging people or just laying a hand on someone else. I wouldn't tell him that, of course, I would just explain that not everyone likes hugs (mommy and daddy don't hug everyone) and it's ok to hug family. Then, tell him with others to use his words instead. He probably sees hugging as a term of endearment, and he wants to tell his friends or others he likes them. Well, teach him to say "You are nice" or whatever you feel is good, and he can do that instead of hugging. This age is when they are starting to understand feelings and emotions and how to use them to get a reaction. Then, we he does want to hug people outside of family and close friends, remind him about your talk and how to respond. Be consistent and he should pick up on it rather quickly.
B.M. answers from Chicago on April 24, 2008
I have a 4 year old who is the same way. We talk about strangers and that we don't hug people we don't know. Hugging is only for family and really close friends.
We also told him that he should always ask before he gives someone a hug (doesn't always happen), but he's getting the idea. He constantly asks if he can give the check out girl at Walgreens a hug. He does ask me that and I always say "no" and he says "but why?" and I say "because we don't know her.
Slowly but surely he's getting it.
G.P. answers from Chicago on April 25, 2008