• Mon, Sep 3 2012

I’m Sorry, My Daughter Doesn’t Want To Hug You — And I’m Not Going To Make Her

girl stopMy little girl is not a hugger. She’s not a kisser or a cuddler or even a handshaker. My daughter has a very select group of people that she feels comfortable giving any form of physical affection to. If you aren’t in that group, she would really rather you keep your hands to yourself.

I guess I should clarify, Brenna loves to cuddle me. She’ll curl up on my lap like a kitten any time she gets a chance. She has “kiss fights” with her dad that involve trying to kiss every part of the other’s face while simultaneously protecting yourself from the other person’s smooches. And my older brother, who she sees on a pretty sporadic basis, is allowed to pick her up and spin her in circles. In fact, she normally demands it.

It’s not that my daughter doesn’t want to hug anyone. But when it comes to anyone outside of her select few, she’s not a fan of touching. At first, we thought that it was just people she doesn’t know. But lately, even my parents, who see my daughter on a weekly basis, can’t get so much as a handshake.

Normally, my daughter’s aversion to physical contact isn’t really a big deal. Like I said, it never plays out at home. Our close family members are used to her character quirk. The problem comes when acquaintances or extended family members see my daughter at a get-together or birthday party. There’s always the expectation that every little kid will walk around hugging great-aunts they’ve never met before or second cousins that they can’t remember. There’s the parents of mom’s friend from high school who we run into at the grocery store. These people always get really offended by my daughter and her refusal to submit to hugging.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve stood there awkwardly as someone attempted to hug my child and she hid behind my legs. Often, they’ll come in and hug me instead, explaining to my daughter, “See, your mommy will give me a hug!” Brenna will glare at them as if saying, “Yea, and mommy looks so thrilled about it, doesn’t she?” Sometimes, people will look to me, expecting me to chide Brenna or order her into compliance. I just smile back.

I try to explain to people, “Brenna isn’t really big on hugging.” Either the pursuer isn’t dissuaded or they look at me as if I just said something horrible about my own child. “Not a fan of hugging? What have you done to the girl?”

While I feel a little guilty that my little girl is shunning their innocent, kind gesture, I just refuse to make my daughter feel uncomfortable when it’s completely unnecessary. It’s not like I allow her to be rude or cruel to people. She has to use her manners and be kind to people she meets. But ordering physical contact? That’s different. That’s a lot more than saying, “Please,” “Thank you,” and “It’s nice to meet you.” And if a child really feels uncomfortable with embracing, should we force them to?

I honestly have no idea what’s behind my daughter’s “No Touching” policy. Sometimes I try to invent explanations for really insistent huggers. I’m sure they always sound ridiculous. The truth is that I just have a very particular girl and she’s not a fan of physical contact. I think there are worse things in the world.

For the select few she chooses, my daughter is a very affectionate little girl. For the rest of you, she really doesn’t want a hug. She doesn’t even want to blow you a kiss. And no matter how you’re related to my parents or how many years you coached my soccer team, I’m just not going to make my daughter give you a hug. I hope you can survive the disappointment.

(Photo: picturepartners/Shutterstock)

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  • Justme

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not making your daughter hug people she’s not comfortable hugging. Some people just aren’t into physical contact. I was one of those people growing up. My “quirk” was related to the fact that I hit 6’0 by the time I was 14 but was about 115 pounds soaking wet. I was just awkward and gangly and generally uncomfortable in my body…….which meant I didn’t want my weird body touching your weird body. I’m better about it now. Not great. But better.

    And besides…somewhere on the interwebs I read an article similar to this about how when our daughters refuse to hug or kiss we need to respect that decision because they need to understand that their “NO” has power and means something.

    • canaduck


      how when our daughters refuse to hug or kiss we need to respect that decision because they need to understand that their “NO” has power and means something.’

      This is a great point!

  • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Guerrilla Mom

    Totally agree with you. A couple weeks ago, an acquaintance tried to pick up my son, and he refused to go to him. The man says, “Why won’t you come to me?” I said, “Would you stop guilt tripping a toddler, please?” Kids of all ages are allowed their boundaries – period.

  • April

    Good for you. I grew up with the expectation that I would hug, kiss, etc. everybody who wanted me to, and it hasn’t done me any favors as an adult. I still feel awkward refusing contact or affection when I don’t want it. And thanks to the awkwardness, I have no idea how to refuse gracefully. Don’t get me wrong…my parents did not subject me to creeps and I have no problem taking care of someone who is blatantly inappropriate. I just wish I was more comfortable enforcing my own boundaries in those “gray” areas that you are helping your daughter through now. Kudos.

  • MsBorgia

    I’m glad you understand this. I grew up fairly sheltered, and the only physical affection I got was from my parents. After I went to college, I decided that I wasn’t a big fan of any contact other than hugging, and that kisses on the mouth were for boyfriends only. My mom really never picked up on this and looooooves POKING me. It drives me up a wall. No means no, even with family!!

  • Eileen

    Good on you for not forcing her to hug or kiss people she doesn’t want to. I don’t like being kissed except by boyfriends, and while I like hugging, there are plenty of people I’d rather not hug but feel I have to.

    I would suggest that she get over not wanting to shake hands, though. I don’t think anyone is really into shaking hands, but it’s how Westerners greet each other, and as an adult she’ll be perceived as rude if she doesn’t.

  • Tania

    I did not like to hug people as a kid, and my parents never made me. It’s just an uncomfortable feeling being affectionate to people I didn’t know. It’s probably similar for your daughter, especially if she’s a little shy.

  • DecaturFlora

    I always ask the kid first, and if I get a weird look I go for a high five instead. I’m a huggy person, but I have a lot of friends who aren’t– good news? They’re not sociopaths so WHO CARES?

  • Mom

    I wasn’t a hugger/kisser and my kids aren’t outside of mom, dad, and siblings. I see nothing wrong with it, either. I also agree with justme, they need to know that their nos have power…it might also teach them about others saying no to them and respecting it. Just because they are children, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect their boundaries…within reason. :)

  • Lee

    I believe all people ought to have the right to refuse hugs. But one needs to know what to do, not just receive support for what they don’t want. It is considered polite to shake hands, and a well presented hand can forestall many a hug. Also, knowing how to do so properly will help her throughout her life, especially in the business world. It is your job as Mom to teach her this.

  • any

    My kid doesn’t like it either and I don’t and won’t make him. It’s his space, respect it or move on.

  • C.J.

    My younger daughter is not a big fan of hugging. She used to hide behind my leg when someone wanted to hug her. I never made her. Even her grandparents didn’t try to make her. They waited for her to come to them, she eventually did. All the people that didn’t push getting hugs from her when she was small she will hug now. People that tried to push getting hugs she still tries to avoid. I don’t expect her to hug people she doesn’t know well. If someone tries to push it I just say she is shy. Some people don’t like people in their personal space, that should be respected even for kids.

  • Moji

    I wish my mom was like you. I had to suffer through endless wet kisses, stinky cologne/perfume hugs, and sand paper faced uncle kisses that hurt for hours. More parents should defend their kids for not wanting to hug and kiss grown-up relatives. My sister complains my son doesn’t let her kiss him, and I just remember my childhood days and do what you do.

  • LiteBrite

    My son is the opposite. He wants to give out hugs to everyone. He’s a very feel-y kid, and we’ve had to have conversations about not hugging people who don’t want it and respecting personal space.

    I don’t see anything wrong with someone who isn’t into hugging. It may be something your daughter grows out of or it may not. Either way, it’s okay for her to have boundaries and to teach others to respect them.

  • Michelle

    I don’t like hugging unless it’s someone I really like or someone I haven’t seen in a long time. My mom only made me hug my grandparents or other close relatives and it didn’t bother me too much. But there was no way I would have hugged someone I didn’t know well.
    My FIL wants to hug and kiss me every time I see him…we only live 5 minutes apart. Drives me insane and is to the point I try to say hi to him from across the room to avoid it. I don’t know a polite way to say stop trying to touch me!

  • Nikki

    I don’t try to hug kids who I’m not close to. if the kids don’t call me “auntie” I don’t try to hug them…and sometimes even those kids don’t want to give me a hug. It’s all good. I get bothered when their parents try to make them. I usually just say it’s cool really, I’m not offended your 2 year old doesn’t want to hug me. And that usually makes the 2 year old want to hug me. Ha ha. Just because a kid is smaller or young doesn’t mean they don’t know what they want (or don’t want) in regards to certain things. Hugs are one of them.

  • http://twitter.com/Rockybalboa211 Louis Gonzales

    Children should hug all their relatives since they are relatives, especially the elders of the family since they are the elders.

    • LoveyDovey

      Why should they be forced to do so against their will? It’s sending the message that their feelings and possible discomfort don’t matter, which can have an effect later in life and on their self-esteem.
      NOBODY but NOBODY should have their personal boundaries violated, even if it is a relative or an elder. Sometimes my daughter doesn’t even want to give me hugs or kisses and I don’t force it. Besides, hugs are so much better when everyone involved actually WANTS to do it.

    • Guin

      You realize that most sexual molestation of children is by someone they know, right? So, you force Suzie to hug creepy Uncle Joe, and later when he gets her alone she doesn’t think she’s allowed to say no. Nice.

  • Ipsedixit

    I think it’s great to teach kids to respect personal boundaries – their own and others. I wasn’t a touchy feely kid….and I’m not a touchy feely adult.

    While I see parents teaching their kids that they don’t have to hug others, I don’t see the same when it is the child initiating contact with an adult that doesn’t want their space invaded.

  • Diana

    This is great. Your daughter shouldn’t be hugging people she doesn’t want to. This is the #1 lesson a girl should learn: don’t feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do. You’ve taught your girl an invaluable lesson, and I applaud you for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rhona.sweeting Rhona Sweeting

    Damn straight. I do not like giving or receving ‘cuddles’, and have not since I was a small child. I’m now 34.
    Bodily integrity is a VERY important thing to teach children. Hugs are nice if you want to give or receive them, but you should not be MADE to, no matter what age you are.
    I think it is important to teach small people appropriate respectful social gestures in terms of greetings or goodbyes – such as a handshake or similar – but physical contact is not necessary.
    Well done for standing up for this. :)
    (Signed, an adult who had to live through at least ten years of horrible, HORRIBLE physical social getures and only now has the power and motivation to say no :))

  • K.

    Yeah, I wasn’t a ‘hugger’ either–and I’m still kinda strong on my physical boundaries as an adult!

    However, I do remember that my resistance to physical contact as a child did come with some sense of anxiety. That may not be the case for your daughter–she might be perfectly happy and unselfconscious about the whole thing–but if she has some social discomfort or develops it as she gets older, one thing that really helped me was my mother basically supplied me with a way to greet people that meant I was the one dictating how the interaction would play out, rather than constantly refusing other people’s overtures onto me. For me, that was the handshake. She instructed me to just hold out my hand when I met someone and say, “Nice to meet you!” and that generally stopped anyone from violating personal space beyond that. Obviously, the handshake might not be the right choice for your own daughter, but FWIW, it was a good thing for me to have someone help me take control of my own comfort in social situations.

    Again, not suggesting this is necessary for YOUR daughter, just food for thought!

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisCoffeeMama Chris Taylor

    Good for you I have taught my daughter (& both my sons) the same thing. That’s your body. No one gets to touch it unless you okay it first. We even practiced when they were younger (they are 14, 13 & 8 now) on polite ways to refuse unwanted touch. I always told them that they are responcible for thier bodies, keep it clean, safe, healthy, happy. Even if mommy wants to hug you it’s still your body and you can tell me no too. I explain it like that because if you can say no to mommy, there is no way that there is anyone you can’t say no to. Way better than scaring them about child molestors.