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Touch-Me-Not-Tots

You and your toddler have shared what seem like a million kisses, a trillion hugs. Then comes the heartbreaking moment when he announces, "No kiss, Mommy." Or he squirms out of your embrace and bolts across the room.

"Kids want and need affection," says Keith Boyd, M.D., coauthor of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Preschooler and Toddler, Too. "But toddlers may rebuff it to express independence." The phase may last weeks or months, or a child may run hot and cold throughout his second year. Eventually, though, he'll return to his cuddly self. Until then:

GIVE HIM SOME SPACE

When Tracy Berglass's 2-year-old son, Chase, refuses a hug, the Santa Monica, CA, mom says, "Okay," and lets him go on his way. "Don't demand that your child hug or kiss you," says Dr. Boyd. The more a toddler knows you want some physical affection, the less likely he is to comply.

TRY, TRY AGAIN

No matter how often you're pushed away, don't stop showing affection. Wait only an hour or two between attempts; anything less frequent could lead a child to believe you're withdrawing your love.

LET HER TAKE THE LEAD

If your 2-year-old rejects your hug in the morning but asks for one in the afternoon, so be it. "Never ignore a child's overtures because you want to pay her back," says Florence Eddins, M.D., director of training for child and adolescent psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine.

TONE IT DOWN

Your little one may say no to kisses, but perhaps he'd tolerate a less direct gesture, like a tousling of his hair.

ASK FOR AFFECTION

Instead of enveloping Chase when he walks by, Berglass opens up her arms and says, "I need something." Chase knows she wants a hug and, more often than not, happily comes running.

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