The Etiquette of Touch: Good Hugs Bad Hugs

As a child, I hated being swooped up in one or another relatives’ arms and hugged. They may have loved me, but I hated their unwanted hugs.hugs

At the same time I love  hugs and hugging. But it is tricky.

Because I worked as a mental health professional with children, I was written up once for hugging a child. She was five, we had worked together for several weeks. When she saw me at a support group my boss was attending, she rushed up to me gave me a big hug and clung to me for a few moments. My boss frowned and wrote me a memo saying it was against agency rules to have physical contact with patients.

Did I stopping hugging the kids or grown ups who came at me with open arms. No. I only obey reasonable rules applied reasonable. The “No touch” rule for professional has its merits.  However, rejecting someone who wants a hug is hurtful  and good therapy seeks to help not damage.  What to do? Here are some tips.

Parenting Tips

Tip one: All unwanted touches are bad touches. 

Normally, I want hugs from David. But if I am angry I do not. He had to learn that lesson and has. Children are much the same. When teaching time out, the younger the child the more they seem to want a hug when it is over. Not always.

One of my foster children stiffened when I tried to hug her. A clear sign, she did not want my hugs. I noted her response and apologized.  She explained she had been sexually abused and it started with hugs.

Tip two:  Be aware of sexual feelings hugs and other touches created in you and others. 

If you are a parent, you know that sooner or later the hugs and kisses your child once delighted in will  turn a bit sour.

When that happened to me, I communicated my new attitude toward hugs by meeting my father’s attempt to hug with the sideways hug. In time he got the message.

Understand: my father did not think of our hugs as sexual. They were not, but felt that way to me. Nor was I absolutely clear on why I no longer liked them.

Tip three: Handle inappropriate or unwanted touches,  but do not over-react.  

When a girl tried to unzip David’s fly he called loudly for me. The girl fled.  She was told to discuss the incident with her probation officer and that we would report it so talking about it was not a matter of choice.

When hugged too long by one  boy I pushed him away and said “Those kind of hugs are for grownups who want to be hugged that way.” He was also told to discuss this with the professionals involved in his care.

Then there was the medial intern I met in an empty hall when I was young,  apparently attractive, and working in a hospital. He spread his arms and came toward me obviously intent on give me a bear hug. I looked as if I was going to accept, but at the last minute ducked under his arms and said, “Thank you but no thank you.”  He never bother me again..

Whistles and cat calls with no intent or ability to touch is  not the same as actually being hugged. The feminist movement has made a bit too much oof these; I have been told by a number of young women they feel raped by such behavior. Awfulizing and denigrating of actual rape victims.

Men working at a construction site are not going to leap over the fence and rape you.  They are bored and wanting some distraction. You can take the whistles as a compliment or an assault. Seeing them as assaults is over-reacting.

I assumed the men were paying me a compliment. I usually dropped a small curtsey, smiled and kept walking. Got some laughs and we both felt okay.

Now as a subway rider, I got groped and eventually found that either stomping  on the not-gentleman’s  or saying loudly “Keep your hands to yourself” worked. I didn’t need to try the knee in the groin, but assume that might also convey the desired message.

Younger children might try something they see on the media or see their parents doing. Deep kissing for example. That is best handled, by noting such kisses are grownup kissed and only for two grownups who both want such kisses.

Tip four: Set your child free to reject hugs. Never say “Give Aunt Rosie a hug or a kiss.”  I cringe when I hear parents saying that. My tactic is always to say,  “Only if s/he wants; otherwise a hand shake or “Slap me five” will do.”

Lots of times I get the handshake and most of the time a “Slap me five.” When I get a hug is freely given and that delights me.

Don’t like this tip? Remember most sexual abuse directed toward a child comes from relatives or family friends. Your child needs to start owning his or her body early on.

If you have other tips that might help parents, feel free to share.


Sharing is caring; so is liking, or commenting.

Thank you for all you do., Work at staying strong until next time,. I work hard to do the same as life is often difficult and parenting a struggle.


This post was not inspired by this Word Press Daily Prompt  I Can’t Stay Mad at You;  Do you hold grudges or do you believe in forgive and forget?

Practice forgiveness is one of the Daily Twelve Emotional Fitness Exercises.  It does not involve forgetting.

how to forgive


These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.

Easy Emotional Fitness Exercises (
The five components of Emotional Intelligence ( Intelligence (
An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents(


Safety Proof Your Child Against The Admen

Our media driven society pushes us to be perfect and is a sales ploy by those trying to sell you something. Not at all helpful: harmful to  children and parents.

quotes about advertising


Safety proof your child against the siren calls  of the advertisers. These tips show you how:

Tip one: Educate yourself in the art of detecting efforts to get you to buy what you don’t need.

I get very cranky when my favorite food store reorganizes its shelves so I have to wander around to find things. The  hope  is that I will stumble on something I don’t need but might buy impulsively. The more you wander a store, the more you buy.

I have also given up buying magazines. Why? Even the articles are advertisements urging you to buy this or that.

In addition to the usual ads hawked before, during, and after tv shows, talk and reality shows, including  my favorite cooking shows. have become advertisements for celebrities as well as other products.

Tip Two: Improve your all  critical thinking skills. Here are  the major ways our thoughts get twisted.

12 Examples of twisted thinking aka #fallaciousarguments

Tip Three: Teach the difference between wants and needs. We need food and water; we do not need junk food or flavored water.

Tip Four Teach your child to think critically. The younger your child the more s/he  needs your help sorting out what is real and what is not.

Do not worry  about a pre-preschooler’s fantasies; at the same time, point out the make-believe stuff. Label play and make-believe as pretending or imaging.

Saying “It is fun to believe in dream of being a major league star, but not all dreams come true will not seriously diminish the child’s pleasure, while paving the way for when s/he begins to understand what is real and what is not.

Once the child stops believing in the Santa Claus or similar myths, start asking as you watch movies or media together “What’s real about that?” or “What’s fantasy about that?”

As the teens are entered upon, continue the discussions suggested above, but go deeper.  One easy way to encourage deeper thought is to say “And” when the teen seems to have reached a limit in his thoughts.

Tip five: Teach about advertising. This can also start when you child is young. Just saying, “Than’s an ad, trying to get you to buy something.”

Tip six: Let your child struggle a bit  when it comes to wants. It is your job to supply needs, not wants. Do not reward too quickly. Encourage earning wants.


Sharing is caring; so is liking, or commenting.

Thank you for all you do., Work at staying strong until next time,. I work hard to do the same as life is often difficult and parenting a struggle.


This post was not inspired by this WordPress Daily Prompt however it relates a bit.

The Outsiders:Tell us about the experience of being outside, looking in — however you’d like to interpret that.

Window shopping is what came to mind and the advertizers use window displays to encourage buying.


These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.

Easy Emotional Fitness Exercises (
The five components of Emotional Intelligence ( Intelligence (
An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents(



Start as soon as your child begins watching videos or television to improve his or her critical thinking.  


Sharing is caring; so is liking, or commenting.

Thank you for all you do., Work at staying strong until next time,. I work hard to do the same as life is often difficult and parenting a struggle.


This post was not inspired by this WordPress Daily Prompt

By the Dots: We all have strange relationships with punctuation — do you overuse exclamation marks? Do you avoid semicolons like the plague? What type of punctuation could you never live without? Tell us all about your punctuation quirks!

However, when writing a Memory Book there is no need to try to please the grammar kings when creating a memory book. Just do it.


These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.

Easy Emotional Fitness Exercises (
The five components of Emotional Intelligence ( Intelligence (
An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents(


Use Rating Scales to Teach Your Child What Matters

Knowing what matters keeps decision making on track. Teaching children how to rate things keeps them on track.

Rating scale poster

How to practice  Emotional Fitness Training’s Rating Exercise: Every time you feel tempted to complain, rate the complaint: Trivial is one; Life Changing trauma is ten. Hurts but not for long is five.

parent advice

The younger the child, the more s/he lives in the now and what matters is feeling okay or good.  Rating scales can be taught to a child as soon as he or she begins toddling. Why then? Because the child is getting a few bumps and bruises, but also because s/he is acquiring language. This age and stage lets you teach your child to rate pain:

  1. “Big hurt”  if the child is crying inconsolably.
  2. “Hurts” for small weeping moments.
  3. Tiny hurt for when child complains but seems able to comfort self.

For the big hurts, keep saying “Big Hurt” as you comfort the child.    For the “Hurts” repeat that one word and when the child stops crying, smile, hug,  and say “Good job.”

For tiny hurts, ignore or say “Tiny Hurt, well handled.”

By the way, some experts say there are only two emotions: pleasure and pain. Makes some sense by also important to realize that as we grow what feels pleasurable or painful becomes personal.  Need an example? Here’s one based on my experience as a foster parent.

Many of the children who came to live with us, had been abused or seriously neglected. The logical assumption  would be that living with foster parents who were not abusive would be pleasurable. Not so.

As one young man said, “Please beat us once in a while. You treat us better than our parents and that hurts.”

Fritz Redl and David Wineman in their book Children Who Hate called this inability to tolerate good enough parenting “Treatment Shock.”

In my work and life, I have found three elements working in terms of pleasure or pain.

  1. Deprivation of basic survival needs leads the list. And sexual deprivation is included as a basic survival need, although survival of the species not the individual.
  2. Physical pain.
  3. Emotional pain including uncertainty and fear of pain.

As children grow, each of these three elements can be rated.

  1. Survival needs are rated in terms of their impact on the body. Water needs? A bit thirsty vs dehydrated; Food needs? Mildly hungry vs near death from starvation. Sexual needs? No sexual tension versus aroused enough to violate safe sex rules including forcing sex on someone.
  2. Pan has already been discussed. but useful to think about uncertain and fear of pain in the following ways.
  3. Emotional pain?  Rate on tiny hurt, hurt, and big hurt scale. Think about uncertainty in terms of  mildly curious to disruption of core beliefs enough to act violently to those who believe differently. Fear of pain? Reasonable caution vs immobilizing fear.

But it all begins with teaching a toddler to rate pain.

What to do if your child is past the toddler age? Once a child is in school, you can take a direct approach. Again your response starts the process. Look for when a child is “awfulizing” a trivial hurt.

What’s awfulizing? Albert Ellis founder of the Institute for Rational Living coined this  word. Most simply put it involves  making mountains out of ant hills.  Think of the teen who won’t leave the house because of a pimple you cannot see.  Or the Little League who drops a fly ball and acts like he or she lost the World Series.

You have a number options, but the best is simply to ask the child to rate how bad it is. You can do that by saying, ” suspect by  next week you won’t feel so bad, and by next month you will hardly remember feeling so bad and by next year, you will have forgotten this entirely.” I usually add, “Life goes on.”

My mother’s response to awfulizing  took these three forms.

  1. “Suck it up Butter cup.”
  2. “Be glad it isn’t worse.”
  3. “Life goes on.” Which is where I got that one.

Many of today’s parenting gurus would find my mother’s edicts hurtful. These tend to suggest if you cannot praise, say nothing. I disagree. Part of being a parent is preparing your child for the realities of life. Hurt is a reality and learning to rate hurts realistically an important life skill.


Remember’s sharing is caring and the easiest way to practice kindness now is to share this post with someone who will find it inspiring.  Thank you.


P.S. This post was partly inspired by today’s WordPress Daily Prompt.

Ripped from the Headlines! Head to your favorite online news source. Pick an article with a headline that grabs you. Now, write a short story based on the article.

I thought about the controversy over Starbucks Christmas Cups. Stupid to waste time on something so trivial. Well, at least in my Cranky Old Lady’s Opinion.


How To Teach Kids To Be Kind – Five Tips

Kids are both kind and cruel. Praising the one and stopping the other is every parent’s job. . Kindness strengthens #emotionalintelligence.

#emotionalintelligence poster coach Practice Kindness

There is much talk about random acts of kindness. and these are good. But better still are practicing deliberate acts as well. The two go together.

Parenting Tips

Parenting Tip One: Start with manners . Manners (not the hoity-toity which spoon goes where manners, but the basic ones) are kindness based.  Holding the door for the person behind you, sharing an umbrella, helping someone across the street, thanking someone who helps you, cleaning up after yourself and others are what I mean by basic manners.

You can start teaching these as soon as you child starts to walk.

I pick up trash along the hiking trails I walk and in various parks. My grandchildren have learned to do the same.

Toddlers can also be taught to the ASL sign for Thank you. Hand to mouth and then down toward the heart.

Saying thank you is an act of deliberate kindessParent Tip Two: Encourage charitable giving. Four and five-year olds love to put coins in charity boxes.  do not pass up an opportunity to teaching giving when you see a charity box. Most cash out counters now include one.

Some families have a charity bank at home and have the kids put part of any money they are given in the box.  Then the kids help give it to some one in need.

Parenting Tip Three: Encourage volunteering for good causes. A teen interested in animals can volunteer at an animal shelter; one interested in becoming a health professional can volunteer at a hospital; one interested in making the world more beautiful can volunteer with the local parks department.

Parenting Tip Four: Have family take part in fund-raising events. Walks are the most common, but others abound and offer family time bonding.

Parenting Tip Five: Teach that kindness is its own reward and not dependent on other people’s response.  As parenting guru David Elkind points out, “Self esteem is built by feeling you are a good person, doing good deeds.


You can get a digital copy of the Kindness poster  free at the EFTI Store.   Download it and post it where you will see it throughout the day. Every time you see it, take a calming breath, recall or plan an act of kindness; feel the warmth kindness creates in your being; take another calming breath, smile, and go about your day seeking always to be kind.

Teach your children to do the same.

Thank you  for all you do

You can practice kindness right now by liking, commenting or sharing. Do so gives me hope that what I do matters and keeps me going.


P.S. This has nothing to do with this Daily WordPress Prompt