Tag Archives: Katherine Levine


One of my foster kids taught me that not all want hugs and that hugs can hurt. She was pretty, almost sixteen, and had been much abused. She hated hugs.

I think she had been made to have sex with men as part of a ring of child abusers. We were often not told  our kids histories.  something I  preferred, gave all of us a clean start.

The first time I spontaneously reached out to hug her, she froze.  I can still feel her pain.  That experience taught me to always ask, “Can I have a hug?” I also learned to be aware that some say “Yes” when they mean “No.”

I found this  article unclear on the promise of the title: How to Comfort a Family Member – Families Who Don’t Hug – Oprah.com. A daughter was seeking comfort but didn’t get what she wanted, which she said was just a hug.

The article was designed to get families to hug more often, but never made the point that hugs are not always wanted.

When I am upset, I don’t want hugs. If I am complaining about something, I usually don’t even want advice.  I want to be listened to and maybe a tiny bit of sympathy, but often the best thing to do when I am upset is listening and nodding your head.

Once my ranting is  winding down, an encouraging sentence  might help, but the best is to ask, “What do you need from me to help?”

Often the answer is “nothing.”

That generally means I want to be left alone to quiet myself.  When that is the case, a hug hurts, just as all hugs hurt my sexually abused foster child.  Why.  The body gets tense and edgy when strong feelings are aroused. A hug feels bad.

The other side of the coin came during my practice as a  therapist.  My boss commanded me not to hug.  I chose to disobey.  How when a kid is hurling themselves at you can you not hug?

There does come a time when most kids who loved hugs as a young child, no longer want to be hugged. Be attuned to this and don’t insist. The reasons are many and complex, mainly having to do with growing awareness of sexual feelings.

Parenting advice and tips

First parenting tip: If someone clearly wants a hug, do your best to be open to that.  If you aren’t, acknowledge that you aren’t a very good hugger.  “We didn’t do that in my family, so I am still trying to learn” might work.

Second parenting tip: When you want to give a hug, always ask first and make it clear you expect to honor their feelings.

Third parenting tip: Do not tell you children to hug or kiss someone even a grand parent.  Cannot get most parents to do that, even my own kids ask that of their kids. So I make a separate deal with my grandchildren as soon as they are able to talk. If I ask for a hug or a kiss or their parents insist I get one,they are free to say “No.”

I let them slap me five or  give them a quick kiss or a top of the head kiss. Doing so gives them control over their body and I think that matters.


Thank you for all you do, enjoy and be grateful for all you have been given, practice kindness, like, share or comment. Sharing is caring.



This post does not relate to this today Aug 6, 2014 DAILY PROMPT Writer’s Block Party. When was the last time you experienced writer’s block? What do you think brought it about — and how did you dig your way out of it?

While I describe figuring out how to get and give hugs, the fact is that applies to just about everything.  You have to know when there is problem, sort out how it is a problem, develop strategies and persist.

Here’s how that applies to writing.  I rarely have trouble writing.  When I can’t more ahead on one thing I am working on, I move on to something else.  Happy about that.

But finishing something on my own, is a big problem.  They say re-writing is essential and I re-write and re-write and re-write and after a certain point stuff starts getting worse not better.  Partly this is related to having dysgraphia and every time I re-write I do catch mistakes. It is a problem because it keeps me from getting stuff out there.

But I do persist. I blog four times a week and do the Daily Prompts to force myself  to finish somethings, not when perfect, but when good enough.  But also because I doing something and finishing it gives me a boost.



image by defies



Yes that’s me at the shooting range. I preach and practice kindness, but there are times I get sick and tired of some stuff.  That is when the line from the movie Network starts richocheting throughout my heart, soul, and brain. If you haven’t seen the movie, I’d recommend it is a good one to rent or get from your local library.  The line I’m referring to is “I’m mad as H— and I’m not going to take it any more.”I don’t shoot people or animals, but I have been known to rant loudly.

From now own, if you see this picture of me at the Shooting Range, know I am shooting angry words  and hoping someone will hear or read and understand. Isn’t that what you want when angry?

TODAY’S RANT: I woke up this morning from two nightmares. In the first,  I was out walking a usually peaceful hiking trail. “Slam Bang” a skate boarder came barreling after me.  He wasn’t trying to avoid me.  He wanted to run me down.

Right behind him on their skate boards came a man and a woman.  I assume they were his parents.  I thought briefly they were going to save me, but no, “Get her” both yelled.

I woke up  before being knocked down by the boy and run over by his parents. My  brain won’t let me die in dreams. Thank you brain.

So I calmed my nerves, reminded myself that the kid on the skate board who almost ran me down last week hadn’t been trying to get me; he did yell, “Coming through.”

However, after scaring me to an almost heart attack and passing by, he gave me the finger and yelled “F… you.”

He probably did so  because I didn’t move fast enough and he had to swerve around me.  He was sixteen or seventeen.  I would have been more forgiving of the one sparking this dream if he had been just entering his teens, but this guy should have known better.

I’m sure he did not see my raised finger or hear my retaliatory use of the same words.

Obviously, my brain holds on to the fear of some type of accident like that on the hiking trails. I avoid those used by bikers. I am on blood thinners and a bad fall could kill me or at least cause major brain damage and I do struggle with a leaking brain already.

Anyway, I calmed my nightmare nerves with some deep breaths, thought calming thoughts and after a time returned to sleep, but not to a sweet dream.  Instead, it was a How To Tame Your Dragon (HTTYD) dream.  Only I was the dragon and I wasn’t being tamed, but pulled by a group of children toward a fiery pit. If you have been reading my blogs, you know I rant against the media painting  parents as dolts  and children as all wise and caring.  The movie HTTYD is one that sets me off on such rants.

I first saw it with my then four year old grandson.  At first I was enchanted.  It was a story saying be tolerant, understand what scares you, love and tame an enemy.  Definitely supports my major message.

But another, other more subtle and perhaps more damaging message was  also there. “Adults are stupids, parents are dolts, children know, and children if left alone will make the world wonderful.”

Perhaps a good message for a child with an abusive parent.  But not a great message when taken to extremes as happens in much of today’s world.

By the way this “Adults are the problem” began with Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  Who was he you ask?  He was a philosopher, writer, and composer in the 18th-century. Some consider him the father of French Romanticism and the French Revolution.  He was a champion of human rights.  His message was right and important for his time.

His novel Emile, which was also a critique of education , starts with these words:

Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the Author of things; everything degenerates in the hands of man.

I think this is a good quote to think about, but not to swallow as the only truth.  The media, the Happiness Gurus, the communication experts, those I call Soft Love parents (Parent Effectiveness Training, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and many parenting blogs) have taken this idea as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. WRONG.

The advice of the the Soft Love parents is fantastic for the parents of teens but only if the child was also  taught the right values when small.  Tough Love parents are the best parents for kids from two to twelve. (Tough Love does not mean Abusive Love; and hear this: punishment is not abuse.) Such parents praise and punish and keep on caring. Their kids  respect not just for their rights, but the rights of others.

What is A Parent to Do?  Protest. Go on an OAPM (Offensive to Adults and Parents) campaign.  In fact, I want OAPM  to become as widely used as the PG or X rated labels for movies and TV shows.

My intent is not to ban such shows.  In fact,  I protest the political correctness that is for banning jokes about religious groups or making fun of your own race or even of mother-in-laws.  My goal is reminded that we are in this world together. If any group is blamed or thought not worthy of care, kindness, and being treated with good manners, the world is teetering on the brink of destruction.

I said to my grandson about How to Tame your Dragon: “A wise boy, but not all parents or  grownups as as stupid as the ones shown here. Your dad is one smart man.”

My grandson smiled and agreed.

JOIN MY PROTEST.  Comment and let me know movies and media that teach children parents or adults are stupid or evil.


The Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge called for pictures of hands.  I immediately thought of this one. One of my grand’s hands nestled in his fathers on baby’s birth day.  Took me a while to find it, but I give it to you now.

In his father’s hand.

STAYING STRONG TIP:  Pictures hold memories.  Loving memories soften bad feelings, improve the moment.  Having actual picuturs matters; but holding good moment memories like this in your heart also help.

PRACTICE KINDNESS: Being kind circles back to the giver.  Share this post if you think another will find it strengthening.  Thank you and as I tell myself a hundred times, stay strong.


If you live with a teenager, chances are you have been a victim at least once or twice. What do I mean by a Gotcha War? It is a battle of opposing wills.  One person has right on their side. The other person doesn’t care about right or wrong; he or she wants to keep you arguing until you blow it and look like a fool.

Even dogs can play a Gotcha War game. We have had Punky the pup for about two months now. He plays a hard and fast game of Gotcha War when off leash at the dog park. When you want to put him back on the leash he’ll run up to you prancing and dancing, but  not near enough for you to get the leash on. You can almost hear the little rascal laughing as he dances away. Unlike human Gotcha Warriors, however, he can be bribed with a piece of cheese.

Now most of our foster children hated rules and regulations and were seasoned Gotcha Warriors. To learn more about Gotcha Wars go to this  How to Win a Gotcha War Wikihow, or better yet, buy my book.

Why do kids play this game? For many reasons, but I think the majority of my foster kids had a strong sense of honor and often had to pick what I call “A Guilt-driven Gotcha War” when torn between honor and wanting to do something forbidden.

I describe Jamie in the book.  He wanted to go to a party back at his home town. His probation officier had nixed all home visits. The morning of the party Jamie began his Gotcha War. He didn’t get out of bed when called, he didn’t do his chores, he refused to leave the house when we wanted to go to the local swimming pool. All the time he was breaking  our rules, he moaned and groaned about how awful it was living with us.

Now I knew what was up and worked hard to remain above the fray and follow the advice I give most when a Gotcha Warrior is out to get you.  I shrugged my shoulders, I sent the others to the swimming pool and retired to do some work on my computer. Jamie kept up his harrassment, I kept my cool until I was heading for the bathroom and Jamie grabbed my arm.

He said plaintively pulling on me, “I need to talk.”

I replied a angrily, jerking my arm away, “And I need to go.”

That was all he needed, “You’re paid to care and you won’t even talk to me.  I’ve had it. F… you.”

And out the door he went.

I managed to yell, “Come back when you’ve calmed down and thought things over.”

Come back he did, the next morning. He was in trouble with his probation officer, but he had gained lots of respect from his peers, spent time with his girlfriend, and forced me to get angry enough so he could use me as an excuse to do what he wanted.

What Is A Parent to Do?  The less the better. Minimal response, an indifferent or bemused air. Quiet restatement of rules. Timing yourself out by absenting the scene. The more you argue or get upset, the more the Gotcha Warrior is fueled.

When I directed crisis teams we were called to an elementary school to help deal with a Gotcha Warring ten year old. His favorite trick was to run out of the classroom and head for the roof saying “I’m going to jump.” Scary stuff for any one to deal with. He would often end up restrained and hustled off to the psychiatric emergency room.  The consensus was that he was not at all suicidal, but attention seeking.  I was able to convince the school  not to react. I stationed staff where they could see and not be seen.

With everyone ignoring him, the young man wandered the hall for a few minutes and then returned to the class room. This youngster had major problems, and was referred for a full evaluation. Turned out, he had an undetected learning disability and when that was properly treated, he stopped being a Gotcha Warrior.

Think staying above the fray is easy? Not if you have ever met a determined Gotcha Warrior. Through the years it has helped me to remember these lines from the movie Bull Durham:  “Some days you win. Some days you lose. Some days it rains.”

Every good kid will play a few Gotcha Wars, if it is constant and destroying the family atmosphere, help is needed.  Find a good family therapist.  Things can be better.

[Image source]