Tag Archives: tips on parenting

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.


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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 (www.emotionalfitnesstraining.com
The five components of Emotional Intelligence (www.sonoma.edu)Emotional Intelligence (en.wikipedia.org)
An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents(amazon.com)


Why You Should Let Your Kids Fail – Eight Tips for Doing So Wisely

When our kids get hurt, we hurt, however, letting out hurts interfere with what a child needs in order to grow emotional strong hurts more in the long run.

Failing to try.

Bill Gates said, “Success is a lousy teacher.It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

But we all lose at something. Failure is part of living. Your child does not need to be protected from failure; s/he needs to be taught to look for the lessons and move on.

The dangers of thinking we cannot lose are multiple:

  1. Spawns arrogance
  2. Creates disdain for those who do fail
  3. Closes our mind to other points of view or possibilities
  4. Keeps us from seeking feedback
  5. When we fail we are devastated

Not being able to deal with failure and hence feeling hopeless is a known risk factor involved in suicidal attempts. As noted by the Charles Kubly Foundation which promotes understanding of depression and suicide:

Research also supports the idea that suicidal individuals may hold higher standards for themselves than the average person. These elevated standards, which at worst may manifest as perfectionism, may leave individuals vulnerable to perceptions of failure and ultimately to thoughts of hopelessness and suicide. a type of suicide known as failure induced suicides….

Sadly, many of the current parent gurus and so many parents want to protect children from the pain of failure.  Want proof? Think  about the following:

  • Giving out participation trophies at competitive events
  • “Awfulizing” punishment. Punishment has become a dirty word. Reasonable, not abusive, punishments work. Moreover when you don’t praise or reward that is a punishment.
  • Ungraded class rooms.
  • Encouraging talents that do not exist – watch American Idol auditions.

Parenting tips

Parenting tip one:  Get you own expectations in order.  What matters most to you. What do you dream of your child becoming. Are you dreaming unrealistic dreams of an Olympic medal for a kid with a bit of athletic talent; planning or Harvard for your smart three-year-old.

Parenting tip two: Assume responsibility for your own happiness . It is normal to live a bit via  hopes your child will star and in ways you wanted to but did not. Just be sure, you are not living through your child.

Parenting tip three: Examine your own failures. How did you survive, what lessons did you learn.

Parenting tip four:  Consciously teach critical thinking. 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.

Parenting tip five: Encourage sports, competitive games, but for the fun they bring whether one wins or loses.

Parenting tip six: Also encourage hobbies, reading, crafting, legos, puzzle solving, drawing, and writing for the fun each brings. Downplay any competitive thoughts tied to such things.

Parenting tip seven: Remember what matters. Emotional intelligence (EI) is more important in living the good life than IQ or material successes.  Good relationships are an important part of EI. These come from observing the many variations of the Golden Rule which essential promotes practicing kindness.

Parenting tip eight: Part of knowing what matters involves setting Smart Goals and teach your child to to the same.  This poster coach will start you off.

smart goals

My eBook Know Your Mission So You Can Reach Your Goals details the way to the good life by knowing what matters and setting achievable  goals. Buy it now, it costs less than a latte.

As one reviewer noted:”Katherine Gordy Levine shares her expertise by clearly explaining goal-setting. As the author of many books, she is a living example of what she teaches. I recommend this kindle book if the reader wants to learn goal-setting without a long tedious explanation. Katherine gets right to the meat of her topic.”

Made me blush. Still does.


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  But does relate to it. The New School:You get to redesign school as we know it from the ground up. Will you do away with reading, writing, and arithmetic? What skills and knowledge will your school focus on imparting to young minds?

Well obviously, I would want failure to be treated as something that is a part of life and kids allowed to fail and taught how to deal with it. That means teaching my Emotional Fitness Exercises through out all grades along with music, art, cooking, and self-defense (see Peace Dojos International).

I like the mastery approach to teaching with the mission being to teach all children to love learning. In addition to the above I would want in the first grades to emphasize teaching  children to read and then to write  and of course math has to fit in there somewhere. Any child struggling to master these skills would be tested for a learning disability.  That might be a good idea of all children. Children, parents and teachers should also be attuned to learning styles and Gardiner’s Types of Intelligence. 


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

Easy Emotional Fitness Exercises (www.emotionalfitnesstraining.com
The five components of Emotional Intelligence (www.sonoma.edu)Emotional Intelligence (en.wikipedia.org)
An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents(amazon.com)



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


Lessons from my foster children

My husband and I were short-term foster parents. Some 366 youth lived with us for  a few days,  or some weeks or  even for months. We learned from each.

Before we became foster parents, I was teaching at Columbia University School of Social Work. I was also a licensed mental health professional and had directed the social service department at a Woman’s Hospital in New York City.   In other words, I was thought by most to be an “expert.”  In many ways I was. But in one important way, I was not.  I had not yet raised children from birth to adulthood.

I was  raised in the fifties where you didn’t question parents and never said anything if you could not say something nice.  I was almost a mealy mouth.  But five things made me the person I am today. Meaning someone who tries to tell it like it is, but so it will be heard which means saying the not so nice stuff nicely. Those three things:

1. A rebellious mother. She eloped to marry  a man her family thought beneath her.  Actually, he was above them by miles in kindness.

Anyway, my earliest memory,  is as a four-year old.  Not religious, my mother  had  sent me to the nearest church to attend Sunday School; it was a Methodist Church across the street from our house of the moment.

That particular Sunday was Children’s Day and parents were lured to the service to watch the children perform. I was one of a group singing “Jesus loves me.”

The minister took advantage of the large audience to preach hell and damnation for anyone who smoked.  At the end of the service, my mother shook the preacher’s hand and then walked about ten feet away and lit up an Old Gold cigarette. The smoke drifted toward the preacher and as she smoked she smiled.

2. A learning disability.  Not known then, but understood more frequently in today’s world, I and many members of my mother’s family suffer from a lesser known learning difference called Dysgraphia.  We can read, think very well, but fumble a great deal putting words on paper.  Poor handwriting, terrible spelling, inability to punctuate properly, at a loss with many grammar rules. How did I become a published author? Thanks to my parents and those teachers who saw more than my errors I loved school and learning; then,  word processing and spell check entered my world; finally life as a foster parent and a therapist meant an unusual story.

The main lesson from my learning disability was and remains an ability to tolerate uncertainty.  I was often wrong, and that does create uncertainty. But I was right enough of the time to keep trudging forward when others stopped.

One of my guru’s Harvard researcher Jerome Kagan believes the ability to tolerate uncertain is a main key in understanding human behavior,  particularly, when it comes to conflicting beliefs. Explains fanaticism to me and why wars are raged with religious beliefs as a reason or a tool.

3. Training as a mental health professional. There I was taught the Freudian art of listening with to underlying stuff, and the Rogerian Art of communication more wisely mainly by the use of reflection back the client’s words.

4. Marriage to a Talmudic learning invested Jew who believes arguing and discussion are major keys to learning truths and have nothing to do with whether you love or hate the person you are arguing with.  I learned to debate without fear of rejection from him.

A side note: I believe much of the ability of the Jews to move ahead in this world and to garner hatred lies in the fact that studying the Torah teaches critical thinking.  The great teacher Hillel taught all the Torah encompassed in one sentence “…that which you hate, don’t do to others.”  He adds that the rest of the Torah is commentary leading back to the one core value. The commentary’s teach critical thinking. 

How does this lead to hatred? As Kagan notes critical thinking creates uncertainty and he also notes that uncertainty  blamed on someone else creates anger. When the Jews refuse other versions of God, they create uncertainty.

Finally, critical thinking  is recognized as a get ahead skill and getting ahead creates uncertainty about the self that can and often does lead to jealousy and resentment of those left behind.

5. Life as a parent and foster parent.  My husband and I were selected to be special need foster parents because of my training as a mental health professional.  It was thought being a therapist meant troubled youth would be treated therapeutically in our home and the courts – each child in our care had run aground of the law in one way or another – would better understand the child’s needs before he or she moved on to a more permanent living arrangement.

Did not work that way.  After four weeks as a foster parent, I lost all faith in my professional training.  Four of the first six kids placed with us rioted, threatened to kill our children and us.  You can read more about that in my book “When Good Kids Do Bad Things” and my second book “Parents are People Too, An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents.”

What allowed us to survive?  My husband’s knowledge as a dog trainer. He specialized in training guard dogs and knew dominance came first but had to be followed quickly by caring behavior.  I discuss this in a blog post about parenting lessons learned from mother dogs. Treat Children Like Dogs.


After I became disillusioned with my professional training, I kept reading and looking for help.  The more direct experience the help givers had with children, the better the advice. Often that meant experienced parents.  But it might also mean camp counselors, teachers, therapists who specialised in helping children and various researchers.

At the same time, most parents advice suggests  following your instincts or intuition. Sadly instinct is a very primitive source of advice designed to keep you alive. Intuition is what we no longer remember how or where we learned the knowledge it suggests is true and right. Intuition works well in many situations, but must also be countered with careful thought in other situations.

In time I came to value intuitive knowledge, parenting based knowledge and professional knowledge.

One professional knowledge tip I came across was in Gregory Bateson’s book Steps to Ecology of the Mind. Bateson wanted to sort out the many  paths to reality.

He noted that: “The more views of the territory, the more accurate the map.”

Actually, he got this idea from Polish-American scientist and philosopher Alfred Korzybski.  The painter Magritte often illustrated this idea. His most famous illustration of this idea is the Painting The Treachery of Images also known in English as “This is not a pipe.” 

The cartoon I used at the beginning of this post illustrates the danger of limiting ideas of helpfulness to one or two possibilities.  Commonly thought of as “Either/or” Thinking.  Not helpful. Better to think “Yes/and.”

Uncertainty does create painful feelings.  As Kagan points out it can create anger  when blamed on someone else.  Parents and teachers are often targets because if they correct a child, they create uncertainty. So are religions who oppose another religion’s view of God.

Uncertainty can also be blamed on the self and that creates depression, shame, and poor self-acceptance. When nothing can be found to blame, despair is created.

We want certainty in our world. We want to feel in control which is why there is so much talk about becoming anything we want if we only believe and work hard. Sadly not true and as much a myth as the idea of Santa Claus and Tooth Fairies. Kagan notes as one of the things that makes us who we are is “Chance.”

To summarize: the  lessons I learned from life with my foster children:

  1. To seek advice from many sources.
  2. Intuition, personal knowledge  must be partnered with critical thinking otherwise we will be lead astray.
  3. Chance plays a part in every life.
  4. Free will is limited. We have many choices, but in all situations choice is limited.
  5. To have faith in the capacity of most humans to grow toward goodness. Few of my foster children ended up in jail or mental institutions. Most joined the legions of people living okay if not perfect lives.
  6. That people may not be inherently evil, but can be lead downs of paths of evil.  Self-defense is every person’s right. Speaking out against evil every person’s responsiblity.

Staying strong

Life is a blend of struggle and pain, easy times and joyous times, and in between the those two tolerable times.  Self-soothing exercises and being with the good times keep you strong.  The One Minute Meditation is one of Efit’s easiest self soothing exercises.

this rather lengthy post was prompted by a WordPress Weekly Prompt: This week, ….teach us something—or share something you’ve been taught …

As always thank you for all you do to Practice Kindness, a major emotional intelligence boosting practice. Liking, commenting, or sharing any social media you find helpful is one way to be kind to me. It may seem like a little, however, doing a little matters a lot.




EFTI’s Free Poster coaches are digital downloads designed to  improve Emotional Intelligence. Best printed up in color on card stock. they can be posted almost anywhere.  Their intended audience? Anyone who wants to improve their emotional fitness or anyone else’s emotional intelligence.  Parents, teachers, therapists, coaches, fitness trainers, school guidance counselors, preachers, and non-preachers.