Dear Crabby, Should Kids Be Expected to Give Hugs?

Dear Crabby,

We got together with extended family for Father’s Day last Sunday and had a great time… until it was time to leave. As we were saying goodbye an uncle we rarely see wanted my young daughter to give him a hug and got upset when she politely refused. Should I force my kids to give hugs and kisses to family members?

Tammy Toque

Dear Tammy Toque,

I totally understand where you’re coming from. Growing up, I had a great aunt that smelled like peppermint and Bengay. Every family get together my siblings, cousins, and I were expected to line up for hugs and kisses—both when we arrived and when we left. And by the end of the evening she smelled like peppermint, Bengay, and scotch. Honestly, I didn’t like it, but I never thought much about whether or not it was odd or if I could opt out. It was just something we were told to do. I chalk it up the era we lived in. Guess we were a little more touchy-feely back then. Of course, now that I think about it, I made my kids do the same thing. It wasn’t until I had my own grandkids that I began to rethink the whole ritual. Why? Because one of my delightful granddaughters ignored me for the first five years of her life. Hard to believe because I’m such a lovable guy, right? To add insult to injury, this kid couldn’t get enough of Mrs. Crabby. At first I chalked it up to her being a fussy baby, but the older she got and the more I tried to get a hug or kiss from her, the more she pulled away and ran in the opposite direction. Then one ordinary day when I was watching TV, she crawled up into my lap, settled in, and snuggled with me. I couldn’t believe it! When she went to go home, she hugged me so hard I thought my head might pop off. Ever since then, we’ve been best buds. I don’t know what it was that made her change her mind about me, but I’m glad she did. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if I’d forced her to show affection to me, the more she would have resisted. Some kids just aren’t into being super affectionate and I’m sure there are kids who have sensory issues that keep them from doing what others think they should do. I’d say as long as your kids are respectful to the elder relatives, that’s what should matter. Another way to look at it is, would you as an adult want someone to force you to hug or kiss someone you didn’t want to? I’m guessing the answer to that would be a big, fat NO! So, why should we impose these restrictions on kids? If your child likes giving out hugs and kisses, then by all means, let him or her. Within reason of course. You probably shouldn’t let them hug or kiss just anyone. If your child doesn’t like to do those things, don’t worry. Just politely tell relatives that your child would prefer not to do that. Or check with your child to see if he or she would be OK with a handshake, fist bump, or high five. Any of those could be a happy medium.

Hope this helps!

Dear Crabby

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About Dear Crabby

Stuck in a rut? Need some biased advice from a crabby old baby-boomer? Read regularly by thousands and loved by some, Dear Crabby answers questions weekly to life's challenges. Send him a note at

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