The Importance of Physical Affection

Learn the importance of an appropriate physical connection with your child.
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The Importance of Physical Affection

Teaching discipline is best done with one hand gently rubbing tension from a kid's shoulders, with a kiss on the nose, a squeeze of the torso, and a love pat on the back. Physical affection matters. A lesson imparted with a hug will be remembered far longer than a cold, distant lecture, because it will be associated with good feelings of parental love.

Here are a few tips for showing your child affection:

  • Eye contact across a crowded room, smiles, winks, and thumbs-up.
  • Hugs in the morning, hugs at noon, hugs at night (yes, even those smelly 10-year-olds, yes, especially those gawky adolescents).
  • Hold hands walking down the street.
  • Kiss your kid good-bye and hello.
  • Model an affectionate relationship with your partner.

Appropriate and Inappropriate Affection

Kids don't always want physical affection, nor is it always appropriate. Part of respecting your child is to accept and appreciate when he doesn't want to be touched. You can help him build a sense of boundaries when you teach him to:

  • Establish his boundaries. At the age of two, my daughter Annie already knew how to tell people, “Please don't touch my body.” Once you teach your child to establish his own body boundaries, respect them.
  • Respect the body boundaries of other people, whether family or friends.
  • Know with whom and when it is appropriate to have physical affection. Family and friends are fine to hug (if he feels comfortable with it), strangers are not. Some places and times are not appropriate for hugging and kissing.
  • Listen to his own discomfort level no matter who is doing the touching. Unless it's a medical or safety matter, a child should always be clear that physical affection is his choice.
  • Understand that stepfamilies are sometimes a different story, and that physical affection is not always appropriate.