I was never much of a baby holder as a teenager or young adult. I didn’t look at toddlers and feel compelled to squeeze their cute little bodies next to me, but something changed in me when I had my first little girl. I suddenly looked at children and I just wanted to hold them close. But, what if that little toddler doesn’t want to be held, doesn’t want to be hugged right at that moment? What if that little baby wants to stay in the arms of his mom or dad instead?
As a child, I remember older people coming up to me, family and friends alike, and saying, “Give me a hug!” I was very shy, I hated being away from my mother’s side when I was faced with a new situation, but when I would hear “Give me a hug!”, I felt an obligation to do so. These feelings are partially attributed to my personality, but still, because of these feelings I had, I was aware that some kids just don’t want to give hugs and kisses or be held right when they see you. Knowing this, I started to ask young children or their parents if I could hug him or pick her up. Babies cannot speak for themselves, of course, but most parents know their baby well enough once the baby is a few months old. Some babies don’t want to be held or passed around in crowd, and some babies love it.
Let me just say that asking to hold a baby is much easier than asking to hold a toddler, because when you ask to hold a baby you are asking adults, and they tend to give you a nice sugar coated answer! A toddler will just tell you the truth. If you decide to ask a child if you can hold, hug, love on him, prepare yourself for the answer. You could get “No. You stink” OR you could get a warm hug! You just never know, but hey, at least you know that the child is hugging you because she wants to! I feel that it’s important to ask before you hold a child or baby, hug a child, or love on a child, so I put together a few of my most important reasons why just for you.
- Give the Child Time to Adjust to a New Situation – My sister’s family came to visit for Thanksgiving and I was so excited to see them! I hadn’t seen my little nephew for quite a few months, and I just wanted to love on him right when he walked in the door. I came up to this sweet little boy and said hi (very enthusiastically) and then I said, “Can I hold you?” He immediately shook his head and waddled away. I was so sad! But I reminded myself, there’s a lot of people here that this little boy hasn’t seen in awhile. He needs time to soak this in. I would rather him adjust to the situation, than be angry in my arms, resenting me for picking him up. Some children take a few minutes to adjust, some take a few hours, days, and some just are not the type to be held. We need to respect that, which brings me to my next point.
- Respect the Child’s Decision – It’s important for a child to acknowledge another person’s presence out of respect, but the child should not be obligated to give physical contact as a greeting. It’s so easy to swoop a little child up in your arms. They are tiny, and they have sweet faces! But, if we are forcing a toddler to be in our arms for our own satisfaction, what is that teaching the child? Children learn more from what we do than by what we say.
- Make Good Memories – Do you remember that relative or close family friend when you were a kid that always greeted you with, “Come here and give me a kiss?” I was not a fan. To this day, I see that person and think, “Please don’t make me kiss you!” I don’t want my nieces and nephews to look at me like that later in life! Is it likely? Maybe not. But I’m happy to avoid the chance. In addition to that, early childhood experiences can affect who we become later in life, so crafting experiences that are comforting to a child is certainly ideal.
A little disclaimer so that you know I am not on a high horse: I don’t usually ask my own children for hugs, kisses, loves, etc… because I know my kids, and I know for the most part, by their demeanor when they want hugs and when they don’t. I think asking for hugs and loves is most appropriate for children you don’t know well or when you can’t tell if a child wants physical affection.