Sunday, May 25, 2014

...A Bushel and a Peck, and a Hug Around the Neck

Months ago, B was in the throes of a terrible fit. I was out of answers, out of patience. I told her that I just didn't know what to do with her to get her to behave, and asked her how I could help her to stop.

Tears running down her face, she choked, "hug me."

Thus, what our family refers to as "hug therapy" began.

It isn't a hold-you-down-so-you-don't-break-anything hug, or a get-along-t-shirt style hug. It is a genuine hug, full of love and compassion.

When the girls are edging quickly toward a poor choice, or not listening well, or boiling over into a fit...I give them a hug. When I am at my wits' end, about to venture into the bad parenting zone, I get a hug too.

Feelings get out of control. Emotions build and grow until they explode like a scary, ugly monster. Sometimes, "frustration" becomes an understatement.

During times like this, I take my volcano-girl and envelope her in my arms, let her climb into my lap, and hug her. Some moments, my hug is fiercely returned. Other times, it is fought against. My hug then becomes a loose hug, an "I'm here when you are ready" hug.

image: flickr

B is learning to realize when she is getting out of control, and will growl in the angriest of voices, "I need a hug." Under the growl, is a sad, angry five year old who knows her emotions have escalated too far, but hasn't yet learned how to bring them back down.

The hug is is not a "get out of jail free" card, by any means. It is a moment to pull emotions out of overdrive, and back to a place in which they can be handled more appropriately. A silent reminder that I love and will encourage my girls no matter what they do. Once the crying and flailing have ceased, we revisit the source of the problem and figure out a resolution.

My littlest one often cannot stand a hug; the physical contact would be too much in the high-sensory moment. Sometimes, she simply isn't ready to let go of her fit and fury and find a less tempered spot.  In that circumstance, I give her a quick, loose hug, or just sit beside her, hoping I can express the same love and compassion, without the physical touch. Slowly, though, she is beginning to ask for a hug before she gets to "high alert".

I am not perfect, and dealing with intense emotions day in and day out can wear on me. During some particularly difficult weeks, I feel as though I do not have one more moment of patience left to give. My temperature rises and I launch into the equivalent of a mom fit. As I begin to fume, however, a little 44-inch tall figure tells me, "Mom. You need a hug." And I do.

Now and then, I behave like C, and fight the hug..."I'd love a hug, but I don't have time right now. At this moment, I just need you and your sister to please go put on your shoes like I asked you to so we are only 5 minutes late instead of 15", I will reply in a strained I'm-about-to-lose-it tone.

"Mom", She tells me firmly, "there is ALWAYS enough time for a hug."

Five year olds can be so wise.

I make time for the hug. I feel better. Somehow, we still make it out the door with 20 seconds to spare.

Shel Silverstein had it figured out, didn't he?

Hug-o-War, Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

The tantrums have decreased significantly lately. Cooperation has been on high. The kids are improving, too. ;)

It's working for us. What works for you?


  1. Thank you for sharing. I truly appreciate your wise and compassionate voice. :)

  2. We practice "hug therapy" here to -- especially with my 4yo who is a sensory seeker.Great article.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Colleen! I always enjoy your blog, too. :)