“Daddy, I can’t do it.”
“Yes, you can.”
“Daddy, I’m scared.”
“I’m right here…”
“Dad, I want to go home!”
“You get right back in there mister and get that job!”
As I touched on in “Crashing the Helicopter”, some parents need to step back and let their children make mistakes and have disappointments. We can’t protect them from all the negative experiences of life.
But when tough times arise, a hug from dad can sure take away most of the hurt. That hug can say so much, “I love you no matter what; I am always in your corner! You can count on me.”
But I can already hear the super tough guys protest.
“I do not want to add to another generation of ‘girly-men, he needs to be tough!”
“I’m worried he will grow up to be a sissy! I need him to be a man!”
“Stop coddling him so much, you are going to make him gay!”
Will your cuddling lead to a coddled little sissy? Absolutely not.
Sadly, somewhere around five years of age, our boys learn the boy code…
- It’s not okay to cry.
- It’s not okay to be scared.
- It’s not okay to hug or need a hug.
- It’s not okay to be sensitive (that is weak and you will be teased).
- It’s not okay to say I love you.
- It’s not okay to need anyone’s help.
- It’s not okay to show any emotions except anger.
You need to re-program society’s boy code with your own. Just like the song says, “What the world needs now is love sweet love”. What your boy (and girl) needs is your hugs and affection.
All humans crave connection. We need to feel loved. You want that in your adult relationships, but our children desperately need that too!
Earlier this week, I spent some time with a great friend of mine who, along with her partner, is a foster parent to five children with profound developmental needs. She is incredible and so are the children that she loves. What struck me was that despite their diverse needs and severe communication difficulties (with one being completely non-verbal), they all came to her for hugs. You don’t need to hear or understand English to understand that a hug means ‘I love you’.
I love to hug and cuddle. That is my love language. That is how I express love. I think many dads my age may not have had an abundance of hugs and cuddles throughout their childhood as it was a different time. But we want to give that to our children.
Does that mean we all have to turn in our “MAN CARDs”? (because I have also started using a moisturizer of my face, I love Meg Ryan movies and I am often singing Taylor Swift songs in the shower).
And these hugs are not just fluff for feel good parenting moments. Science and research supports the notion that physical touch and affection from parents can significantly reduce anxiety and increase security in children.
As parents, our job is to set boundaries, provide guidance and learning opportunities, and also meet our children’s needs. The key here is that we are hugging our children to meet their needs for affection and closeness, not our own.
Watch your children carefully. You know them best. Is one of your children cuddlier than another? Do you know their love languages? For many kids, touch is high on their scale - your touch could be like water to a thirsty plant.
You can tell your kids you love them all you want, but they will feel your love in your touch.
Why do we hug our children less as they get older? Most dads back off on the affection as kids hit the turbulent teen years. This is when they need you and your security most! Remember, if dad thinks I’m okay, then I am.
We can still hug and rough house with our teenagers. Let them be the guide. We do need to continue to teach our children about giving and receiving positive physical touch (hugs, pats on the back) versus bad physical touch (touch that makes them uncomfortable).
They need to know that this big authoritative dude known as dad can be a softie, a gentle giant. Remember, when your kids are in trouble, we want them running to us not away from us. The well worn path of cuddles and affection will lead them straight to you when times are tough.
Your hugs and your time don’t cost thing and are more valuable in showing love than any toy.
If you are not hugging your kids, then you are the sissy.
Until next time…