When he wants to hug me...


Well-Known Member
I know this has been addressed in other notes but I can't find them now... how do I shore up my resources when difficult child is fine and calm and wants to hug me, but I'm all used up emotionally, and still enraged by his behavior?
What do you do when you're this fragile?
He's a kid, I know.
And I'm the mom.
Someone once suggested that I calmly say, "I really don't feel like hugging or cuddling now. I'm still sad and upset from the way you treated me earlier."
But that's my whole life! I mean, when do I NOT say that?
I think this is a rhetorical question...


Terry, if you're sad and upset all the time, you need to do something about you -- therapy, medications, exercise, "me time" or all of the above. You also need to make sure your difficult child is diagnosed properly and all the appropriate interventions are in place so that he is functioning to the best of his ability.

Believe me, my difficult children are very challenging and do lots of stuff I don't like very much, but when they want a hug, I put aside my anger and hug them right back. The cuddling time will be over before you know it. In just a few short years, your son will be a teenager and he won't want to cuddle at all (I'm feeling a bit nostalgic because difficult child 1 turned 14 today).


Active Member
Alfie Kohn holds that our love and parenting must be unconditional. Your love should not be made conditional on his behavior .Love withdrawel in my humble opinion is acting very difficult child , you did that , so I will do this and can also be perceived as rejection , what message are we giving ?. I think we have to look for moments where we can put things behind us and go forward. I believe kids go forward from positive experiences

here is a piece from an essay by Alfie Kohn on 'Unconditional Teaching'

Imagine that your students are invited to respond to a questionnaire several years after leaving the school. They’re asked to indicate whether they agree or disagree – and how strongly – with statements such as: “Even when I wasn’t proud of how I acted, even when I didn’t do the homework, even when I got low test scores or didn’t seem interested in what was being taught, I knew that [insert your name here] still cared about me.”

How would you like your students to answer that sort of question? How do you think they will answer it?

Unconditional love means that a kid perceives that a parent loves and cares for him despite his behavior.
Not easy




Well-Known Member
SmallWorld, I agree. I am going to have to do something about this with-a medication perspective. I don't expect it to solve anything, but I think it will help build in detatchment, which in turn, will make me stronger.

Allan, I didn't say I was withdrawing hugs. I said I wanted to.

I need to draw from a well deep within myself to bring forth all that love, when I am absolutely drained.

It strikes me as odd that you offered a quote about unconditional teaching in re: to students, when I am in the middle of a raw, ongoing relationship with-my own son. My son is more than a student. He is a part of me.



Well-Known Member
Terry, I sooooo know what you mean. I recall vividly having to hug my difficult child when I really did not even want to be in the same city as her.

I have to run, I will check in again later.
It always seems that difficult child wants a hug right after she has pushed me to my very LIMITS.

What has helped me is if I take a time out for myself while she is taking her time out (or even if she isn't).

Even if I am still steamed when she approaches me, I give a big sigh and say "You know what, I love you, and I always will." That helps. Saying it helps me feel it. Then I wrap her in a huge hug and kiss her all over.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts
Allan - unconditional love teaches our children nothing. To be honest many of our difficult children cannot connect the dots. So while the tweedles are raging & doing bodily injury it's less likely that I'm willing to accept a hug directly afterward. Parents need time to process as well - time to catch their breath.

I love my children - I don't withhold that love. I will however demand time to center myself before expressing my emotions or giving a hug. There are consequences to trying to hurt someone - that may mean physical distance for a bit.

Terry, it can be very hard for me to accept a hug from either kt or wm. Many times, wm's hugs are "icky" & painful. kt uses hugs as a manipulation.

I don't withhold hugs - I however ask kt or wm to wait. That I need to be calm before a hug. If that means waiting an hour, so be it. Frequently, if nothing else, I will offer a side hug. Again, to maintain my relationship with my children with-o feeding into manipulations or inappropriate choices.

kt is slowly learning that if you treat others with anger & rudeness you tend to receive in kind.



Well-Known Member
What has helped me is if I take a time out for myself while she is taking her time out

That's a good idea. Something concrete.


Well-Known Member
I don't withhold hugs - I however ask kt or wm to wait. That I need to be calm before a hug. If that means waiting an hour, so be it. Frequently, if nothing else, I will offer a side hug. Again, to maintain my relationship with my children with-o feeding into manipulations or inappropriate choices.

Linda, I wonder if yours is the response I recall from b4? At any rate, thank you for input.

I understand the concept of unconditional love. But I think the concept has, over the yrs, been taken out of context.

Somewhat tangentially, it reminds me of the Ali McGraw LOVE STORY movie, where Ryan O'Neal says, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." (The actual quote in the bk was "Love means not ever having to say you're sorry.")


We had so many discussions and arguments when that came out... students, parents, friends... When Erich Segal wrote that, he had no idea he was opening a can of worms.


Well-Known Member
I had awful rages as a kid with bipolar. I can tell you I needed those hugs more than ever after I'd acted terribly and upset the family. I was terrified at my behavior and thought I was crazy and desperately needed to know that I was still loved. The hugs never came. My mom died two years ago. She still blamed me for my childhood behavior (and somewhat for my instability in early adulthood). We never mended our relationship; she wanted to believe I was bad and did it "to her." She did not take into account how hard the sick person suffers and wants to do better. Don't let this happen to you and your child. Seek professional help so you can give him those hugs, and really mean them, even after he has behaved badly. And please try not to take him personally--he is probably saying "I hate me" when he says "I hate you." I know that's what I meant. Nobody was angrier at me than myself, but I couldn't stop myself, and it ruined my ability to be loved by my mother. To this day, the entire family knows it.


New Member
I wish my difficult child#3 would ask for a hug. She is very guarded and does not ask for or give any physical affection. When I say, I love you, she says "Yup" or "whatever". She has NEVER been the kind of kid you could snuggle with. It makes me so sad because I feel like I want to reach out to her.


Well-Known Member
I so totally agree with Linda on this one.

Having a kid rage or behave completely inappropriately and then want to come up and ask for kisses and hugs to make it all better teaches absolutely nothing. This doesnt mean that a parent doesnt love the child but it means that a parent has feelings and emotions and by golly, those feelings and emotions do get hurt when someone stomps on them.

Is this so different than what most of us have done when the kids were babies or toddlers and they started pulling our hair or smacking us in our faces? I know I simply told mine in a stern voice that it was "owie" and it "hurt mommy" and if they didnt stop doing it I would put them down. Didnt take many times of me putting them down before they stopped playing that game.

You can tell an older child that their behavior has upset you but that you love them and will talk to them in a little bit. Not a thing wrong with that.


Well-Known Member
I agree with Linda, too. I've found that Duckie is more & more respectful toward me if I behave like I deserve to be treated respectfully. A natural consequence of being rude or aggressive with someone is that they won't be as receptive toward you in the seconds and minutes after being abused. That being said, I usually place my hand gently on her shoulder, look her in the eye, an tell her that mommy still needs a little time before I can hug back. We'll talk about how our actions affect each other and that just because we're hurt, angry or upset doesn't mean that we don't love each other. I think it also takes away the power that her rages have because the object of her rage (me) has a say in when the episode is over. Frankly, it's not good enough if she's over it but I'm not. I'm not going to feign emotion to my daughter. That's not the way the world works.


Active Member
I agree with Alan, but with similar reservations to Linda. Terry, I don't think Allan was lecturing at you (not intentionally, anyway) - I think he was trying to support you and get you to think about it from a different point of view.

I'm lucky, difficult child 3 still asks for a hug and kiss sometimes. I can ask for one but it's never the same. What is always best is when a hug just happens, between you both. For this to happen the timing also must be appropriate and it sounds to me like you're feeling 'wrong' about this in some way. Is it the timing? (ie you're still trying to calm down, in which case pretending nothing is wrong and hugging - the child will still feel your anger and the hug gets undermined). Or is it that you feel the child is trying to use the hug as a way of pretending nothing was wrong? (ie an inappropriate way to end a conflict). Id it's either of those things, then I would also agree with asking the child to wait.

easy child 2/difficult child 2 would often want a hug at the most inappropriate times. Not that I was angry with her and she was trying to use the hug to defuse my anger (THAT gets me more riled, it's dishonest and manipulative) but I might be in the middle of cooking dinner, rushing to the sink or the stove to save a dish, and she would choose that moment (like any other moment) to grab me for a hug. If I snarled at her to get out of my way, she would rush off in tears. I had to learn to bite my anger and ask her to wait until a more appropriate moment when I wasn't so distracted, so I could enjoy the hug.



New Member
I just tell mine that I am on a time out and I need a little longer to finish my time out. But when I am done with it I will call them and give them a hug. It works


Active Member
Dear Midwestmom,
Your message is so powerful, but I am also saddened by it.
The point I am trying to make and one which Alfie Kohn makes as well is that we have to look beyond behavior , look at the whole child, his perceptions and feelings. I said it was not easy when our buttons are being pushed to wear the rhino skin and prevent the flight-fight mode from taking over.
The second point is that I agree that there is a need to teach a lesson , but what is the most effective way and what message is the difficult child picking up. I think the message ' if you treat people this way , they will treat you the same , teaches that you should operate in the world ( like kids ) , he did this to me , so I did that to him , or learn to be expedient and ask what's in it for me , what will happen to me . in my humble opinion we should try and have a discussion with a kid on how his actions effect others using dialog questions and try and reflect on how people maintain relationships , express frustration and disapproval.
The hug can be that moment to change gears, and move forward. Once the kid has a vision for the future , the relationship with the parent is intact , we can then try and fix the past. We involve kids by asking questions, describing things in a non-blaming way. Negative consequences with most kids just serves to make them more angry and reinforce the perception that you are unfair , than do proper reflection.
it is not easy. in my humble opinion our goal should to try and be a calming influence on the kid, a thermostat, so we can move forward



Generally speaking, I put aside my anger/frustration and give the hug because I know difficult child needs it. I know she had little control over her rage/meltdown and she needs the reassurance that she is still loved. However, there have been times when her words were particularly cruel that I've told her that I love her, but that I was still upset and needed more time to calm down before I could be affectionate. Until that happened, I really don't think she realized how affected I was by her behavior.

Alan - Unconditional love does not hinge on physical affection at the whim of the child. There is nothing my children could do to change my love for them and they know that. As parents, we have a responsibility to ourselves also. I do not agree at all that it is teaching kids that we're going to act just like them. I think it is teaching them that others do have feelings and needs of their own. To not teach THAT lesson is a disservice to the child. I think kids, our kids especially, ask what's in it for me too much as it is. Everything is not about them and if they want to successfully function in society that is a lesson that needs to be learned.

Terry - I may be way out of line here, but from your most recent posts you seem to have hit your limit. Between difficult child and conflict with husband. It happens to the best of us. I think it's very important that you, as well as all of us, find something of your own that has nothing to do with difficult child or husband. Hugs to you.


Active Member
I agree that when a parent says I would love to give you a hug, but I need some time to deal with my emotions it is not being conditional. I think I covered the need to teach a lesson, teaching inductivelly rather than deductively. With deductive discipline the focus is on the parent and the consequence and not on the issue at hand.

' I think kids, our kids especially, ask what's in it for me too much as it is.'

Being conditional, using extrinsic motivation reinforces questions like this. Instead of asking what are the consequences of my actions on others , the question is what happens to me.'

'Everything is not about them and if they want to successfully function in society that is a lesson that needs to be learned.'

The statement 'if they want to successfully function in society' is still very much about them. If you behave like this you won't succeed.

A dialog with a kid , reflecting on the effects of his actions on others and the family, community helps a kid to ask , not what's in it for me , but rather what type of person do I want to become , what type of family , classroom , community do I want. If it is done in a non-judgmental way , we can by engaging our kids in dialog, we can promote pespective taking and empathy.
I have shared http://alfiekohn.org here , lots of articles. His work is also based on research done by Deci , the effects of conditional parenting on intrinsic motivation and learning etc

Alfie Kohn, Ross Greene, Myrna Shure put education back into parenting. For sure lessons may be learned through consequences but there is a rice to pay. In any case negative consequences are becoming increasingly unpopular - it is easier to catch flies with honey , than with vinegar. Alfie Kohn says , consequences are lite punishment, rewards the other side of the coin that does not buy very much.
I don't expect one to agree with me , but to understand ( maybe I am to blame for lack of clarity)that Kohn and Greene are all about teaching