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There's nothing cuter than a toddler who can't stop hugging people — unless the other person really doesn't want a hug. How do you stop your little one from smothering everyone with their affection?

Toddlers, let's face it, don't have the best of reputations. As your sweet baby moves out of infancy and into toddlerhood, you know they'll take their first steps and say their first words, but you will also be expecting them to learn the power of the word "no", discover temper tantrums, and make awful messes. Two-year old kids are thought to be the most challenging — as evidenced by the term "terrible twos" — but we don't expect much better from our one and three year olds, either.

My son? He was the best at that age, the most affectionate little boy possible. He was known for his tendency to wipe up spills, wave to everyone like he was a little prince, and hug his friends all the time. How adorable! My son wasn't unique, though. Many toddlers are little love factories, ever-so-willing to make friends with everyone and show it in a very physical way. At that age, kids can be the very opposite of what their reputation deems them to be — most of the time, that is. 

Isn't that great?

Well, the peer who nearly gets hugged to death might not agree, and neither might the random stranger who becomes your little one's object of affection in the supermarket.

Actually, neither might you. While it's awesome that your toddler is so eager to make friends, you also know that it is time for them to learn the meaning of personal boundaries. That's easier said than done, but not impossible. 

Why Do Toddlers Hug Everyone?

Why do toddlers show their affection in such a physical way? For the same reason they hit, pull, and lick. Newborns start out without any sense of being a separate being from their mothers and a child's sense of self develops gradually, starting with a social smile, with realizing you still exist when you leave the room for a while, and with hands that reach out when they want to be picked up. At around 18 months, toddlers become self-conscious. They begin developing a sense of right and wrong, start voicing their own opinions very vocally, and realize they are a special person all their own. 

Toddlers hug, hit, pull, lick, bite, and hug for the same reason they hug and kiss, and for the same reason they throw temper tantrums — they are blossoming into separate human beings who want to communicate with other humans.

They feel all the feels, but unfortunately their vocabulary won't catch up with their need to get their point across for quite a while, so they sometimes resort to physical expression and screaming instead. Though the feels and the wish to communicate are there, toddlers also haven't yet had a chance to learn the many nuances of socially acceptable behavior. 

Of course, when your toddler hits someone, pushes someone, or licks someone, it's easy to explain that those aren't nice things to do, even though it may take them a while to put that into practice. Are you really going to place your toddler in time out for hugging someone though? That seems sad. Thankfully you have other options.

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