Being a parent is one of the most rewarding, yet challenging, jobs out there. Additionally, parents are fed mixed information, so it seems there’s no way to win. However as cliché it may be, love always wins. One mom found this out after she was worried that her daughter is getting too old to cuddle and told her to get off. As a result, the daughter’s feelings were hurt, and she stormed off. The mom then looked to Reddit for perspective.
Concerned Parent Shares her Experience
She explains that her daughter wanted to cuddle, and she rejected her because she was worried that her daughter might be getting old to cuddle. Her daughter ran off to her room and slammed the door shut. She didn’t hug her back at bedtime when they said good night, and only spoke when, first, spoken to. The mom, clearing feeling the tension in their home, felt like she may have made a mistake and hadn’t intended to hurt her daughter’s feelings.
She also shared that her daughter is small for her age and often treated like a younger child. As a result, the mom is concerned that by allowing her daughter to cuddle, this will somehow stunt her maturity. Parents want the best for their children and know sometimes that means a little tough love. However, many parents were taught, coddling children is bad for their character development, and they’ll become spoiled. Previous generations have been scarred by too much tough love; future generations appear to be lacking structure. So, what is the solution?
Experts Advise on Cuddles
The key, to anything, is balance. Kids need both love and affection, as well as structure and discipline. Parenting advisor and best-selling author Noel Janis-Norton weighed in, explaining, “Brain research tells us that oxytocin, one of the so-called ‘feel-good chemicals,’ is released into the body only after physical contact lasting about eight seconds. So, we need to make time to relax into the hugs we give our children, rather than rushing them,” Adding, “Physical affection helps children to feel not only loved but also liked, appreciated and approved of. A hug can convey an acceptance of the child’s strong upset feelings and can re-establish a loving connection between parent and child.“
“This is often enough to defuse the child’s upset, whether it’s a whingey mood, a defiant stand-off or a full-scale tantrum. The result is usually a better mood and better behavior. I’m not suggesting that cuddles can replace the need to teach our children to be cooperative or respectful, but the cuddles can make the job much easier,” she concluded.
Conducting Studies on Cuddles
Another professional, Notre Dame psychologist Darcia Narvaez, conducted a study with more than 600 participants, regarding how physical touch impacts development. Her findings, published in the January 2016 issue of, Applied Developmental Science, reflected that children who are given cuddles, grew up to be less anxious adults. She stated, “Sometimes, we have parents that say, you are going to spoil the baby if you pick them up when they are feeling distressed. No, you can’t spoil a baby. You are actually ruining the baby if you don’t pick them up. You are ruining their development.” Continuing, “Part of it is following your instincts because we as parents want to hold our children. We want to keep that child close. Follow that instinct.”
Dr. Lucy Brown-Wright is a pediatric neuro-developmental psychologist. She explains, allowing children to cuddle with you is important because, “Babies and young children have not evolved to be able to manage stress and upset on their own. Through having regular positive interactions that encompass gentle soothing and cuddling when the child is upset, they are able to learn that people can be relied upon to respond to emotions. In this way we would always encourage parents to make sure that their child is demonstrably loved.”
Internet Users Respond
Several Reddit users weighed in responding to the concerned mom. Most responses were things like, they wish their kids still wanted to cuddle, they’re already not looking forward to when their kids won’t want to cuddle, and that they still cuddle with their own parents from time to time.
One user even mentioned that how she conveyed that message is important stating, “Did you literally say “You’re too old! Get off me!”? Or did you say something like “I enjoy snuggling with you, but you’re no longer small enough to fit comfortably on my lap. Why don’t you sit next to me, and we can snuggle up that way?” There’s nothing wrong with directing a child towards more age-appropriate behaviors or expressing that something is no longer comfortable for you. That’s part of helping a child grow up. But you do need to redirect them to a behavior that is appropriate.”
This commenter brings up an excellent point. Many parents have the mentality that they don’t HAVE to explain themselves to their children. However, children better understand the world around them when they’re given the courtesy of a simple explanation or conversation.
All We Need is Love
People often forget, children are just tiny people without the same life experiences. Nonetheless, they are still people and often feel things the same way adults do. Most of us would be devastated if we tried to hug our partner or a close friend and got rejected. Furthermore, this kind of rejection was likely more painful because parents are the first people we connect with and we equate them to comfort and safety.
Nearly anyone would feel hurt and rejected in this position. So, it makes sense that her daughter withdrew and became distant. Allowing children to cuddle with us is never a bad idea. After all, it improves our mental state, and has even been shown to improve heart health, and improves self-esteem.
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- “Mom tells her 11 y.o. daughter that she’s “Too old” to Cuddle, the girl stops talking to her unless asked.” Bored Panda. Jurgita Dominauskaitė and Monika Pašukonytė. February 2023.
- “As shocking tapes reveal princess Diana said her parents never hugged her we ask if we hug too little.” The Sun. Jenny Francis. August 5, 2017.
- “Why childhood cuddles are so important.” Huff Post UK. July 13, 2016.