I did a lot of thinking last night after I researched about kids who like to hug a lot. There’s a lot of parenting forums that share information about this, and basically it boils down to this: Hugging at this age (17 months) is an imitation of what he sees at home, and how he knows to show affection (his mom and I hug him). So when he sees his friends and he likes to be around them, he wants to show them this, and he does so by hugging them. But, there are some things to remember: Some kids like to give hugs. Some kids like to get hugs. Some kids don’t like to get hugs.
I have worked over the last few months to make sure the hugs are not too “hard” – in other words he is not strangling the other kids. But he is still coming on too strong. And rather than try to teach him how softly to hug, which seems a bit complicated for a 17-month-old, I have decided to get him to change his tactic so he is giving High 5’s.
So, from today on, when he sees a friend (adults included), instead of giving them hugs, I will ask him to give them high 5’s. He likes high 5’s anyway, so to me this seems like it will be a good move long-term. He will still be touching and interacting, but it will not be invading the other little ones’ space. If he goes in for a hug, I will get on his level and simply say, “don’t hug, ok?” I hope it works, because I have read a lot about how these kids who hug too much can be disruptive in school, so I want to try to stop it now, before it becomes an issue!
I will say that as the day wore on and we saw more friends, the little guy did not jump on the “high five” train. I think he sees that as a reward for a good job (which it is), so he probably does not see the connection between high five and greeting or showing affection. It did work to say “don’t hug”, but I am worried that this will be confusing down the road, so instead of saying “don’t hug,” I’ll simply say “don’t touch” – that’s less confusing and a good concept for him to know anyway!