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"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Parent Skill: The Secret Weapon #1
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, October 02, 2011

Parents have a secret weapon that is fairly easy to use, free, and parents have almost unlimited amounts. It isn't a silver bullet. It won't solve a lot problems by itself; however, it will give you the edge. Using this technique liberally, along with the other parenting skills could actually effect a change in your teenager.

The reason why is that this secret weapon is all about relationship building. Hit "read more" to see if you've guessed what skill this is.

Physical contact. You might call this one the Vitamin Skill because like a vitamin, it won't cure you of a disease but taken regularly it can help you fight off diseases or heal yourself faster.

When you first meet someone you know that except to shake their hand it's not really appropriate to hug, put your arm around them or even to take their hand outside of a shake. Why? Because when you first meet someone you know that you don't know them that well. Having physical contact with someone implies that you know them better. This is the universal symbol that two people have a somewhat close relationship. Of course being close enough to hug someone doesn't mean that you are life-long buddies or BFF. It does suggest a casual intimacy or an easy going friendship. Every time you hug someone you reaffirm that you still have at least a casual intimacy if not more than a casual intimacy.

The reverse is true too. If you aren't comfortable touching someone, whether or not that someone is one of your children, you reaffirm that you are not close or casually intimate. If you see someone and never touch them, that can mean business only please.

Some things happen in early adolescence that naturally decrease physical contact between parents and teenagers. First, teens often don't want that hug or that hand on their arm. They feel they've outgrown that. It's age appropriate that they see themselves as moving past all that; however, they really haven't outgrown the need for touching because people never outgrow it.

Your teenager might come right out and challenge you by saying that you are too "touchy feely" and please back off.

The flip side of the coin is that as a parent you feel betrayed when your teen develops a drug problem, and all the various behaviors that come along with it. Parents can build up resentments. Suddenly you are not as comfortable going to the hug. Also, people hate rejection. parents are no different. If you keep going to the well and it's dry, then you stop going to the well.

The point of this post is to encourage parents to see this physical touch thing as a challenge. The quick fix: hug your kids every chance you get. If you have to, sneak up on them and give them a quick-hug. Sneak up on them and give him/ her a back rub. Sneak up on him/ her and touch his arm. Don't allow your teenager to discount your involvement. Hug anyway although if the teen resists, you won't be hugging too much or for too long, but don't let the your teenager's rejection stop you from continuing to try the next time!

Become a ninja hugger. Sneak up on them and become master of the quick hug. If they confront you, just agree with them that you want so much to hug them that it's practically impossible to do stop- sorry. On some level the teenager will like that. The only caution is not let the hug last too long, especially if the teen is resistant.

The big exception to this might be male adults, step parents especially, hugging teenage girls. It's still recommended but more sensitivity to a teen's plea to stop might be in order so the wrong idea doesn't come across.

Hugging not only can change a teen's attitude towards the parent, but hugging can improve the parent's attitude towards the teenager. Both can feel the warmth. It might not feel warm when you do it but just keep it up regularly and see if you don't feel differently.

Stay tuned for Secret Weapon #2, coming soon.


June said...

Okay, I shall become a "closet hugger" [i.e. Kato from the Pink Panther movies].
I can see myself now.......waiting inside the hall closet in the dark, shallow breathing, hearing the f-u's reverberating down the hall, then Tah-Dah!- I rapidly open the closet door, throw my arms around the Beaver [or try to-we won't go into his weight gain at this time], and squeeze. "I love you man" I cry, and skip away humming the Pink Panther theme under my breath.
This sounds like a plan!!

Anonymous said...

And just remember someday that miracle may happen and your teen will come and give you a hug! For no reason at all... Debby

Anonymous said...

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Wilma said...

I do try this every chance I get. Most of the time it's just Bam Bam either leaning in a little or pulling away. Though occasionaly he will put his arm around me, Usually just one but I'll take what I can get.


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