Child Caring

Mom needs to set limits on touching

I'm the mother of a wonderful 4- year old girl. Her father is not usually around so it's just me and yaya. She is a very sweet girl but I feel she is way too affectionate toward me. Not regular things like hugs and kisses, she is constantly rubbing me. My arms legs breast, if I'm wearing a low shirt or even if I'm not, she will stick her hands up my shirt. When I repeatedly ask her to stop, she gets a look on her face like I've hurt her feelings. This is not my intent I just feel that her touching goes too far at times. How do I get her to calm down without her feeling rejected?

From: Miss Jones, Vallejo, CA

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Dear Miss Jones,

Children need clearly-set limits and you're giving her mixed messages because you are sending vibes that say, "I don't like this," but yet still tolerating it. She has no idea how to interpret this and that's precisely why she keeps doing it -- to see what the limit actually is.

It also sounds like you haven't had any conversations with her about public and private shows of affection, or personal boundaries. It's time for all of this. Children who don't learn about appropriate touch and appropriate expressions of affection are at risk for being exploited by others as well as being teased if they are overly affectionate to age-mates.

Start by showing her what kind of touching is acceptable with you, her mom, which is different from everyone else. By "show her," I mean, demonstrate, either by touching her the way you want her to touch you, or by taking her hand and showing her how to touch your body. Be clear about both the nature of the touch and the place of the touch. Tell her, "This is the way children can show they love their mom." You don't need reasons. After that, when you see her hand moving to go under your shirt, gently take it and remind her, "Remember? We talked about how to show you love me." Don't feel guilty about doing this! This is about teaching her social skills -- some might even say survival skills -- not to be confused with withholding your love.

Next, demonstrate how to touch and show affection to other people, including friends. Some children have an easier time learning this if your say, "The rule is....."

Also be clear that parts of the body are private (the parts covered by a bathing suit).

Some children are more tactile than others, so the rubbing may also be a sensory issue for her. Give her a small piece of your clothing that has some texture to it (cut off a piece from a shirt or sweater you no longer wear) for her to keep in a pocket or in her backpack, under her pillow -- they can be in several places -- so she has that to touch when she wants.

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