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How Do You Teach Your Children About Personal Boundaries?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I have a 4yo boy who, quite literally, understands nothing of personal space or boundaries. He loves people, and wants to hug them, hold their hands, sit in their laps, etc. This is fine with family-we all love how affectionate he is- but he has just started preschool, and his teacher told me today that he is having trouble recognising that the other kids don't want him to touch them.
Apparently there is one little girl in particular that he really likes, and so he tries to sit next to her, but ends up practically in her lap. He chases her around the classroom trying to hold her hand.
He has been like this practically since he could walk, and I have been trying to explain to him that some people don't like to be touched, but he just doesn't seem to get it. He thinks that they are teasing when the tell him no, or running away.
It upset this little girl so much that her mom came in to see what was going on. I feel so bad for both of them. School should be a fun place, not one where you dread to go because someone is chasing you around the room, but I also feel for my son, who is trying so hard to make friends, but is in trouble every day because he genuinely does not understand.
Is this something other kids go through, too?
How can I help him?
post #2 of 12
My favorite book is Gavin DeBecker's "Protecting the Gift".
post #3 of 12
sorry brandi, but in my opinion the school is not doing their job. you shouldnt be worrrying about how he is behaving in school. it is the school's job. in my dd's school the school works with both kids. the kids who dont want to be touched says something like 'i want some body bubble space' and the kid who wants to touch has to respect that statement. AND before any child wants to hug another child they have to ask if its ok to hug them.

the cue of not touching should not come from you. the cue should come from teh person who doesnt want to be touched.

my dd is the same as ur son. and outside school she made that difference when she went thru a phase when she didnt want to be touched.

also another thing. a friend of mine had to work a lot on her little dd who gave giant heavy tripping back hugs. children would run from her. it was a sensory thing and with OT she really improved.

but i would say apart from ps/dc my dd doesnt get personal space or boundaries still now with adults. no one ever tells her no and when i try to talk to her not to disturb they pipe up and say its ok. they enjoy her company. she hasnt had boundary issues with adults. but before hugging a child she always asks them and if they say no as many do she is ok with it.

to really help him talk to the school and find out how you can work together. and on ur own tell him many children dont like being hugged and slowly guide him to ask first before hugging them.
post #4 of 12
Awwww, your boy sounds like such a sweetheart! You should be very proud that he's so loving

My little guy is also into hugging, holding hands, etc., sometimes when other kids are not. I tell him that sometimes other people don't want that, and to listen if they say no. It's hard because it's such a wonderful trait, and you don't want to squash that....

post #5 of 12
: I have the same problem. I don't want to squish his touchy feely ways but I also want him to learn to respect other children.

So far, I do what Melanie says but I am always looking for other input :

post #6 of 12
I used to tell my ds that other children shouldn't be touched w/o asking. They don't know what is coming, a hit or a hug, when an other kid approaches like that. I also told him he should say hug if he wanted to hug someone. Usually, if another kid heard that word, s/he would accept the hug and hug back. Ds used to kind of poke other kids and get in their faces simply because he wanted to engage them. I coached him a bit into saying "I'm T, what's your name?" instead. He is also going through a phase of making raspberry sounds and aping around when he wants to engage adults. I've suggested he tell the person a joke if he wants to make them laugh. He likes jokes and has a few memorized. It gets him the reaction he wants in a more appropriate way.

It's possible that having some playdates with the object of your son's affections could help, if she is willing. Getting to play together and having you and her mother there to remind him to ask before touching might make the girl more comfortable with him and get him used to interacting in other ways.
post #7 of 12
I'm also having similar issues with DD (4), so I'm reading this thread with interest. She is VERY energetic and sometimes explosive in her actions. She loves to hug, jump on, touch, hold hands, etc.

Today was her first day of horse back riding lessons. She was so excited to play with the other kids, and it seemed like things were going well. By the time we left, each of the other children had something to tell me that DD had done (she threw dirt in my face, she poked my face, she took my shoes, etc.). I don't know how to help her figure out to be gentle when she touches other kids. So, I hope to see more suggestions and experiences here!!

Thanks for starting the thread!
post #8 of 12
Ah yes. We had (have?) this problem. I think it is extremely important to go over this with your child at home, not in the heat of the situation. Children (particularly the introverted types) get really freaked out by the extroverted, touchy types. She never hit or hurt (yet! knock on wood) but wanted to hug, love, hold hands, and otherwise be touching other children.

We used a lot of stuffed animal role play to reenact situations and to talk about how Mr. Bear felt when Mr Rabbit jumped all over him and gave him a hundred kisses. What can Mr. Bear say? What can Mr. Rabbit say? Does it mean Mr. Bear is joking or not nice if he wants space? What can Mr. Rabbit say/do if he's feeling particularly huggy that day?

Is it possible for him to bring a stuffed animal to school to hug and love when he gets that urge to hug and love? Rather than the unsuspecting object of his desires?

We're still working on it. She's great with peers now, but her poor, poor little baby brother. Now he knows how Mr. Bear feels. It's a rough life. He and Mr. Bear go and commiserate after she goes to bed, over a bottle of water or two. Seeing as they can't reach the harder stuff with their short little arms.
post #9 of 12
Originally Posted by flyingspaghettimama View Post
Seeing as they can't reach the harder stuff with their short little arms.
Thank God I can reach the harder stuff!
post #10 of 12
I thik this is a really important question and something I have am working hard on in our house. For me it's an especially tough question with boys, because I want them to be affectionate and express feeling and know that thats great, BUT i also want them to seriously respect other people's space and when they say no it means stop immediatly. My 3 yo can also be to exuberant with the love, i actaully think extended bfing is a great tool in this in that it is a real negotiation in sharing physical space and respecting it. But we draw the line in our house that when someone says stop, you stop. period. And this goes for adults to, if we are tickling or rough housing and he says stop, we stop, and point out that we did.

I think this is an important lesson for kids to be learning, and of course they are going to transgress it, i can see that at times my son simply cannot control himself, that being said I think thye must know that this is a seriosu and non negortiable rule. With people you know you stop when they say so, with people you don't know well you ask before touching.

I also noticed that when my ds2 was born my ds1 was able to control himself. He understood on some profound level that a newborn was really delicate and he could not be rough. he never was. Of course once the baby fattened up and could sit up it was game on. And even though he cna't talk yet, crying means stop.
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
It is so good to hear that its not just my son who does this!!! I feel the same way as most of the posters- I really love how affectionate he is, and I truly do not want to squash that part of his personality. I think it is so important to encourage boys, especially, to be affectionate, as most of our culture expects them to be stoic, etc.
But, on the other hand, I absolutely do not want him to make another child uncomfortable. I am an introvert, and I really hate having my space invaded, so I know how this feels. Plus, it makes it really difficult for him to make friends when he does this type of thing.
We have been working with him- playacting, giving him alternatives, and he has been doing better- the first week of school I was told that he was pushing the kids on the playground- not maliciously- his teacher was sure to tell me that he was unsure how to enter a group, so this was his way of doing it. After a weekend of playacting, he learned and is using words instead. So I know he is learning, which is the whole reason he is in preschool to begin with. I guess I just needed some fresh ideas and some reassurance that other kids do this too, and that he will learn, eventually.
Ideas and shared experiences are so welcome.
post #12 of 12
My kids are not like this so this is just a suggestion. You know, kids have to learn to differentiate between people and your kids sound like they know enough to not take off with a stranger. Kids with attachment prob's don't though and their parents have to teach them to figure out the different types of people and situations. One mom I read about made necklaces with say, five different beads, one for stranger, one for friend, etc. She would wear the necklace and dd had one too. They would practise while they were out, dd would touch a bead and mom would confirm touching the appropriate bead.

Anyhow, I know your kids aren't having attachment prob's but they are having a hard time reading social cues. I think it would be most gentle to practise at home so that the other kids don't back them right off which will frustrate them and then they'll work harder at making friends (in the way they know how) which will land them in hot water with their peers and their teacher.

I would practise with your kids but don't stress too much about it. This is 90% what preschool and kindergarten are about-socialization. As a mom of two kids who would be bowled over by a super hugger, its interesting to read about the "super hugger" and learn that he is really a nice exhuberant kid
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