Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Affectionate Five-Year-Old

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I have two questions. I have a five-year-old son that always plays with the neighbor's four-year-old girl. Is that okay? Also, he is always hugging and hanging on kids -- boys and girls. Is there anything wrong with that?

A: I can't see any reason to worry about your five-year-old son's regularly playing with a four-year-old girl. Don't worry about the age difference and don't be concerned about her being a girl. The fact that he can play with another child and develop a friendly relationship with her is an example of his healthy social development. There is nothing wrong with your son's display of physical affection to other boys and girls. If his frequently "hanging on" them or hugging them obviously disturbs these boys and girls, then you can discuss with him how a hug every now and then is nice but that kids might be bothered by him doing it so much.

Explaining to a five-year-old why another child may not like to be hugged can be difficult, but he needs to learn respect for other kids' boundaries so they don't start to avoid or shun him. Don't make him feel badly about this. Advise him that he can tell other kids in words that he likes them, as opposed to always hugging or "hanging on" them. In this way, you don't ask him to surrender his natural inclination to be affectionate to kids, you ask him to change how he shows his affection. Again, eliminating these behaviors is not the immediate aim here -- although your term, "hanging on," sounds like it would annoy kids -- but, rather, lessening its frequency. Perhaps a little hug or arm around a child's shoulder when meeting and leaving them might be a place to start.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks


Healthy Smile Checklist for Kids
Have better dental check-ups with this free printable checklist that helps keep your child flossing, brushing, and smiling! Brought to you by Philips Sonicare.

Kindergarten Readiness App
It's kindergarten registration time! Use this interactive kindergarten readiness checklist, complete with fun games and activities, to practice the essential skills your child needs for this next big step. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

8 Easter Egg Decorating Ideas
Need some fun ideas for decorating Easter eggs with the kids? Look no further for colorful and cool designs!

7 Ways to Curb Kids' Exposure to Violence
American children are exposed to violence more often than you might think. Learn how to limit your child's exposure to violence and manage the mental health and behavioral effects it can cause.