A hug is the number one mood booster among men and women.

I heard this fact on the radio today and it gave me pause. Whenever our kids get frustrated or angry or start sliding down into the land of no-self-control, we ask them: Do you want a hug.

Sam always takes the offer. Always. Growing up with endless hugs must make it easy to take one even when you’re grumpy or angry or frustrated.

The other kids have learned to take the offer. Hannah learned the fastest. It took Stephanie years. She crossed her arms, set her jaw and shook her head no. Finally we talked with her about how a hug can help her make a different choice. Eventually she started taking us up on the offer. Although there are days when she still crosses her arms, sets her jaw, and shakes her head no.

Jordan is a reluctant hugger when he is angry or frustrated. Recently we talked about it.

“I know you don’t want to get angry and lose control. So when I notice that it seems like you might be ready to lose self-control, I’ll ask you if you want a hug. It’s something we realized really worked with Stephanie.”

“Why you wanna hug me if I’m mad?” His arms are crossed. He’s a tough guy and wants me to know it.

“Hugs help people feel better. If you’re starting to feel angry, sometimes a hug gives you enough time to think about how you’re going to act while you’re angry.”

He looks at me like he’s trying to figure out if I’m real. “So you’re sayin’ I could hug you and not be all mad?”

“You might still be angry. Everyone feels angry, but maybe instead of screaming or hitting you’ll make a different choice.”

“Like hug you?”

I smile. “Sure. Or maybe you’ll go run around the house or go draw a picture in your room or do something besides losing your temper.”

“Hugs must have a lot of power.”

“Wanna test it? See if it works?”

He shrugs. Arms still crossed. Jaw still set.

“Do you want a hug?” I ask.

Shrugs. Rolls his eyes. “I guess.”

I hug him. Squeeze him tight and say, right in his ear, “You sure are special,” and I kiss the top of his head and tell him again, “You sure are special.”

“Geez, Mom, you always sayin’ that.”

I can’t resist. I tickle his ribs.

He can’t resist. His smile cracks and a giggle escapes.

I let go and he goes to play, his step lighter and his grin growing– all because of a hug.

This is why I chose to love more. It is always the better choice.

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  1. It must be something new in the news, this hug therapy. I heard the same information. I love how you put it to work for your family. Of course, as teachers we've known forever the power of a hug.

  2. Hugs are awesome, even electronic ones. I always appreciate the way you add conversation in to add to the emotion of the scene. So thankful your words and actions are hugging your children.

  3. When I am reading your slice I feel as if I am there witnessing the scene, so I sit very quietly not to break the moment. Thank you.

  4. You are such an amazing mom! And such an amazing writer! Reading your dialogue, I can almost feel the hurt in his little hurt melting just a little. Praying…

  5. It's a happy post, Ruth, makes me smile. I know hugs in class were helpful. Middle school students don't get as many as they used to! They often leave the house angry, so in school in helped a lot. You are such a wise mom! And Jordan is listening, isn't he?

  6. Thanks, Ruth. I think I know where/with whom I could use this. Seriously, I should print this out and refer to it before I fumble it all up. My best hugger is Lucas. Jordan sounds so precious.

  7. Loved reading this and could really picture this moment. I had that moment this morning with a teacher friend and asked her if I could pray with her. It really helped. I love your whisper to Jordan too. xo

  8. Reminds me of a student I had when I taught first grade. She used to get really mad. I gave her the option of 'getting her mad out' by scribbling, as hard as she could, with crayons. We went through many more black crayons that year, but it was an option. I love you that allow the feelings. It is the response to the feelings you are helping your kids think through.