Oh, you gave me a love punch

What does a kid really need when he’s acting out?

Oh you gave me a love punch

I see that kid in the park.  He starts towards me.  I know what comes next.  I protect myself as he tries to hit me.  It helps that I’m four times his size.

He doesn’t really have any friends.  Other kids shun him.  He spends a lot of time by himself.  I’ve become his focus of inappropriate behavior.

I ask him to stop.  It doesn’t work.  I try ignoring him.  Useless.  I go to the other end of the park.  He follows.  I try talking to his mom.  No help.  I try dominating him, grabbing his fist and sweeping his leg, gently putting him on the ground.  He keeps coming at me.

After a few weeks of this, I finally realize what it is he really needs.  I see him coming.  I let him sucker punch me.

“Oh, you gave me a love punch.  I love you.  Now I have to hug you.”

He recoils from my unexpected affection.  After a moment he hits me again.

“Another love punch.  I have to give you another hug.” He runs away.  I chase after him.

“Come back.  I love you.  I need to give you a hug!”

 I catch up to him and hug him.  He hits me again, saying “That one was a hate punch.”

 “Must be broken, because I love you more than ever now.”

 I chase him around the playground trying to give him a hug.

He hasn’t hit me since.  He just needs to feel loved.  Accepted.  Connected.

(Thanks to the brilliant Lawrence Cohen and his book Playful Parenting for inspiring this post, and delivering me from countless pint-sized punches)

Why do the children you love act out? What do you do to give them what they really need?

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