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Annie’s Mailbox: Grandson doesn’t like to be touched

Marcy Sugar and Kathy Mitchell Creators Syndicate

Dear Annie: When is it OK for a child not to want to be touched by anyone, including his parents? My 10-year-old grandson doesn’t want to hug anyone, nor does he like people putting their hands on his back, shoulder or head. Should this just be accepted?

Should we use behavior modification so he will let us be affectionate, or are we just supposed to respect his wishes on this? If I put my arm on his shoulder, he will move away. If my wife pats him on the arm, he flinches. When he tells his parents that he doesn’t like being touched, they either laugh or get angry. What do you say? – Miffed

Dear Miffed: Please do not try to force a child to be physically affectionate if he does not wish to be touched. There could be many reasons for this. Is this a recent development? Has the child been touched inappropriately by anyone? Is the child autistic? Is his skin sensitive and the touching too painful or irritating? And some children that age become extremely embarrassed by any public displays of affection, especially from family members.

The parents should neither laugh nor get angry. They should speak to the child’s pediatrician and ask for guidance. There could be a serious reason (earlier molestation) or something as simple as needing to be tolerant and respectful of this stage of his development. As we hope you will be.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. You can also find Annie on Facebook at
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