If I could just chime in here for a second . . . (hope you don’t mind Mom!) . . . I had a thought regarding a few of the comments on the last post.
I think there’s a difference between “responding” and “initiating” that is critical here. If you find yourself perpetually having to respond to your child’s pleas for affection (in whatever form those pleas take – whether it be fussiness, or outrageous behavior, or annoying clinginess, or whatever) then it means you need to really step it up and try and get ahead of the game. It means that you need to start initiating the hugs and affection FIRST – before the child realizes he needs it. That’s frequently quite a challenge, trying to beat them to the punch! However, if you’re the one initiating, that means you’re filling up their little tanks and you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re reinforcing bad behavior when you do so. And, quite honestly, if you make a concerted effort on that front, you may be very surprised to see what other “discipline problems” clear up on their own. Think of your hugs as pre-emptive strikes, rather than as responses to manipulation.
My husband compares this phenomenon to steering into the skid when your car starts to slide on the snow. Your first impulse is to yank the steering wheel the other direction (“No you may NOT sit on my lap because you’re being whiny and that’s a sin and God hates it.”) You frequently feel like that should fix the problem – but in fact it just takes the skid to a whole new level of out-of-controllness. It often feels counterintuitive, but you need to make yourself steer into the slide and get ahead of it. Often that takes FAR more patience, grace, self denial, and self control than it does to insist on having your standards upheld.
The tricky part is that when a child is being all needy, the form it takes usually is one that tends to rub all your fur the wrong way. You don’t want to give the love, because they’re not being cute; they’re being unlovely. But remember to stoop for these little people. Give out the hugs when you don’t feel like it. Give out the hugs when the children are not acting very huggable. (Golden rule here: how do you want your husband to treat you when you’re being all needy and frazzled and generally un-cute?)