My Child Refuses to Cuddle

There are different reasons why a child refuses to cuddle. Parents should also reflect on their own affectionate style. Keep reading.
My Child Refuses to Cuddle
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 07 February, 2023

When I approach, they push me away; they put up their arms like a barrier and push my face away if I try to kiss them. If your child refuses to cuddle, it’s important to know, first of all, that this is a frequent situation in many families. There are different reasons for this attitude. Some are linked to temperament, while others are more situational. Here are some possible answers.

Why your child refuses to cuddle

It’s worth noting that there’s no single answer to why a child turns away from physical contact. The options cover a wide range of responses ranging from their own personality to the type of parenting they receive. Therefore, there are different reasons why a child may reject physical displays of affection. Let’s look at some of them.

A different style when it comes to affection

People have different ways of expressing how they feel about others. Some people prefer physical contact, while others may find it uncomfortable. It’s about validating your child’s own language of affection and autonomy rather than forcing them to do something they don’t want to do.

Inopportune timing

Many times, we seek affection when children are engaged in an activity. For example, when they’re playing with friends, studying, or even resting. In this regard, many adults take it as a personal matter. However, it’s worth taking a minute to do a little self-criticism and ask yourself if you’d interrupt another person in their work activity to approach them and give them a kiss. The answer is probably no. Well then, the same applies to children. If they’re in the middle of an activity, let’s respect that time and space.

A baby turning away from his father's kiss.
Many times children reject cuddling from a very young age due to their personality traits. In these cases, it’s a matter of their way of being and not the occurrence of a specific event.


In some cases, it’s also a personality issue. Some children are more reserved and distant, while others are more shy or embarrassed. It’s not a one-time event that has occurred. Rather, they’ve always been this way. In these cases, it’s important to measure with them what their comfort threshold is and respect it.

Developmental stage

The evolutionary stage that the child’s going through is also an aspect to consider. There are times when their autonomy and individual identity are put to the test. Starting to make their own decisions or choosing when to do something and when not to do it is a way of showing that they’re growing up and that they’re different from their parents. This is a temporary situation and, as adults, we can teach them that being affectionate and independent aren’t exclusive.

Particular context

If you notice that your child’s behavior has changed, you may need to ask yourself why. For example, they may reject your affection because you scolded them for something and they don’t know how to manage that emotion. Also, changes at home may have an influence, such as the arrival of a sibling.

You may be interested in: How Lack of Affection Affects Children

If your child refuses to cuddle, respect their space and their decisions

Some erroneous beliefs about displays of affection deserve a separate mention. Especially, because they’re messages that circulate in society. For example, many people worry too much that their child’s not affectionate and believe that this will damage the attachment bond. It is important to emphasize that contact is an important condiment to establish such a bond, but it is not the only one.

At the same time, it’s very important to consider that, under no circumstances, should we pressure or force a child to be affectionate if they don’t want to be.

A child ignoring his mother as she gives him a kiss.
Reducing affection to manipulation or a means to get something isn’t a good option. It’s important to avoid blackmail and teach children to express their feelings.

Avoid blackmail

In turn, we should avoid blackmail to get them to give us a kiss. Many times, we tell them things like “If you give me a kiss, I’ll buy you something nice“, “If you don’t give me a kiss now, don’t ask me to take you for a walk later“. Although physical contact is important and is a form of communication, it may not be the one chosen by children to show their interest. Here, the important thing is to teach them to express their emotions and feelings in the way they prefer. This is also a way of signaling and setting limits.

Reflect on your own behaviors

Asking yourself about your children’s behavior is an opportunity to observe yourself in a mirror. If your child refuses to cuddle, it’s worth taking a moment to think about what your own affectionate style is like. If you’re not an affectionate adult, your children may not have a role model to imitate either. Or, if your parenting style is more rigid and distant, it’s also logical for your children to be molded in that way.

If in your home, displays of affection and emotions aren’t frequent or have a negative connotation, your children may internalize those messages. For example, in our society, sexist biases are still frequent, which are present in phrases such as “boys are tough” or “girls are more affectionate than boys”. Undoubtedly, children’s behavior is influenced by what they experience and observe in their environment.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • LÓPEZ CASSÀ, È., (2005). La educación emocional en la educación infantil. Revista Interuniversitaria de Formación del Profesorado, 19(3),153-167.[fecha de Consulta 1 de Diciembre de 2022]. ISSN: 0213-8646. Recuperado de:
  • Garrido-Rojas, L., (2006). Apego, emoción y regulación emocional. Implicaciones para lasalud. Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología, 38(3),493-507.[fecha de Consulta 2 de Diciembre de 2022]. ISSN: 0120-0534. Recuperado de:

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.