5 Things to Do When Your Kids Don’t Want to Be with You


I’ve always liked to hold hands with my daughters and still do. As they were growing up, I held their hand as we drove in the car, walked through the mall, and walked up to school.

But I remember learning a lesson when my oldest daughter, Megan, pulled away from holding my hand as I walked her into school. One day we clenched each other’s hand, the next, my hand was without hers. What had changed?

I always knew my relationship with my daughter would be different as she got older, but no one ever told me what that would look like.  So that night, I talked to my wife, Susan, about it. She comforted me by sharing that it was a normal reaction as our daughter grew into the teen years. Susan also wisely encouraged me not to react by smothering her, but rather to give my daughter some space to grow into a woman.

So, if you find yourself in a situation similar to mine, here are 5 things to do when your kids don’t want to be with you:

1. Don’t take it personally.  It could have been easy to get offended when Megan rejected my hand that morning.  But instead of becoming upset, we have to understand that it is part of our child growing into a woman or man.

2. Look at them in a new way.  There will come a time when your child feels awkward holding your hand or walking with you, but that’s okay. This temporarily closed door only means that so many others are opening as your relationship with your child matures.  As your little boy grows into a man and your little girl grows into a woman, it’s important to put on a new set of glasses and look at them in a whole new light and speak to them in a whole new way.

3. Don’t withdraw.  Just because my daughter didn’t want to hold my hand during that season, doesn’t mean she doesn’t still crave attention and affection from me.  Be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that giving your kids space means you should leave them alone.  Rather, find the balance of respecting their emotional changes during this season of life and still pursuing them, still hugging them, and always loving them.

4. Understand your child.  As a parent, you have to understand that your children are unique and have unique emotional needs. To understand each child, you have to be a student of your child. As a student, watch, listen to, and take mental notes of your child’s likes and dislikes. For example, for Emily, I learned that she would be really disappointed if I wasn’t the loudest fan in the crowd at her games.  But for Marky, I found that he got extremely embarrassed if I loudly cheered for him from the stands. It was ultimately up to me to learn this distinction and act on it.

5. Find common ground.  Be intentional in finding common ground to spend time with your kids. During the teen years, I’ve found that searching for and finding that “one thing” is important. It’s that one thing they like to do and will do with you. For example, Grant liked to camp so that’s something we did together when he was a teen, and still do.

So, remember these 5 things when your kids pull away from you and be sure to remember to love them always, no matter what.


When did you first notice your relationship with your kids was changing as they grew older?  I’d love to hear your story in a comment below. 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Daniel Rodgers

    I noticed with my second daughter it was right as she turned 13yrs old, and it did really hurt me because her older sister never went through the phase. It is now 3yrs later and the public displays have eased a little but is not what they were when she was young but I have learned as you have, with the help of my wife and older daughter we will grow and survive another of life’s dad/daughter lessons.


  • Daniel, good to hear you and your daughter are doing a bit better. Persevere!

  • Dadof4

    Similar to #1 and #3: “Don’t manipulate.” Don’t guilt your child because your feelings were hurt. And don’t manipulate them into providing that affection or thinking twice the next time. Be the grown-up!

  • Good point.

  • Paul_Sp

    Great suggestions, thanks!

  • John

    I’m happy to hear that i’m not the only one in that boat I have three daughters and they are all different.

  • Travis McGee

    Definitively in 8th grade when social exposure in schools and communication tools became more the norm and not so coincidentally when kids are trying to fit in, build identity and gratify themselves. The idea of “monitoring” social media, texting, internet, is important but…for every tool to monitor or control, technology presents 10 ways to defeat, and teens are really much more adept and savvy at constant technical changes. The trick is, what do you do when you catch the wrong….we found by the end of Sophomore year and after prolonged very difficult parenting times that Faith, trust and reasonable boundaries are the only true effective tools in helping them navigate a very difficult phase of life. While I aged in doggy years during the teen daughter entering and getting through high school, I finally remembered my own challenges at that age…. Our era is no different than scores of generations before…we just all compare notes at lightening speed now.

  • Michael Pasierb

    When Judge Michael Andrews of Pinellas awarded primary custody to my ex wife based on gender bias. When Judge Jack Hellinger told me to learn how to text my three boys when I asked for more time with them. When Judge Linda Allen removed my name from the house I purchased before we were married and gave her 115k in equity. Remember April 25th is parental alienation awareness day. Please help fit fathers everywhere by participating in Bubbles of Love Event at noon 4/25/2014. Family First…

  • Heather B.

    This is a great post. Thank you. My son is still a couple of years away from being officially considered a middle schooler/preteen/tween, but we are already seeing some signs, although not yet serious, of that preteen condition! So, we are equipping ourselves now to help him and ourselves get through those challenging years as successfully as possible. Your post is great help. We’ve been reading a great new book the talks about a lot of what you are saying. We are really excited about it, so I just have to share. It’s called “MiddleSchool: The Inside Story- What Kids Tell Us, But Don’t Tell You,” by Cynthia Tobias and Sue Acuna. It has interviews and feedback from middle schoolers, parents and teachers (and a little humor) to help us deal with faith, purity, puberty, communication, independence, discipline and accountability, tackling social media, technology, Internet, gaming, and
    deepening and strengthening positive, loving relationship. It’s so rich in valuable help as we face these transitional years with our kids. I think everyone with a middle schooler or who will have a middle schooler will benefit from it. I highly recommend it!