A few years ago, I made a discovery in my parenting. Most of the time when kids are acting out, they need some discipline. But sometimes when a child is having a meltdown that looks like a major offense, what he is actually crying out for is a big fat hug.

This is especially true of our Middle Child, whose love language is all about hugs. That kid has always loved to sit on my lap, give me kisses and hold tight for big bear hugs. He also gets easily frustrated. It’s not easy having a brother who is 22 months older, runs faster, rides his bike faster, jumps higher and pretty much does everything as if he’s two years ahead (because he IS).

As the meltdowns increased, I realized that I needed to be more proactive in the amount of Mommy love that was being dished out on a daily basis in our house. But as my boys were getting older, convincing them to slow down and soak up a hug was becoming more of a struggle.

That’s when I instituted the payment system. It works something like this.

“Mom, could I have a cup of milk?”

“Sure, but it’s gonna cost ya.”

“How much?”

“I’ll need five hugs and three kisses.”

This took them by surprise at first. They acted like they were being tortured as they grudgingly handed over their payment.

But as this routine became a more familiar part of our household, they started looking forward to hearing how many hugs and kisses they would have to “pay” me.

When my husband is out of town for weeks at a time, as he has been lately, everyone in our house seems to be a little more edgy. And then I remember that we all need to pay up. Forget time outs. We need some hugs.

It’s gotten to the point that my kids even inform me of what I owe them. And their requests are often extreme.

“I need 43 hugs and 25 kisses,” one of them will say. We hold tight while we count to 43, and then the 25 pecks begin.

It can be steep. But I’m willing to pay the price.

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