The Problem With Making Your Kids Wear A "Love Shirt"

There's a thing my mom used to make my brother and I do when we were fighting. "Hug it out," she'd say. And then we were expected to give each other a hug, no matter how angry we still were at the other.
I'm willing to bet plenty of people have had to "hug it out," but some moms take the lovey-dovey makeup a step further with what they sometimes call "love shirts" or "get-along shirts."
In case you couldn't guess, a "love shirt" is an oversized t-shirt — one big enough to fit two small children inside. Moms make their feuding kids wear the shirt at the same time, essentially trapping them into a hug.
One mom recently posted a video to Facebook of her very unhappy kids wearing a love shirt and dancing together, and everyone loved it. As of writing, the video has more than 76,000 shares, many of them from people praising the mom's creativity and laughing at the kids' facial expressions.
But as well-meaning as shirts like this are, they violate kids' personal space and tend to ignore or trivialize their feelings. There is no adult version of the love shirt because forcing two adults to push aside the reason they were fighting and just hug it out is ridiculous. So why do we make kids do it?
Instead, if kids can't work out their problems it's best to separate them, clinical psychologist Laura Markham, PhD, wrote on her parenting blog.
"If they beg to be together during this time, say: 'We all need 15 minutes to calm down. When you get mad, your body gets ready to fight or run, and we need to let our bodies calm down so we're ready to work things out. After this cool off period, once we have a peaceful house again, you two will be ready to work this out respectfully,'" she wrote.
Once everyone has calmed down, parents can help the kids work through their feelings with each other, Markham wrote. "Over time, your kids will be able to talk and work it out themselves."
So as good of an idea as a "love shirt" might seem, letting your kids work out their feelings on their own, away from the person who is making them upset, might be better.
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about or passing on kids, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.

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