Kids with low muscle tone are often described as “seeking a support surface” in therapy jargon. These are the children who look like lounge lizards. They recline on you, lean against the couch, prop on their hands while sitting at a table, etc. Some kids decide that the best combination of movement and leaning is to run across the room and jump directly onto an adult. This move avoids having to grade their approach to you, plus it lands them safely into waiting arms. They don’t have to concern themselves with moving safely.
It also keeps them at the same level of skill that they have always had.
I think I have a way to manage this behavior with love, not criticism. It takes a little bit of thought and creativity, but it delivers.
The next time your child barrels across the room, hold your hands out, away from your body, and welcome them there, not in your lap. You don’t always have to say anything. The difference in your response will say it all. But you are welcoming them, and you can be warm and loving as well. Variation for older kids: say “Give me a high-5!!” and hold out your hand. If they are barreling to you anyway, stand up while still holding out your hand. Still warm, still fun, but no crash-and-collapse. They are working on grading movement and controlling posture the whole time.
If your child wanders over and drapes himself on you, you can roll them onto the floor, giggling with them. Bonus Round: Roll them onto their back, so that they have to rotate and stand up. A little vestibular input enriches this move. You can stand up and ask for a hug. Always a warm move.
Can you still cuddle with your child? Of course, but not when they land in your lap in this manner. If you initiate the cuddle, or cuddle after the high-5 or the flip, I think that is terrific. Love is something every child needs. If you offer a cuddle after these moves and they wander away, they may be telling you that they were using your body and your response as a bean bag/ball pit; not for affection, but as an activity. Don’t worry, they will come to you many other times with love, and now you won’t have to worry anymore that your back injury will reappear after you have been slammed into by a young child.
These actions become habits for young children that can delay their progress in therapy and in life. You never want your child to think that you reject them, only that there are other ways to interact with you and other ways to move.