I don’t believe we need to be forcing kids to show affection. This is The Reason Why I Do Not Force My Kids To Hug Or Kiss. They can do it when they feel like it, in a beautiful and authentic way.
Forcing Kids To Show Affection Could Be Dangerous
When my 6 year old was a baby, I used to enthusiastically encourage him to hug and kiss his friends or family members. However, I noticed that when I would say “Say hello and kiss your uncle”, or “Say bye bye to your friend Tony and hug him” it did not sound natural. He would do it, but it wasn’t sincere and sometimes he would go all shy on me or flat out refuse.
Kids are naturally very enthusiastic and able to communicate their feelings. But I believe they should communicate when they ‘want’ to communicate and we should let them be themselves and not force them.
What good does it do for them to make them hug or kiss if they don’t really mean it? And there is even a bigger problem in forcing kids to show affection to others in certain situations.
When A Child Tells You That They Don’t Feel Comfortable Around Someone, Pay Attention.
Ursula Wagner from FamilyWorks in Chicago says that forcing physical contact like hugs “sends a message that there are certain situations when it’s not up to them what they do with their bodies.” That message can have multiple repercussions as children grow: Irene Vanderzand, cofounder of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International, says that “forcing children to submit to unwanted affection in order not to offend a relative or hurt a friend’s feelings, we teach them that their bodies do not really belong to them because they have to push aside their own feelings about what feels right to them.
This can lead to children getting sexually abused, teen girls submitting to sexual behavior so ‘he’ll like me’ and kids enduring bullying because everyone is ‘having fun.’”
Katia Hetter, a CNN Digital Writer/Producer wrote I don’t own my child’s body. In the article, Katia Hetter taught her daughter an important lesson with a very simple phrase: “I would like you to hug Grandma, but I won’t make you do it.” Hetter felt it provided a good opportunity to teach her daughter “that it’s OK to say no to an adult who lays a hand on her, even a seemingly friendly hand.”
As she explained, “I figure her body is actually hers, not mine. It doesn’t belong to her parents, preschool teacher, dance teacher or soccer coach. While she must treat people with respect, she doesn’t have to offer physical affection to please them. And the earlier she learns ownership of herself and responsibility for her body, the better for her.”
Hetter also points out that allowing children to refuse hugs does not mean allowing them to be rude: “She has to be polite when greeting people, whether she knows them or not. When family and friends greet us, I give her the option of ‘a hug or a high-five.’ Since she’s been watching adults greet each other with a handshake, she sometimes offers that option.”
Hetter explains to family members “why we’re letting her decide who she touches.” And, as she’s already observed, there is one additional benefit to letting her daughter lead the way when it comes to physical contact: “When my child cuddled up to my mother on the sofa recently, happily talking to her about stories and socks and toes and other things, my mother’s face lit up. She knew it was real.”
So, I always try to remember this: Forcing Kids To Show Affection Could Be Dangerous. And I let my kids be natural always. What about you?
To start teaching children — girls and boys alike — from a young age about the need to respect others and their personal boundaries, there is a highly recommended book No Means No!: Teaching Children about Personal Boundaries, Respect and Consent” for ages 3 to 6, Your Body Belongs to You for ages 3 to 5, and My Body! What I Say Goes! for ages 3 to 6.
For resources for tweens and teens on body autonomy, as well as general resources on their changing bodies, check out, “A Time of Change: Talking with Tweens and Teens about their Bodies” at A Mightly Girl
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Maricris Navarro says
Thankyou for sharing ideas and articles which I can imply on my own family. Godbless and looking forward for more recipes also. More power.
My mother was so ahead of her time! She encouraged me to remove myself from situations I didn’t feel comfortable! That included off of my grandfathers (her father) lap when she saw I wasn’t happy being there. Oh, and for the record he never fix anything creepy- I just didn’t like the smell of his pipe tobacco!
Cox Nancy says
I hope the boys ALWAYS want o kiss and hug us.
I need More information
. knowledge for my child support
In my very early teens, we went to dinner at my aunt & uncle’s house. My mom’s uncle Manny was also there. He was in his 60-70’s as far as I can remember. I was in my cousin’s room reading magazines when Manny came in & rubbed my shoulders while saying what a fine young lady I was.
He was almost drooling. I got the hell out of there & ran to tell my mom.
She told me “oh, that’s just Manny”. Then she said all the females in the family knew to never get caught in a room alone with Uncle Manny! Well, they forgot to tell me. I never forgot what happened, (I’m 66). went near Mom’s uncle or forgave my mother for blowing it off.
you were smart to escape you protected yourself when you thought there was danger you have every right to protect yourself he was hitting on you preying upon you and your mom didn’t take care of you or explain you are a fair bit older than me
Enjoyed your article. Unfortunately, parents do not teach their children it is alright if they do not want to extend affection. We think it is an insult to the other person,like you said not taking into consideration the child’s feelings. Many acts of molestation could have been avoided. Be blessed…..
I worked in Child Protective Services before I had my kids. When my son was in grade school, I found out that a parent/ retired teacher/volunteer had molested a student years before but was never held to account. I couldn’t “out” the guy, so I did the next best thing. I arranged for a series of educational videos and talks about child safety for all the students and staff at the school.
Joan DelPozzo says
I have 4 kids, in 2 sets. When the younger two were fairly young we found ourselves going to a lot of wakes and funerals. One day one asked if Grandma was going to make them hug all the people. I told them to be in charge, put their hands right out for a handshake and then if they saw it was someone they wanted to hug, that was fine, but if they did that first others would understand. We practiced a good web to web handshake too. Worked like a charm and I was so proud of how they handled themselves. Some time later they were maybe 14 and 15 and we went to visit a cousin. They asked if we wanted to go to church with them. Well, in the middle of the service people suddenly got up and started moving around, hugging, greeting, etc. All strangers. I watched my kids stick out their hands and introduce themselves. I was so proud that it took. All have impeccable manners and have taught their kids the same. For the record, they all hug me like crazy, all ages.