We support the Girls Scouts blog post on children being that forced to hug and kiss adults. We also understand that there were many people who were upset at the article and disagreed with the Girl Scouts position. Here are our thoughts:
We advise our children to “use your words” when you are upset. For the same reason, we can say, “use your words” when you express gratitude. Words are meaningful.
We want girls and boys to be able to show affection to others. But not at the expense of feeling forced to show physical affection to people they are uncomfortable with. We are all about parents who have emotionally and physically healthy relationships with their children, kissing and hugging their children goodnight and saying hello and goodbye. But forcing children to show physical affection to people that they don’t feel comfortable with is teaching them to ignore their personal boundaries to please someone with more power and authority. To “teach” children this at early ages makes it that much more difficult for them to communicate and maintain their personal boundaries when they get older.
Some people defended the forced physical affection because it’s the custom in their cultures. There is a big difference between quick kisses that everyone does in greeting and a forced awkward hug between a child and an adult who has more power.
We don’t want children to think that everyone wants to harm them. We don’t. When kids don’t want to hug someone, trust it. For whatever reason, they don’t feel comfortable and that feeling needs to be respected.
As the adult, why do you need to get a hug and a kiss from a child who doesn’t want to give that to you? So if you are on the receiving end, meaning the adult who is standing there awkwardly as the parent forces the child to hug you, here’s what you can do:
Step back, smile at the child and say, “Hi, you don’t need to do that if you don’t want to. But I am so glad to see you!” If you want, ask them for a high five. That way you are role modeling for the parent and the child.
So as the parent, we suggest letting kids use their words to show gratitude and if they want to they can show physical affection.