Okay, it’s actually why you shouldn’t force your children to hand out hugs to people ever. More and more, parents are realizing the importance of discussing physical boundaries, bodily autonomy, and consent with their children, and extending those lessons to activities that have been considered harmless for generations.
Think tickling your child as they shriek the word ‘stop’ over and over, or forcing your kid to hug and kiss a relative they barely know when they show up for holiday dinner. Basically, the things we were expected to do without question aren’t kosher when it comes to raising empowered, aware children in this new generation.
The Girl Scouts are on board, issuing a statement aimed directly at parents:
“Telling your child she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes’ another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life.”
If you’re sitting there thinking that’s a bit of a leap, well, it’s really not. Think of it this way: do you want your daughter to think that she owes physical affection to someone who is nice to her or someone who expects it?
I didn’t think so.
We don’t want to believe this can happen to our children, in our family and close friend circles, but the hard truth is that we have to be aware that it can and does. Making sure that our children feel empowered to make choices over their own bodies – and to go even further, to make sure they know they are the only person who can say yes or no when it comes to touching – is a good start when it comes to them being able to handle unwanted advances.
And if you think it’s just girls who need the reminder, think again – 1 in 5 girls will experience some type of unwanted sexual contact by the age of 18, and 8% of boys (1 in 12) will also report the same experience.
I’m not saying you should lay out the cold, disturbing facts for your toddler or preschooler, but I am saying – along with the Girl Scouts – that children that young should know that touching, kissing, and hugging are things we do when we want to, not because its expected of us.