It’s My Body And I’ll Hug If I Want To

hugifiwant“Grandma is leaving – give her a hug.” “Your aunt is here, go give her a kiss and a hug, don’t be rude.” This makes me cringe. Why do we feel that it is OK to make children touch or be touched by others, even when it’s not what they want?

There is nothing rude about just wanting to say, “Hello”, or giving a smile or a nod. Look, I am not a big fan of having to hug every relative and person that has existed in my life, every time that I walk into an event. I rarely see many of those people. Dude, I don’t always want to hug people that I see all of the time and LOVE. Imagine how a kid feels.

Kids have to hug and kiss and be kissed by anyone who their parents deem fit, even if they are strangers to the child. Maybe it is Grandma, whom they see often, but they just don’t want to hug that day. At what point do kids get ownership over their own body? 9? 12? 18? NO, from day ONE! Even babies will cry when being held by someone who is not wanted by them.

When we don’t give kids ownership over their own bodies here is what we are saying:

Another person’s happiness is more important than your discomfort.

But Grandma will get mad if the kids don’t kiss her, you say. She feels rejected. Why do parents focus so much on how a grown up will feel and not their child? Grandma is a grown person and if she can’t handle a little rejection at this point in her life, that is her problem. In any case, it really is not rejection. The child might be happy to read with Grandma, but may not want to hug her. Your child may love dancing around with Aunt Amy, but by the end of the evening is tired and does not what to bring it in for that good night hug.

Spend more time worrying about the message that you are sending to your child by forcing him or her into an intimate situation, and less about an over-sensitive grown up.

Your body belongs to others.

Let’s talk a little more about that message. “Your job is to placate others by letting them hug and kiss you whenever they want. When you do not allow this, it is rude.” Imagine telling this to a 15-year-old. Would you? Or a 20-year-old, would you? NO – but a three year old, sure.

Grown ups often make kids hug and kiss others, even when the child says no, taking ownership of one’s body from the child and giving it to grown ups. Is this the message that we want to impart to our kids? Your body is not your own; another has authority over it. Say the aforementioned sentence aloud. How does that feel? Uncomfortable, right?

Your opinions do not matter.

Kids are usually pretty clear when they do NOT want to touch or be touched. They usually say it calmly at first, but then may break into a loud protest. When we ignore this, we are telling kids that their opinions do not matter, even when it comes to their own body.

Again, not really the message that we want to send to our growing children. This goes for the, “can’t you justs” as well. “Can’t you just give a quick hug?” “Can’t you just let her kiss your head?” “Can’t you just high five?” Fast forward this a few years: “Can’t we just kiss?” “Can’t you just take your shirt off?” “Nothing will happen can’t you just try it real quick?”

Again, uncomfortable, right?

When someone does not want to be touched, that person does not want to be touched.

Let’s get a few things straight here: if your child is in danger or in danger of hurting another child, you can touch your child (move the child) without the child being cool with it. Your job is to keep them and others safe. So, yes, there are times that you will touch a kid who doesn’t want you to do so – holding hands as you cross a street, carrying children to bed when they refuse to go and they are having a volcanic melt down, or when a child is about to hit a sibling. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

In addition, not hugging and kissing folks does not give a child free reign to be nasty. It is still important to instill those “social graces”. Your child does need to say hello, or nod, or smile – though they may need a little time to get acclimated to a new or crowded situation.

You can talk about the greeting beforehand, “I know you do not like giving hugs, but what CAN you do to say hello?” Grown ups may not be thrilled with your way of doing things, but you will be a hero in the eyes of your child. Just keep in mind the messages that you are sending by making your kids kiss and hug Great Aunt Betty when they do not want to – are those the messages that you want them to carry with them throughout lives?

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Brandi Davis, ACC, is a professional Parenting Coach, Parent Educator, and Author of O.K. I’m A Parent Now What? She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and be sure to catch her parenting podcasts on iTunes. The goal of Brandi’s practice is to bring respect, calm communication, teamwork, and FUN into the home or classroom. To discover all that Child and Family Coaching can bring to your family stop by

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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