It almost goes without saying that in millions of homes across the country, and indeed the world, families and friends getting together for holiday get-togethers will greet each other with hugs. And many parents won’t think twice about making their children hug relatives, even if the kids are hesitant to do so.
But the Girl Scouts, in a tweet this week, asked parents to think twice about coercing reluctant girls (and boys) into hugging people they don’t want to hug. In fact, they asked parents not to do it at all.
“Reminder: She doesn’t owe anyone a hug. Not even at the holidays,” the tweet reads.
The tweet is accompanied by a link to a longer statement that goes deeper into the reasons for the message.
Specifically, the statement notes that telling girls (and boys) that they “owe” an adult a hug or other physical affection sends the wrong messages about body autonomy and consent. Kids who are taught that their boundaries don’t deserve respect may be more easily victimized.
“We know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help,” says Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald.
Of course, that’s not to say that if your daughter (or son) is naturally affectionate or that he or she enthusiastically wants to hug relatives that you should try to squash that. The operative word here is “consent,” says the statement, and so if a kid wants to hug, let him or her hug.
“Many children may naturally want to hug and kiss family members, friends, and neighbors, and that’s lovely,” the statement reads.
Don’t take this message about unwanted hugging as license to let your kids be rude, however, the statement notes. If your child doesn’t want to hug, they should still be prompted to be polite. A high five, a smile, a blown kiss, or a simply “How are you?” works just as well.
Not everyone is on board with these ideas, however, if Twitter is to be believed.
“This is just stupid. There’s nothing wrong with telling a son or daughter to give Grandma and Grandpa a hug when they come to see them for the holidays,” says one user.
“It’s teaching them manners, something apparently unimportant to the new Girl Scouts,” tweeted another.