Stop telling your children to hug Grandma.
“Come on give your Grandma a hug” I comply.
I feel her whiskers bristle against my chin and her sloppy lips kiss my cheek, I can’t wait until this is over and I can wipe her spit off my face. She is squeezing me so tight I can barely breathe and I wonder how long this torture is going to last. She eventually lets go and I am unsure how to act, I know it’s rude to wipe my cheek and excuse myself but I feel my personal space has been violated, yet my Mum is looking at me like I should be thankful. I am 11 years old and the last thing I want to do is hug my Grandma, yet, as usual I go along because I also not keen on the shame that comes from stating that I don’t want to. I tried that last week and my “I don’t want to” was met with a torrent of words, like ungrateful, unkind and mean, all words I wouldn’t associate with myself. The same happens when I am told to “Give Auntie Doll” a kiss, give your Uncle a thank you hug and the worst of them all don’t I get a thank you hug. Why can’t I just say thank you and be done with it.
I am sure we all have similar memories of your childhood times where if we didn’t hug, kiss of show our appreciation to a family member we were seen as an outcast, often feeling so guilty with the aftermath that we just went along with it.
I was with my niece and
nephew over Christmas and I heard the same things uttered to them after present
giving. Give Auntie Sarah a hug. I quickly intervened. "Auntie Sarah loves you
whether you give me a hug or not and I don’t mind what you do, only hug me if you
want to". My Mother threw me a look that warned me I was being rube, but honestly
I thought I was teaching the most important thing to my niece,her personal space is her own , her body is her own and she can do with it what
she wants. A lesson I fear most children are still missing out on.
You see my worry is that
when we tell children they must hug someone, even if they don’t want to, we are teaching
them a lesson that they are not in charge of their own bodies or their own
personal space and what someone else wants is far more important than what they
want. And particularly to be giving this message to young girls worries me. The
pressure for young girls to be sexual, to give themselves before they are ready
is a constant. In the new era of relationships where sex seems to come
before any form of intimacy teaching our young girls they don’t own their bodies
does not set them up to easily say no when something gets out of hand.
You might say it’s only a
hug with a family relative and I am taking this way out of hand, but fundamentally
I think teaching our children that they own their bodies and they are in charge
of their own personal space is one of the most important things we can do.
Forget about if it upsets
Grandma, makes Aunt Doll mad or makes you even, as the parent feel guilty. Your
child should know they can say No I don’t
want to do that right now and feel fully OK with their decision.
Forcing them to hug Grandma
is not polite, it’s not thoughtful, it's actually thoughtless and teaches your
child what they want does not matter.
What your child wants does
matter, saying no is an important skill and knowing when they do and do not
what to let someone into their personal space is one of the most important
skills they can learn.
Instead of telling your child who
they must hug please let them know that hugs matter, but they are in charge of
who they hug and when.