Think there’s nothing wrong with forcing your child to hug people they just met? Think again.
One of the things that parents teach early on to their children early on is how to interact with other people. From casually hugging cousins to kissing aunts they’ve just met, most kids get their socialization cues from their parents. However, it’s not all the time that children will agree to this. Some of them will show minimal resistance while others will vehemently refuse.
An article about not forcing children to hug anyone has recently gone viral. Written by James St. James, this piece details the dangers of allowing your kids to be hugged other people despite their reluctance. Hugs, generally, may be harmless. But when they are not willingly given, those hugs cross certain lines such as your child’s privacy, body ownership, decision making, and other dangerous repercussions.
Here are 5 reasons why you should never force your kid to hug anyone:
1. It makes rules subjective.
If your teach your child not to talk to strangers but impose that he hugs Uncle Ben whom he just met, which technically makes him a stranger, then the protective measures you’ve set becomes subjective. When certain rules don’t apply to everyone, it can cause confusion. Meanwhile, his resistance gets overruled time and time again. The more no one acknowledges his feelings, the fainter his voice becomes. This makes him susceptible to keeping things to himself even if something terribly wrong is happening.
2. It hampers them from developing age-appropriate boundaries.
Children should be taught healthy personal boundaries that are suited for their age and development. When they are conditioned that it’s okay to hug anyone then those guardrails will be difficult to set in place. Think of it this way: if your child reluctantly concedes to hug someone, even if it doesn’t feel right and she is later on touched inappropriately, she wouldn’t know if she should make a big deal out of it or not. Why? Because no one had reinforced the boundaries she was trying to set initially, her naiveté became vulnerable to lurking predators.
Click “Continue Reading” for more on why you shouldn’t force your child to hug people.
Remember that hugging is not the only way children can acknowledge other people
3. It slowly weakens his natural fear of danger
We are born with survival instincts to respond with fear when we feel unsafe and “stranger danger” awareness that makes us wary about surroundings. If we adults employ these, our children should be able to as well. When you tell your child to hug anyone, regardless of his feelings, it tells him to ignore his instincts to avoid people they’re not comfortable with. Over time, your child will let his guard down more easily, much to his disadvantage.
4. It tells your child that she doesn’t own her body
Asking your child to open her arms to other people, despite the resistance, says that she doesn’t have a right over her own body. Imagine trading places with your kid and somebody forces you to hug someone you don’t like. Wouldn’t you impose your will and say no? You have the right to refuse and children do too. Children have the same rights over their own bodies and parents should be at the forefront of respecting and defending them.
5. You may miss the signs that point to something being really wrong
This is the worst-case scenario. There might be instances when your child is being abused and her refusal to hug this person or relative is her way of telling you that it’s already happening. When parents falsely categorize a child’s resistance as a “fleeting stage” or “personality quirk”, they risk missing the red flags being waved in front of them. Dear parent, please don’t let this happen.
Remember that hugging is not the only way children can acknowledge other people. They can wave, smile, or even send a flying kiss their way. Let them interact in a way that they feel most secure and comfortable in.
As parents, we’re here to guide and protect them until they’re old enough to make decisions for themselves. Let’s not put our children in harm’s way all because we want to please other people. Instead, let’s put their welfare before anything else. Choose to side with your children.
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