I’m not one for depressing or deep-thought posts, but I think that this is an important one, especially in the wake of what happened with the Duggar clan and what appears to be in my feed constantly these days. Harassment, sexual or otherwise, is an important topic and should demand our time and attention (and overrun our Facebook feed), but I don’t want to make this post about The Duggards. I’m writing this today because as a parent, I’ve taken a subtle step to address this issue with my kids. While I typically try to not preach my ways of parenting to others, this is an important topic and the behaviour is so simple and easy to implement I want to share it.
How many times have your children’s grandparents asked for a hug or a kiss to only be rejected by your kids? The grandparents get all upset and sometimes they even pout. As parents, we feel like the middle man. We want to please our parents and teach our children how to be “polite”. So I’ll go out on a limb here and assume that most of you have asked your kids to kiss and hug their grandparents per their request. While seemingly innocent, this call to action that we’ve put out to our kids can in fact be very harmful.
Grandparents adore their grand-kids and only seek affection. In fact, in some families it’s probably customary or tradition to kiss and hug when greeted or saying good-bye. And for the most part, kids are just shy or “lazy” to hug and kiss back. Regardless the reason, and no matter how upset the grandparents might get, my husband and I never force, or even ask, our boys to hug and kiss back. We fully know that our parents only have the best intentions in mind (especially since my parents are over almost on a daily basis to help out), but the reason we don’t ask our kids to hug or kiss back extends far beyond their grandparents.
If you teach your children to have respect for their personal space and body and give them the opportunity to be able to say “NO” when they don’t feel like being affectionate with a family member, imagine how much more confident they will be to say NO when the request is coming from a stranger. I want my sons to know that they have control over their body. I want my sons to know that affection and love feels good and shouldn’t feel forced.
It’s a simple lesson but it has a powerful effect. Regardless of your child’s sex or age, it’s never too early or late to start teaching this behaviour. Even grandparents can be quick learners! If you receive push back or rolling eyes, privately explain to them why you don’t want to push your kids to act this way. Often enough, my kids are happy to comply with their grandparents request and give them hugs and kisses on their own accord.
I remember a time when I “blackmailed” my son to give me a kiss and he would get _____ (fill in the blank with his favourite toy). My husband happened to be around and he gave me “the look”. He was right; parents shouldn’t force hugs and kisses on their kids either. Of course my intentions were harmless (I just love him to pieces and wished he would give me more hugs and kisses), but the lesson would be lost on my son.
I remember another incident in which our nanny wanted to give our boys hugs and kisses upon her arrival. The boys were squirmy and refused. Since I was sitting by them, I used it as a teaching opportunity. I told them to reply back and say “No thank-you”. It was an easy lesson and it was in a safe environment. I took time to “train” them by providing them with the proper words to use and the confidence to say them.
Affection between kids and parents and between kids and grandparents and close family members is very special. There is an innocence to it when it happens naturally and it’s a beautiful sight and feeling. Lets let it be just that – a natural action; never a forced one.