A parenting story on the Girl Scouts of the United States of America website is discouraging parents from forcing their daughters to hug relatives at holiday gatherings -- and any time during the year.
Titled, “Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays,” the Nov. 2 article says encouraging young girls to go give a relative a hug or kiss as a greeting can lead to compromised views of consent.
“Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes’ another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life,” the article said.
Girl Scouts parenting expert and developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald explained the impact of telling young girls, “Go give your relative a big hug!” or “Give them a big kiss!”
“The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children, but the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime, and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older,” Archibald said.
Archibald said that unfortunately, people who prey on children exist and young girls need to be taught at an early age what consent means and how to get help if their rights are violated.
Comments on the organization’s Facebook post of the article were mixed.
“No girl is going to seriously think she has to get physical with a guy to be polite, just because she had to give Aunt Betty a hug at Christmas when she was little,” one woman wrote.
“Our kids deserve to decide what they do with their own bodies,” one mother commented. “Forcing them to give hugs takes that away from them. Sure, teach kids to be respectful. But give them choices for how they show affection.”
“Please,You have gone overboard. One, no one MAKES a child gives a hug. Two, Don't assume physical affection leads to negative behavior,” a self-identified senior scout wrote.
“Of course we all want our kids to be loving and kind,” another mother wrote. “But doing something that doesn’t feel right to them just because an adult wants you to is wrong.”
“Boys don't owe hugs either. I only ‘made’ my kids hug and kiss my dad 1x...it was the day before he died...other than that, never have made them hug or kiss anyone if they weren’t wanting to,” another Facebook user commented.
The Girl Scouts story says that the placement of boundaries isn’t meant for children to be rude, but that a high-five, a wave, or a “hello” or “thank you” can be alternatives to hugs and kisses. The organization also says that if a child decides to show affection in a hug or kiss on their own accord, that’s fine -- as long as it’s her decision.