CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION: Don’t force your kids to hug relatives.
A couple years back I gave a Predator S.T.E.P. Identification System presentation to a rotary club and afterward struck up an interesting conversation with one of the members about child abuse prevention. She pointed out a brilliant insight into raising children that is absolutely key to empowering them against child molesters. Most parents, however, will probably argue against my advice: Never force your children to hug or kiss relatives.
That’s right, ALL relatives. I am including daddy when he leaves on a business trip, all the way to grandma when you leave her house Thanksgiving night. All those awkward family scenarios when we have to push our children forward to hug hello or goodbye or congratulations, or give Papa a kiss for his birthday – please, don’t do it. Just have them wave or speak.
I am not suggesting that grandma and grandpa are predators, nor anyone else in your family. But forcing your children to behave affectionately when they do not want to, and especially when they vehemently protest against it, sets a terrible precedent that their body and affections are not to be withheld against adult wishes. You’re basically telling them, shut up and let that person hug and kiss you.
I’m sure I’ve offended several of you so let me point out that I was a dad who did that very thing. I’d nudge, I’d bribe, I’d guilt, and then I’d demand. But until my discussion at the rotary club, I never truly considered what I was “implying” to my children. Against the backdrop of child sex abuse, it became crystal clear that forcing them to hug or kiss adults when they didn’t want to, and against their most impassioned pleas, readies the soil for a predator to issue his demands as well. Kiss aunt Betty. Hug Uncle Frank. It doesn’t matter if you want to. Your body is ours. You need to submit.
What a dangerous thought to plant inside a child regarding their body and affections.
For those still thinking I’m off my rocker for being ANTI-forcing children to kiss Grandma, let me ask what good comes of it? Does Grandma really feel loved when the crying and defiant child hesitatingly presses their unpuckered lips against her cheek? Is Grandma so selfish and narcissistic that she prefers her grandkids be forced to kiss her rather than acting like a wise grown-up who understands this happens with children? Who (besides a john with a prostitute) enjoys feigned, insincere, forced affection?
Would you enjoy your spouse forcing you to be affectionate when you didn’t want to be?
Your job is to protect your child, foster their growth, love and care for them. To do all the aforementioned requires you also respect them. You would never make them kiss a stranger at the library. You’d never make them kiss their teacher, or coach, or best friend’s parent. On all those instances you would agree they have a right to withhold their affections. Don’t send mixed messages. Let your children know their bodies belong to them. Teach them that they ALWAYS have a right to refuse adult demands on their body. And support them next time Great Aunt Becky pinches their cheeks and forces them into a tight embrace.