Should I make my child hug relatives?

There are a lot of reasons you might not want to hug or kiss someone on any given day. Maybe you don’t like them very much, maybe they smell a little weird, or maybe you’re feeling grumpy or tired. If you don’t want to hug someone, any reason is as good as the next because they all reach the same conclusion: you don’t want to.

As adults, we can politely bow out of most situations we’re uncomfortable with, but children don’t have that power most of the time. If Grandma wants a hug and Baby doesn’t want to give her one, she still might oblige if you tell her to. While it’s great that Baby listens to you, this might be a situation where you use your voice as a parent to make sure Baby knows that she has the power to say no.

The reason that empowering Baby to say no to a hug is different than saying no to bedtime or broccoli is the impact her understanding of consent can have on her future. When you tell Baby to go ahead and give someone a hug, even though she doesn&;t want to, you’re also telling her that someone other than her can make decisions about her body.

Your child should know what kind of touching is appropriate and what to do if someone touches her inappropriately, but it helps to reinforce this lesson by giving Baby the authority to say what touching she is comfortable with, including a hug. That way, she will better understand that no one can touch her against her will, strangers and relatives alike.

Of course, this isn’t a free pass for Baby to abandon manners when she isn&;t feeling social. Talk to her about why it’s important to say hello and goodbye to loved ones, and encourage her to offer a high five or a wave if she doesn&;t feel like hugging.

If friends and family don’t understand why your little one isn’t hugging them, just explain that you let Baby decide who she does and doesn’t want to show affection to. You can also tell them that they can rest assured that any hug or kiss from Baby is a totally sincere one.

  • Moyses, Kendra. “Should you force your child to show affection to relatives?” Michigan State University Extension. Michigan State University. December 16, 2016. Web.
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