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, he still might oblige if you tell him 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 he 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 his understanding of consent can have on his future. When you tell Baby to go ahead and give someone a hug, even though he doesn&;t want to, you’re also telling him that someone other than him can make decisions about his body.

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

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