Have you ever been on the receiving end of unwanted physical affection? Did you dread having to give Grandma, Auntie, or anyone else a kiss? Were you punished for not “behaving” and then giving a hug to others? How did that make you feel?
When we, as parents, teach our children to submit their bodies to others, we devalue their rights. We show them that their bodies are not their own. Instead of empowering them to feel confident in their skins, we are teaching our children that in order to be “good” they must submit. Our society is engrained with sexual culture, and unfortunately our children are exposed to it. We can not separate the issues here. If we teach young children to obey elders blindly, to allow physical affection, even if unwanted, we are setting the stage for a slippery slope.
I am not suggesting to not give a child physical affection, instead I suggest encouraging the child to choose the affection. Instead of demanding kisses or hugs, ask the child if they would like a hug. You can go further, and ask the child if they would like to give a hug. Empower the child, show him he has the option of saying no, and that’s ok. More often than not, the child will choose, of their own free will, to give the affection. The best thing is, when it comes from the child’s heart, the affection means so much more. If he chooses to refuse, respect that. Try to remember a time you did not want to share your body. Try to imagine being forced to do so, and reflect on the sense of powerlessness you felt. Children deserve our respect, just as much, if not more, than adults.
So give it a try. Next time you want a hug from a child ask, “would you like to give me a hug?” and if the child says, “no”; don’t pout, say he is rude, or demand the affection. Give the child the space they want, respect their body, and say. “ok, maybe next time!” I’m willing to bet once you get the hug willingly, and maybe even without asking, it will be worth it.
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