You’ve heard the slogan: “Consent is sexy.” With the litany of sexual assault allegations out, that phrase is more important than ever.
However, even in 2017, some people still don’t take “no” for an answer. So, that’s why advocates push to have children start learning about consent at an early age that goes beyond saying “no” and “stop.”
And, personally, I agree with that.
The Girl Scouts of America came out with an excellent piece teaching parents about how to empower their little girls. It’s titled: “Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays.”
Meaning, parents need to think about what they teach their daughter when they tell her to hug and kiss other people. Especially when it comes down to hugging someone they don’t want to touch.
I have two nieces, 2 and 4, and they love giving hugs. Like most children, they’re the most affectionate things on the planet. The first thing they do when they see me is run over and ask to be picked up. They don’t need a push from their parents, nor do I prompt them, either.
However, the Girl Scouts say we, as adults, need to think about what we’re teaching girls by forcing them to display affection. And by thinking, they mean, how it affects their judgement when they’re older.
The Girl Scouts says it potentially impairs their understanding of consent. Here’s how psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald explains it:
“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. Plus, sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help.”
Now, you can argue that’s propaganda from filthy feminists. And then bring up how society today seems hellbent on destroying the whole “let kids be kids” thing.
And at first, I thought this movement was a little excessive, too. I figured kids know the difference between family and stranger danger. Until I really thought about it.
True, parents have kids hug and kiss family or close family friends. Normally, it’s over something that seemingly requires physical affection. For example, a kiss to thank an uncle for buying such a thoughtful birthday gift. Or, seeing a grandparent that lives across the country for the first time. In both occasions, both the uncle and grandparent expect a hug and a kiss in return.
It seems cute and harmless because they’d never hurt that child. Plus, they want a hug and a kiss because they love their grandchild/niece/nephew. But, as the Girl Scouts say, it puts their needs over that of the child’s.
So, if a child refuses to give out a hug or kiss, parents see that as a rude gesture. And, sure, sometimes kids do behave like brats because they want to act out. However, that situation is very different from when a child truly feels uncomfortable.
And that’s where parents need to realize that their child made a conscious decision about their body and they need to respect it. That’s consent.
Sure, you can ask “why don’t you want to kiss Grandma” and, most likely, you’ll have an answer. Even if the child says, “I don’t want to,” that’s a perfectly good excuse. Especially if it concerns a relative/family friend they don’t see very often.
By forcing a child to hug someone who gave them a present, you subtly teach your child that they
“owe” physical affection. Like it’s a type of currency. Which, sometimes, translates to women later in life struggling with how to accept gifts or how to thank nice gesture.
And, unfortunately, some people prey upon that exact type of conditioning. And, honestly, maybe some guys don’t realize it because it’s become so normalized in our society.
By reaffirming that if a child doesn’t want to hug someone if they don’t want to, it makes it easier for them to say “no” later in life. There’s no gray area, no wishy-washy “but they did such a nice thing for me.” It helps them understand their rights from an early age.
On top of that, parents can also instruct their child other ways to say “thank you.” They can teach their kids how to high five and give air kisses.
I know it sounds strange since I was forced to hug and kiss people I didn’t want to and survived. I’m sure you survived, too. We also know the kids today will survive. But, this movement isn’t about “sheltering” kids.
It’s teaching them to make conscious decisions about their body and preparing them for the Harvey Weinsteins and Kevin Spaceys in the world. There’s plenty of them out there in the world and we’ve all encountered one or two.
So, during Thanksgiving when you have the whole family over, think to yourself why you want your child to hug each and every relative. If you say “because it’s the right thing to do,” then you should ask yourself why you see it that way.
Also, if my nieces don’t want a hug on Thanksgiving, I won’t force it. It won’t kill me because I’ll see them again.
In short, if your son or daughter suddenly doesn’t want to display physical affection, ask them why and work around it. Turn it into a conversation and use it as a teaching lesson for the future. It’s your way to help protect them when they grow up and leave the nest – it’s a lesson they’ll carry around with them for life.