What better place is there to express your parenting concerns than the good ol’ internet? A mother under the username pleasecreateausername recently shared her frustrations about her daughter de ella being “forced into giving or accepting hugs and kisses.” In a post on Mumsnet, the parent asked other users if anyone felt the same way about the issue, after she had explained her position on the matter.
Captioned “Can we stop forcing children to give and accept hugs and kisses?”, the post was shared on the “parenting” channel, receiving a total of 104 replies.
“We don’t want our [dear daughter] who is [3 years old] to be forced into giving or accepting hugs and kisses. We say that it’s her body and her choice of her, “the mother wrote.
The mom explained that she felt “this boundary is challenged almost daily and on most occasions emotional blackmail is used to get the hug eg ‘I will cry if you don’t cuddle me’.” According to the parent, more often than not, the answer ‘no’ is simply “not accepted and they just cuddle and/or kiss her anyway.”
She also raised concern about the importance of children understanding the meaning of consent at an early age: “How can a child navigate keeping themselves safe and understanding consent when they don’t have a choice in the matter?,” she shared.
Towards the end of the post, the mother asked for advice from other users on setting clear boundaries and said: “I want them to respect her when she says no.”
Many users on the platform supported the mom’s opinion.
“I completely agree with this. I’ve always been a firm believer in never making my [dear daughter] hug or kiss anyone,” one user wrote.
“Totally agree with you. It’s awful when adults try to force small children to receive or give hugs and kisses,” another user agreed.
“Children should be taught from a young age, their body their choice,” another commenter added.
Meanwhile, one user has decided to share their own experience:
“Thankfully our family respected this boundary. They found us a bit odd at first, but they knew better than to say anything or lay any guilt trips,” the user shared.
The user also offered advice on the matter: “Start reading them about consent every time it happens and they will stop. Plus your [darling child] will get a good example of standing up for [herself/himself].”
Another user also shared a method that has been working for their child: “We’ve taught ours to stay STOP firmly if someone is doing something they don’t want (like tickling, hugs and kisses).”
“When we are there we can explain to the person that we are teaching them that when they say STOP they can expect the person to stop, so that they know if the person carries on, it’s not right or acceptable,” the user added.
According to parenting and sexual health expert Airial Clark, it’s never too early for children to understand and practice bodily autonomy. In an interview with Parents.com, Clark explained that “affection should be freely given, which means it needs to be freely withheld.”
Clark suggests parents encourage their children to “choose what feels good for them” and offer a few alternatives.
For example, handshakes, high-fives, or a simple wave as a goodbye gesture might be more comfortable for your child than hugging or kissing. And to “set the right expectations for relatives and friends,” Clark advises saying: “‘We’re into high fives right now’; ‘We’re working on personal space’; or ‘I’m teaching my kids to ask before hugging someone. If you ask them if it’s okay before you hug them, that will help them learn.'”
An article published on the Michigan State University website advises parents to offer their children a choice. Other good alternatives to physical affection gestures include a fist bump or a simple “hello/goodbye” upon greeting or saying goodbye. It suggests talking to your relatives and explaining why you aren’t comfortable making your kid hug or kiss. “Many people might not understand at first, but giving an explanation will help alleviate hurt feelings,” the article reads.
It wouldn’t be the first time a Mumsnet post has started a debate about parenting. Newsweek previously covered another post where a mother shared her fear of potentially ruining her daughter’s future by giving her an “unusual name.” Newsweek also reported on a story of how another mom asked other Mumsnet users “Am I Satan?” for wanting to give her daughter’s puppy away from her.