Should a Child Be Forced to Hug Someone?

July 24, 2015
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With the holidays approaching in the next couple of months, many children will be spending time with extended family members they might not see on a regular basis. Naturally, aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers might expect displays of affection from your little ones.

Although it might seem impolite to decline a hug or a kiss from an Aunt Sue, if your child isn’t comfortable with hugging someone, should you force the issue?

According to materials from FamilyHelpCenter.net, one important step to teaching children about improper touch — and possibly shielding them from sexual abuse — is making it known that kids are in charge of their bodies. They are the boss of who touches their body and how.

For this reason, forcing a child to kiss or hug a relative could be sending the wrong message. By teaching kids that it’s completely fine to say no to unwanted touches from family members and other people they know, they will be able to stand up for themselves if ever put in a situation of sexual abuse — or at the very least, they will be able to know what happened was wrong and can tell a trusted adult about it.

A widely read and shared article from CNN titled “I Don’t Own My Child’s Body” also provides many expert-backed reasons why children should never be forced to show affection. The sad reality of sexual abuse is that more times than not, the abuser is a relative or close friend of the family

“When we force children to submit to unwanted affection in order not to offend a relative or hurt a friend’s feelings, we teach them that their bodies do not really belong to them because they have to push aside their own feelings about what feels right to them.”

said Irene van der Zande, co-founder and executive director of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International, in the CNN article.

“This leads to children getting sexually abused, teen girls submitting to sexual behavior so ‘he’ll like me’ and kids enduring bullying because everyone is ‘having fun.’ “

On the flip side, many parents might argue that “a hug is just a hug,” and the polite thing to do is reciprocate great-grandma’s hug. Ultimately, moms and dads choose the physical boundaries while kids are very young. It’s up to parents to instill respect for others into their children. But it’s also up to parents to help children learn respect for their own bodies and wishes.

33 Comments

  1. Suzanna Armendarez

    December 18, 2015 at 4:45 am

    My x-daughter-in-law is dating a guy that molested is own son..His wife got soul custody of the kids…Anyway, my grandson told us she try to make them hug him and he carry my grand-daughter who is 5years old…We told them about him.But their mother Lacy still have him around them., we just wantto protect them from him and my dumbass x-daughter-in-law Lacy….The court need to keep him away kids and he work in a hospital….(RN)…

    • Terry513

      September 21, 2016 at 1:10 am

      if you can afford to do so, file change of custody from your ex-daughter-in-law to you. It will cause problems but if CPS has been out there to investigate, it will be easier. No child should be around a molester. Once many years ago, I was trying to find a roommate to rent my extra bedroom and bath for a portion of the rent. You would be amazed at the amount of men that applied and I had to say no. One wanted to see the apartment and talk to me so I let him come over. He was very upfront with the fact that his ex had filed charges on him because of her daughter. I told him that I couldn’t rent to him because I had several granddaughters that would be coming over to visit and I wouldn’t put them in that kind of position. He tried to convince me that the girlfriend was trying to ruin him so he couldn’t get an apartment but I didn’t rent to him. A few years later, while talking to a new employee who came to work at my job, she was telling the story of a man, (same one) that had molested her daughter and she filed charges on him. When I found out his name and where he lived, I knew that wa the same one that tried to rent my bedroom. I’m sure there are men out there who are accused falsely but they are rare. I saved a lot of headaches for myself and my GDs and their parents so what I’m trying to say if that once a man is accused of molesting anyone especially his own child, believe him and don’t let him near your children. Do what you can to keep the child away from the guy she’s dating even if you have to report her to CPS.

  2. Christine Williams

    July 7, 2016 at 1:30 am

    Jen Thomas Maggiolino

  3. Eva Elizabeth

    July 7, 2016 at 1:40 am

    I didn’t read the article but none should be forced to do anything. If as an adult we feel uncomfortable , how would a child feel ? Respect the space .

  4. Christina Stricklin

    July 7, 2016 at 1:54 am

    No

  5. Lena Rivera Bolton

    July 7, 2016 at 2:15 am

    No

  6. Louise Delaney-Joyce

    July 7, 2016 at 3:23 am

    I used to say to my boy give nana and pop a kiss and a cuddle goodbye now he doesn’t always want to so I let him decide.

  7. Kelly Gutknecht

    July 7, 2016 at 4:12 am

    Absolutely not

  8. Jessica Evans Kasecky

    July 7, 2016 at 4:28 am

    No way!!

  9. Tanya Elston

    July 7, 2016 at 4:44 am

    No

  10. Gloria M Garcia

    July 7, 2016 at 5:17 am

    Nooooo. That was the old way and it was wrong!

  11. Heather Martin Gray

    July 7, 2016 at 6:12 am

    No!

  12. Hana Hana

    July 7, 2016 at 8:19 am

    I’d rather have my kids watch me express my feelings through hugging and cuddling. They’ll surely model my behavior but they need to be free to decide with whom and when they want to do it. I trust their judgment.

  13. Renèe Tonio

    July 7, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    No!!

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  15. Andrea Anderson

    July 7, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Never…even grandma and grandpa. They definately should be allowed that choice if anything. Hugging involves their body and if they don’t feel comfortable, don’t force them, there may be a reason.

  16. Michelle Eden-Duval

    July 7, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Never.

  17. Alexandra Flores

    July 7, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    Absolutely not

  18. Jess 'Maki' Savolainen

    July 7, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    It’s also awful when someone (relative, friend) says to your kid; give me a hug/kiss and then I will give you this treat or whatever thing they have. It makes the kid feel forced because they want the treat.

  19. Lynn Mac

    July 7, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    No its down ro the child

  20. Melanie McKinney

    July 7, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    No! Would you like to be forced to hug anyone?

  21. Joanne Taylor

    August 8, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    No, I don’t believe it us right to force your child to hug someone

  22. Benish Shahid

    August 8, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Never force a child to hug, kiss, or meet some one. Doesn’t matter who that some one is.

  23. Dawn Oates

    August 8, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    Absolutely not…never force them.

  24. Andrea Leon

    August 9, 2016 at 4:34 am

    True..

  25. nicki

    September 21, 2016 at 3:15 am

    No, kids are like animals, they can sense the good and the scary

  26. Hema David

    October 27, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    Hugs are innocent, and to teach a kid to not show affection will be the death of the future!! That being said…being affectionate, teaching them affection is good. Studies show that children who have had affection THRIVE in their everyday aspect of their lives because they have confidence and support! What parents need to teach is that no matter how old the child is, and in whatever loving way to get the point across that they, 1st and foremost must be honest and tell you everything! As a parent, it is not a control issue.You must not only give independence but be smart enough to know your child and what and where their limits of control are. For example, if anyone should threaten them or hurt them for telling, no matter what they must always feel that they can come to share anything and everything with the person they feel they can trust. To be reassured that there is always someone whom they trust that is there to talk to. And most importantly to make our kids feel they are supported by you!

  27. nancy

    October 28, 2016 at 12:01 am

    My grandchildren generally hug me, but it is at their initiation. I have a young grandson who is very shy. He would not hug me when he was over and I never asked him to. Eventually, he would give me a hug before he left if he felt like it. Now he hugs me when he sees me as he is in school and not as shy, but no, no child should be forced to hug anyone. There was only one time I saw my son have my grandson hug his aunt. He did lift him up to hug her a final goodbye as she had passed away very suddenly. He seemed fine with it, but I was concerned even though my son lifted him to hug her. He was fine and is fine although he often talks about her and asks when he will see her. He was only five. Even though he was fine hugging her I was questioning whether he should or not, but her other nieces and nephews and her children were as well. My son hugged her at the same time as he had his son hug her and we all did something before she was actually passed away.

  28. Jan

    October 28, 2016 at 6:23 am

    Forcing is too strong a word, but I would encourage my children to greet well known relatives with a hug. Children learn from watching parents but at certain ages like to be stubborn or contrary by refusing common courtesies. I think parents need to push past these behaviors by encouraging politeness; please, thank you, and greetings. We can teach safe touch without instilling fear into a 3 yr old about a hug from Grandma. There are also doctors and dentists that have to touch children and parents need to support that that’s okay because you are there. Kids can’t always be in charge of their own bodies and need to trust their parents.

  29. Amanda Blackwell

    November 11, 2016 at 11:55 pm

    Absolutely not. Their body their choice

  30. Alexandra Elena Diosan

    November 12, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    No way!

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