We try to teach our children that their bodies are their own and no one has the right to do to them anything they don’t like. And yet, how often do we insist that they give kisses and cuddles to their grandparents, aunties and uncles, often against our children’s will? Aren’t we sending a mixed message?
These are not my thoughts, but Jennifer Lehr’s from “Good job!” and other things we shouldn’t say or do, who shared them in the latest Organic tribe call.
It got me thinking…
I come from a culture where people don’t automatically kiss and hug each other when they meet. If you meet me in person and you want to give me a hug, I won’t pull back, but I won’t initiate it unless I’m feeling exceptionally emotional or you’re my best friend and I haven’t seen you for 6 months. Even as an adult I often feel uncomfortable with hugging and kissing people I don’t know well. That’s why I’ve never expected it or actively encouraged my children to do it. But my husband’s family is different. It is customary for everyone to hug and kiss each other every time they meet or say goodbye.
I remember some time ago my husband offered rewards to our children if they kissed and hugged grandma and grandpa once they got to their place. I felt strongly against it, but got overruled on this occasion. At that time the connection between forced hugs and offering your body to please someone else had not crossed my mind, but I still felt that I wanted my children to build a genuine relationship with their grandparents, one that happened over time. I didn’t want them to show outward respect but then just visit for the treats that they were getting. Taking Jennifer’s thoughts one step further the whole situation can be seen in a different light – we were paying our children to use their bodies to please other people.
We’ve been blessed with strong-willed children who are in touch with their feelings and not easily swayed by rewards. My husband’s plan never worked. The children didn’t start hugging grandma and grandpa until they felt comfortable enough to do so. It shows that children will develop relationships in their own time and there is no need to push them. If we do, they may or may not get the message that their bodies are tools for pleasing others… but why take the risk?
Linking to IBOT at Diary of a SAHM.