One night I was having dinner at a restaurant, and I observed a familiar scene. A group of friends finished up their dinner, and got up to leave. They began to say their goodbyes. One of the adults had a young child. The parent instructed her child to give her friend a hug and kiss. The kid didn’t want to. The parent insisted. After some complaining and shaking her head, the child obeyed.
Can we stop forcing our kids to kiss people?
2 Reasons We Shouldn’t Force Our Kids to Kiss People
I think there are 2 reasons why we shouldn’t force our kids to kiss people.
- Forcing kids to kiss people doesn’t help develop their assertiveness and independence. Yes, children need to learn to listen and obey their parents. But they also need to develop their internal “muscle” for assertiveness and independence. Kids need to learn they have power. Kids need to know they can say “yes” and they can say “no,” and these words actually cause changes in the world and people around them.
- Forcing kids to kiss people can instill a message saying they don’t have control over their own bodies. One of the most important lessons to teach young children is they have control over their own bodies. Kids should know from day one that no adult is allowed to touch them without their permission. Children need to be able to express in a loud voice when they do not want an adult to touch them or enter their personal space. This lesson is for their safety. However, when parents force children to kiss people, parents send a mixed message. It’s as if parents are saying, “You have control over your own body… except in these situations which happen quite often.” These mixed messages are confusing for kids. It’s better to keep the message consistent.
Respect Children’s Autonomy
Instead of forcing children to kiss people when they don’t want to do so, I think we should respect children’s autonomy and teach them they have power and control over their own bodies. This power means they can say “no” when they aren’t comfortable touching another adult… and their “no” is okay and will be respected.
Discussion: What do you think about making your kids hug and kiss your family or friends? Why do you think this is normal practice in our society? What can we do to teach kids they have power and control over their own bodies?