Here’s the thing… it is okay for our kids to say, ‘No’ to hugs and kisses. After all, a child’s body is their body and they are the boss of it.
So When Auntie Jeanie or Grandpa Bob comes in for that big smoochy kiss or that crushing bear hug, it is absolutely fine for your child to say, ‘No’.
In fact, both Auntie Jeanie and Grandpa Bob need to be educated in this space. They need to know that asking your child’s permission for a kiss or hug is a necessary requirement. It is not okay for the ‘said relatives’ to assume that they can just come on in to your child’s body space and take whatever affection they want. Consent is the key here! Adults, teenagers and other children need to ask for that hug or kiss, and if consent is not given, then ‘No’ does mean ‘No’, and this ‘No’ needs to be respected and adhered to.
Which brings me to another point, guilt. It is never okay to make a child feel guilty if they decide not to give their consent to various forms of affection. None of the old, ‘Poor Grandpa. He looks so sad.’ Or, ‘Just give Auntie Jeanie a little kiss. She has come all this way to see you.’ This kind of rhetoric is not okay. Not sharing your body does not warrant a guilt response. Girls, in particular, grow up feeling a sense of guilt about many things — guilty about being assertive (often termed ‘bossy’), guilty about being too loud, guilty about eating ice-cream, guilty about saying ‘No’ to that ‘nice boy’. Guilty about so many things! (BTW: please feel free to add incidences where you were made to feel guilty growing up, and even now as adult.)
When a child says, ‘No’ to a hug or a kiss from any person, let’s be clear about this, it is their right. They should never be made to feel guilty. This kind of ‘guilting’ has consequences as your child grows into a teenager and an adult. It can undermine their confidence and make them feel that when things go wrong it is their fault. As parents we want our children to feel empowered. We want them to be proud of who they are and that their decisions are respected. Saying ‘No’ is okay, and respecting that ‘No’ is crucial.
Jayneen Sanders is the author of the children’s book ‘No Means No’, and books for children on body safety, consent, gender equality, respectful relationships and emotional intelligence. For more information go to: www.e2epublishing.info All Jayneen's books are available on Amazon.