We've all done it before...a relative or close family friend is requesting a hug or a kiss from our child and our child reacts with outright refusal. Perhaps it's an embarrassment on our part or maybe we're trying to save that person from feeling rejected, but whatever the reason, we encourage our child to give that person a hug or kiss against their will.
This may be especially true around the holidays as you're likely to spending time around relatives and family friends that your child may not be completely familiar with and slow to warm up to. As harmful as this may seem, this action that is being done with the best of intentions may be sending our children, specifically our daughters the wrong message and The Girl Scouts are trying to help parents to realize this with a powerful public service announcement.
The public service announcement was initially made and released in 2017 and was named "She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays." With the holidays being right around the corner, The Girl Scouts sent out a reminder to parents on Monday, November 25th, via a tweet about the importance of this message.
The organization says forcing your daughters to hug people when they don't want to could open them up to feeling like they "owe" people this type of intimacy later in life. It could also lead them to feel uncomfortable in situations when they want to say no but don't in fear of being rude or offending someone. This PSA is meant to act as an early lesson about consent for young girls.
While you may think the topic of consent may be too big for kids, studies have shown that children start to form ideas around social norms as early as the age of 3, so giving them the right tools early on could help them with the subject greatly later in life.
On The Girl Scout's website, developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald is quoted as saying “The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children, but the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older."
The Girl Scouts went on to explain that this doesn't mean that kids can choose to be rude and that parents should help their kids to find alternative ways to show their love that doesn't involve their personal space being invaded. Parents are also encouraged to think about this simple action and how the long-term lesson of teaching girls to feel comfortable being vocal about physical actions that they do and don't want to do should take priority over sparing the feelings of someone that you probably only see a couple of times a year.