Consent is about much more than saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ — it’s about deciding your response for yourself, feeling comfortable in your decision and not being swayed by others to act in a certain way.
A new essay released by The Girl Scouts discusses this very topic, according to Glamour; called “Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays,” the essay warns parents to not force their children to “hug or kiss relatives and other people” and not make their children believe that they “owe” someone a hug by sheer virtue of their relation.
While Glamour reports that much has been made about the message the piece is sending, with some criticizing the essay for sexualizing greetings among family members, the piece makes clear that it is not about this. It is instead about not having parents impose their will on their children while letting kids decide who they feel comfortable greeting and how. An excerpt reads:
“Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes’ another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life.”
And this, says Glamour, doesn’t mean that kids won’t naturally decide to hug or kiss family and friends; the point is to not force those who are hesitant and perhaps encourage other polite ways of interaction.
As the piece so succinctly concludes, “Give your girl the space to decide when and how she wants to show affection.”