I read this article this morning and was prompted to throw in my view about it because of the dismissive tone of the headline which made the back of my neck fizz as I read it!
Basically, the experts suggest that we shouldn’t force children to kiss relatives when they are reluctant to do so and should offer a wave or a high five instead because it “protects them from abuse”. The article’s author says this is nonsense.
The way I see it is that children should be encouraged gently to show some sign of affection, with the emphasis on gently. Bu if they say no, or back away then they absolutely should NOT be forced to do it. There are all sorts of trust issues involved, and maybe the best way simply is to offer a wave or a high five until the child feels comfortable getting closer. I can see that some people will argue that Granny gets upset if the grandchildren don’t kiss her, and that “we all kiss each other in this family”, which is fine if it works for all their children, but it won’t be the case for all of them.
I can also see why some people would disagree about the “protects from abuse” aspect of this story.
If, as a parent, you force your toddler to kiss Auntie X or Grandpa Y against their will, what you are doing is not “encouraging affection” but actually you are giving them the message that they are not in control of their bodies, and if an adult says “do this” then they have no choice but to comply. To me, that is abuse. You are not saying that Granny or Auntie or Grandpa are abusing the child at that point, but you are setting up the child’s future chances of staying in control of their choices when it comes to their own bodies later on and being frightened to speak up if they think you will condone abusive behaviour towards them.
It horrifies me that people think it’s ok to force children in this way, especially in this day and age and after the cases of sexual exploitation we read about daily. It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to grasp the notion that if child grows up knowing they have the power to say NO to adults then they grow up that bit safer in a world where exploitation and abuse are commonplace. And where better to start than in the comfort of your own family? If a child is confident that their wish not to give affection is honoured in their own family then they will be stronger to withstand pressures later on in life from places outside it.
I am incensed that the author of this article cannot see this simple fact, and actually argues that the experts are loony-lefty do-gooders with nothing better to do than meddle in family affairs. I can see the point that children should be encouraged to give affection, but there is a world away from encouragement and force. There are all sorts of trust issues involved here and even as a non-expert I can see the sense in the expert’s advice on this matter.
What do you think? Are you of the thought that toddlers and young children should be entitled to say no, or do you perhaps think that at that age they don’t know what they are saying no to and should be forced to comply with family conventions? Are we over-reacting and will child abuse go on whether they are forced to kiss Granny goodbye or not?
Maybe I’m a little sensitive, but I firmly believe that children should always, ALWAYS have a choice about showing affection and loving behaviour. Or not. It’s their choice.
I’d love to hear your view.