No, I Won’t Make My Child Hug You.
As a mom it’s my job to teach my kids so many things. Manners, ABCs, 123s, respect… the list goes on. There are so many lessons to learn as you grow up, and even more as you grow as a parent. I think sometimes our kids teach us some pretty big things that we never really expect them to.
When I was growing up it was pretty normal to hear, “Go give them a hug hello/goodbye.” Of course, I did because it was the polite thing to do. We tell our kids to be respectful, consider other’s feelings, it’s rude to make someone feel bad or uncomfortable. What happens when the someone that feels uncomfortable is the child? I can tell you that for me, I always felt like saying no but never did, it wasn’t an option. I didn’t want the adult to think I was rude.
I’m a mom now, for quite some time. I started out with these same “rules” for my first child. They didn’t last long. I could see her hesitate before hugging someone we didn’t see often. It really bothered me and took me back to the same feelings I had. I started telling her that if she didn’t feel good about it that it was her choice. Almost 15 years later I stand by that. Especially having a child that is non-verbal, I’m his voice. When I see that he is not “ok” with someone in his space I have to speak up for him. It’s brought on some dirty looks, questions and comments. Without being rude, I explain to them that it’s his body.
It’s my job to make sure that of all the things I teach my kids, that I show them their feelings matter too. If they feel like a handshake is good enough then that shouldn’t offend you. What is offensive is making a child think it’s normal to give affection even if they feel uncomfortable, just to spare someone’s feelings. This doesn’t mean that my kids won’t be caring and compassionate as young people or adults. It doesn’t mean they are rude or that I let them make all the rules. My kids are actually very caring, loving and respectful of other people. They also know the importance of allowing someone to be their own person and to feel safe around them.
A hug is something that we do often in our family. We share hugs to express excitement, happiness, comfort, sadness, to send each other off to work or school, to heal boo boos… Hugs are a feeling of love and safety. So no, I will not make my child hug you. Forcing them to do so would cheapen all of the feelings my kids get from just one embrace. When they do hug you, you will feel the same comfort they do because they genuinely wanted to show you affection.
You should know, that until I became a mother I didn’t realize the true value of a hug. This was a big lesson that I didn’t know I needed. I’m still learning a lot about myself as a parent, but I’m pretty sure this was the biggest so far!