Wednesday, March 5, 2014


I found this post on my Facebook feed:

It was titled "I don't own my child's body". The basic gist of the article can be summed up in this quote:

"When we force children to submit to unwanted affection in order not to offend a relative or hurt a friend's feelings, we teach them that their bodies do not really belong to them because they have to push aside their own feelings about what feels right to them," said Irene van der Zande, co-founder and executive director of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International, a nonprofit specializing in teaching personal safety and violence prevention. "This leads to children getting sexually abused, teen girls submitting to sexual behavior so 'he'll like me' and kids enduring bullying because everyone is 'having fun.' "

I had to hug and kiss and take hugs and kisses from family members I didn't want to hug and kiss. Now, I'm not saying my parents did something wrong. I'm just saying I didn't like it, which in my touchy-feely family was somewhat inconvenient. But given the discomfort it caused me, I will not make my daughter (and any other children who follow her) hug, kiss, or receive such forms of affection if she doesn't want it. If she wants to be hugged or kissed, or do so (and the other person doesn't mind), I won't stop her. But if she doesn't, I'll teach her to give a handshake, high five, or Vulcan handsalute. Something to acknowledge the person's presence and their relationship and be respectful. As opposed to ignoring them, which is not respectful. But any physical touch will be on her terms. I won't teach her that she has to let anyone touch her to make them happy. That can lead to applying that tactic to non-family, non-benign situations. Which I obviously do not want. 

So if, in the future, this little girl gives you a hug and/or a kiss, know it's because she wanted to. Not because I whispered in her ear that she needed to give granny a kiss or that I'd get her ice cream afterwards if she cooperated. Because she feels safe with you. And trusts you with that touch. 

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