“Owning” Your Child’s Body

Growing up, it was customary in my family to kiss and hug our relatives goodbye.

I do remember being told a few times to hug a relative I didn’t feel like hugging at the time, but it was mostly due to my being upset with them for some now-forgotten (and most likely idiotic) reason.

We do instruct our son to hug and kiss his close relatives goodbye, but only those that he knows very well.

What can I say, it’s a tradition in our families.

My daughter is too young to “force” to give hugs, and she often doesn’t want to.  Because she is a capricious toddler, the offended party laughs if off, along with everyone else.

But this article on CNN.com has made me think about the whole hugging relatives thing in an entirely new way, especially for my daughter.

In making my children hug their close relatives, am I really teaching them that their body is not their own?  That their body is something for other people’s pleasure and not theirs?

I’d always considered it an issue of respect to elders and a sign of how close our family is, but maybe I am completely wrong about the whole thing.

What do you think?

5 Responses to ““Owning” Your Child’s Body”

  1. Awesomemom July 3, 2012 at 1:08 am #

    I like the idea of the high five or hand shake. That shows respect with out getting overly personal. I have never been a cuddly person so I have never felt the need to force my kids to be that way either.

  2. lali July 3, 2012 at 1:49 am #

    In my family it was a kiss on the cheek with the occasional accompanying hug — it was a way of being polite. The only problem I had with it is that was at large family gatherings (20 or so adults) — which happened fairly often — then the kissing/hugging could take a great deal of time which we would have preferred to spend playing. It was not an order — we could have skipped it actually — but when we saw that that was exactly the way the grown-ups greeted each other, well, of course we knew that that was the proper thing to do, and we did it too.
    In more traditional families here (the Philippines), the kids are expected to perform the mano po — the child would lift the adult’s hand to their forehead (with a little bow) as a sign of respect. This is done with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and godparents. Many continue to do the mano po with the older members of the family into their adulthood — again, as a sign of respect for their elders.

  3. marvel July 3, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    I do request that the kids “say goodbye” to relatives/adult friends, but I let them choose whether it’s hugs/kisses or a wave of the hands. If it’s grandparents, they always run for hugs and kisses anyway. It it’s anybody else, it doesn’t really matter. But I don’t think I would force them to be physically affectionate with someone they didn’t want to be — there are other ways of showing respect.

  4. Seana July 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    At the root of it, we are primates, and touching in someway is part of the social greeting/parting that outdates speech. I think it is ok to ask children to hug certain familial individuals, but as anyone knows, if the kid doesn’t want to, it’s likely more of a scene to force them than to just shrug and apologize to the person they have refused to hug, and leave with a “oh well, next time!” I do think hugging is an important part of social interaction though and the further we get from it, the more removed our society is from one another.

  5. La Petite Acadienne July 3, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    I think that as long as it’s not pushed, it’s fine. If the child doesn’t want to, and the person nags or otherwise pushes it, then THAT is telling the child that you don’t care if they are uncomfortable, and it’s not respecting their bodily autonomy. But suggesting that they give Nana and Papa a kiss and a hug? Harmless. I tend to phrase it as, “Do you want to give Nana and Papa a hug and kiss?” rather than “Go give them a kiss and a hug.” That way, he knows he has an out. And sometimes he does say no, at which point he still has to come and say hello or goodbye politely.