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  1. Emma Craig says:

    What a lucky girl to have parents who *get* her! I’m really shy, too, so I can understand where she’s coming from. As parents, our job is to do what’s best for our kids – and if some people think that’s rude…too bad! ;)

  2. I love the hug, handshake or high 5 idea. Great way of letting the child be in control.

    N is fairly shy, or really it’s more like he just needs time to warm up because he’s actually pretty free and easy with his hugs at the age of 3. So unlike me when I was a child – my mum would tell me I came across as rude and sullen at not speaking up to people, but I was just shy and she knew that. I was older and I don’t remember ever having been forced to hug people. I try to give N a choice by asking, do you want to give xyz a hug bye. Sometimes he says no and runs off, which to me is quite funny, and as you say, not everyone always wants to hug people (I know I’m not a huggy sort with my family at all). Other times he’ll go straight over and hug everyone there. But my OH tells him to go and hug xyz. It’s hard to encourage one thing when another parent thinks another.

    Sounds like you’ve got it just right for your daughter, and definitely something I think a lot of other parents would find useful.

  3. Christine says:

    First I have to say I love the “Star Wars Prequel” reference. You can probably guess which camp I’m in.
    Excellent post and a very good point. I will definitely be using this with my kids. Love the hug, handshake or high five!

  4. Before I got too far into this post, I already knew I was going to agree with every word you said. I personally think it is the most ridiculous thing to force or guilt a child into hugging and kissing another adult. Heck, there are many people that I know that I don’t really want to hug or kiss. If adults really want to connect with a child, they can sit and play and laugh right bedside them. That is the best gift for everyone. Love and caring isn’t defined by a quick hug and kiss, but rather by the quality time invested to build a connection.

    1. Totally agree! And I think when properly explained it boggles the mind anyone would force the issue and act like YOU were wrong. Great post, Kelly!

    2. Annette Mazzeo says:

      Boom! You nailed it!

  5. Thank you for this post! I feel the exact same way with my kiddos! And have actually been at odds with their dad for the youngest of my 2. She is beyond non welcoming of anyone most days for quite some time when they first arrive, even her dad at times. I am
    Printing this out for him to read, especially since in here you stated you never force them
    With anyone, even us. He guilts her or forces her to with him and this has been a huge contention point between us. Hoping
    It helps him see it more clearly coming from another source. Thank you again for this post it is fabulous

  6. Laura Laing says:

    My FIL came up with a great solution. He fistbumps with my 14-year-old, reserved daughter. I still can’t help worrying that people will find her rude. I’ve learned to explain (to certain people) that she’s tough to get to know, but the payoff is *amazing*.

    1. I’m a very physically affectionate person and and the touchy-feely sort, but even I understand that different people have different sizes of personal space bubbles. Even from babies you can tell those who prefer their personal space a little wider than others! I’m really glad though that my daughter is as huggy and lovie as I am, I would find it hard to respect her personal space b/c I just want to huggle her all the time. :D But we also teach her high-five, “pound it” (fist bump), and “Bash Brothers” (elbow bump, named after a Nintendo game). The combo has become our secret handshake!

  7. AManNotAmen. says:

    Thank you! I still get fearful goosebumps thinking of the suffocating perfume, the sting of the beards and the smell of tobacco of the elders in my family i was forced to hug and kiss. I am a grown man, yet still i feel helpless, small and guilty when i recall those faces, those times, those feelings of a born sinner, worthless unless i am taught what the dogmatic religion expects. I am a very affectionate and compassionate person, but not physically and somehow that was not enough. Had i had the choice when i was 3, 6 and 12, I might have had way more self-confidence to make and take responsibility for my own decisions. So thank you for understanding and for pointing it out.

  8. I want to thank you for helping to bring the issue into light!

  9. Kathy Smith says:

    I agree with this concept, and I’ve always thought about introducing it to my 2.5 year old and 9 month old… but I struggle with the babies. How does my 9 month old get a say in whether he wants to be hugged or kissed? Especially by me or his dad? Obviously if he is upset with someone else holding him, I take him right back. But are we supposed to not cuddle and kiss our babies until they are old enough to engage themselves in the act? I do adore the hug, handshake or high 5 and will be introducing that because my 2.5 year old is very affectionate and goes for the lip kiss whenever we tell him to say goodbye to his friends lol.

    1. I don’t think she’s saying don’t hug and kiss your baby. In the context of parents, kiss and hug your babies unless they show discomfort or distress.

    2. Our 10 month old (the youngest of 5 children) will just push away from us or try to get down when he’s had enough cuddles. Other times, he will snuggle right up and cuddle until our arms are ready to fall of, and he’s been that way since a few months old. As a rule, I never hand a baby to anyone. If someone I know tries to reach for the baby and he/she willingly goes to them, I’m good with that, but unless I literally have no choice, I don’t just place them in someone else’s arms. It’s never ended well. lol. I would rather let them crawl on the floor or sit in the shopping cart than hand them to someone and have them be uncomfortable. My Mom gets it and won’t even try to pick up a child (mine or anyone’s) if they don’t want to go to her, and if a child gets fussy, she either puts them down or hands them to the parent right away, My MIL tries to force kisses and hugs on all five of my kiddos. I have a few that don’t mind their space being invaded too much, and they will politely accept a kiss and then step away. Others can’t stand it and cringe away or push against her. I’m just honest and tell her they are like me and don’t like to be touched (big matter of contention – she is convinced I wasn’t hugged enough as a child) and that if she wants them to enjoy her company/visit, she should probably give them their space. Once she respects their space, they more often than not snuggle right up next to her for a story. It’s always the first ten or fifteen minutes that are awkward….

    3. Carol Pettit says:

      Babies have body language. Perceptive people can and will read it and know whether touch is welcome.

  10. Tiffany Smith says:

    Thank you so much for the post. This is how I have raised both my girls so far ages 4 an 14 months. My four year old loves to hug people an kiss them but my 14 month old doesnt really like people being in her space. It takes her a long while to warm up even with her daddy it took her a while to want him to be near her. I got told the other day by my grandmother in law that I had her spoiled because she is like this. I very simple told her no she knows who an how she wants to be touched an Im not going to force her to do something she doesnt want. She rolled her eyes at me an then proceeded to tell me that no I have her spoiled. She doesnt really agree with any of my parenting choices but its not her place to say. It just seems odd to me that adults dont have to touch people they dont want to why should I force my child to do the same thing some adults dont want to?

  11. I loved this and totally agree! We probably do say, “Go give Mimi and Papa hugs and kisses,” but we never ever force them too, mainly because that entire scene would turn a pleasant evening into a scene from Super Nanny – before she fixes the parents. We often do high-fives instead of hugs anyway. The kids generally feel more comfortable about those in general.

  12. Actually..i think you have approached this extremely well…i may not use the same exact approach BUT your reasons and way you handle these situations seem extremely well done. I do not force my children to hug or kiss anyone..but a hello is expected….it is respectful…others may see it as rude but i do not…IF my children wish to hug them they choose to do so…their body their choice….i have one who hugs all relatives another who high 5 s them… good with it :)

  13. Thank you thank you for writing this. This has always been my philosophy with my kids. I don’t want them to ever feel like they have to show affection for people if they don’t want to. A hug or a kiss means you are inviting someone to come into your personal space… and that isn’t always okay. Children often have much higher instincts than adults do and there is a reason they feel uncomfortable with some kinds of affection. It’s not our place to question them or tell them they are wrong. Often they don’t have the words yet to describe what they are feeling. That’s okay… it doesn’t mean they “feel” any less.

  14. Wow, I’ve never thought of it this way before… I’ve always said go give Grandma a hug as a reminder, not as a “you must give her a hug or else.” My kids have not wanted to give hugs and good-byes in the past and I’ve never forced them to do it, just left it as that and we leave. My daughter usually cries afterwards because she does love them and doesn’t see them weekly but sees them enough to know who they are and is very sensitive to other’s feelings. I will be changing my words so that my children have the choice, I think this is great! Thank you for posting this and opening my eyes to this.

  15. This is our general concept however, I struggle with addressing people who say, you will give me kisses! And proceed to pick up my child and hug or kiss him. Do you have a script for preempting that or addressing it after? I generally cringe when I see it happening to others as well.

    1. Chelle Rivera says:

      I intervene. Get in the middle of them and let the person know that she will come to them if she’s interested. People have gotten offended, but you know what? My daughter understanding ownership over her body is well worth it. And the people worth having in my life will understand that. No one will stand up for your kid if you don’t.

  16. Love love love this! I struggle with this at church. I was raised to be a people pleaser, however, I have never ever forced my children to hug or shake hands with anyone that they do not want to. I always felt like if I made them do it and they really didn’t want to, I would be teaching them to ignore their own instincts. We moved to a new state in the last year and there are adults greeting and shaking everyone’s hands are we enter church. I do not force either of my children to shake hands, and I get some disapproving looks for it. No, I am not training them to be rude, but if they don’t want to shake hands with an adult stranger, I am not making them. I agree that it is their body, their choice about who touches it. Our previous pastor was great about it, and before long, my kids were some of his biggest fans!

  17. Way to go raising a bunch of emotionally repressed and unaffectionate children who will take this “no touch” business into their intimate relationships with their spouses and children. `My baby wanted to hug me, but I don’t feel like it so I told her to go away and don’t touch me`. That’ll go over well and not damage the child- not.
    It’s ridiculous and crazy to link a hug from grandma to a statistic of rape.
    Sure, teach them about the bad touch and no-one is allowed to touch certain parts, but denying an innocent hug from grandma or even dad because they’re supposed to be hyper aware of any touch? This social experiment is going to go very wrong very fast.
    Meanwhile, my child will be hugged and loved on and not taught that daddy hugging him can set him up for rape in the future.
    We’re the parents who are supposed to teach our kids how to behave in society and be kind, loving, generous, etc. and teaching them that it’s okay to be distant and repressed isn’t helping them.

    1. You took the words right out of my mouth. Hugging grandma is a far cry from rape!

      1. True hugging grandma IS a far cry from rape; but considering the statistics on child-molestation from family members and other “trusted” adults, I think it is only best that Grandmas (and all family members) make a choice to allow children to learn to develop and identify safe boundaries. When uncles are approx. 60-70% more likely to be the abusers of a young girl. It IS absolutely paramount that we, as parents and grand-parents, help a child learn it is okay to so “No” “Maybe later” and most certainly “I am not comfortable with that”. When we start pushing and coercing our children to “just do it anyway” against their guts (beit it Grandma or not) we start blurring and confusing when and who children should and shouldn’t be able to say no to. In my opinion, it can not be underestimated the importance of a child being able to say “No thank you” to a “SAFE PERSON LIKE GRANDMA” …so they will later have the confidence to say “No thank you” to an “UNSAFE” person. There! That’s about as respectful a way as I can put it.

        1. UncleJohn says:

          Hi MomTo5 – I’m an Uncle to 38. Yes that’s right. 38 nieces and nephews and 2 children of my own. You say “uncles are 60-70% more likely to be the abusers of a young girl”. 60-70% more likely than what? Or who? An Aunt? A parent? A pedophile? A mother? If you’re going to use insulting statistics, please state them so they mean something, and give the source. Otherwise one might think you’re making it up. And by the way – # of children I’ve molested = Zero. And if you ask any of the 38, they’re likely to tell you I’m the favorite Uncle.

    2. Donna Jones says:

      How do you know this will raise emotionally repressed children, have you tried it? I have!! I have 2 adult children and one teen, none of which are emotionally repressed or unaffectionate.

      1. That’s how I was raised! I’m 23, ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I’m one of the most loving affectionate people they know. I choose to respect the choices of my nieces and nephews when it comes to hugging me. I offer a hug and if they say ‘no’ offer a high five, but I never act hurt or offended. I feel like I’m then showing them that I respect them. I’m not going to force them to hug me, and I’m not going to challenge them, but because I’m their friend and i love them, I will ask. They warm up to me SOO much faster, and I believe that’s a factor.

        1. Donna Jones says:

          Thank you for sharing, my children are very much the same, its me that says no now lol, not because I don’t want to hug my children because I love them to bits, however my darling son doesn’t live in the same town as me so when we see each other he picks me up and swings me around, not good for my aging body.

    3. Kellie Gubert-Hart says:

      Goodness she doesn’t say she doesn’t lavish her kids with affection but when you force a child to hug grandma or whoever you are teaching them that they don’t have a choice who touches them, they are not in charge of their own bodies. Being able to choose who you have intimate contact with is a basic human right.

    4. Hey I’m a grandma and I would rather let my grandkids warm up to me and hug when they are ready! To me that relationship is so special that I don’t want a forced hug or kiss! And we get to share plenty of hugs and kisses but they are not forced by parents.

    5. Michelle Shaw says:

      I can see your point of view, but I feel like you have taken the story the wrong way. Coming from me, I hated my parents forcing me to hug and kiss family friends and relatives hello and goodbye, because yet I was one of those 1 in 5. I hadn’t told my parents, I didn’t know how, and I couldn’t tell the person to stop, because that person was one of the people my parents were telling me to hug and kiss. My parents know now and regret it everyday. I find it difficult to hug and kiss people now as an adult based on my experience. I have children and I don’t force them to hug and kiss anyone, but with their grandparents I am lucky they feel comfortable enough to do it without encouragement. I instill in them the same ideas as the author of this article however, I can definitely see where you are coming from.

      1. Thank you for sharing a piece of your story. I am so sorry for what happened to you. Thank you for being willing to let others learn or be reminded it can and does happen amongst “family.”

    6. Katie Ambrose says:

      I REMEMBER being that kid who was forced to hug people I did not know and I HATED it. Even as an adult, I’m a pretty big fan of my bubble. I’m definitely not going to do that to my friends. I can surmise that this type of upbringing led me to make some detrimental decisions in my teenage years based on your logic. Truthfully, who knows? But what I DO know is that my kids need to know that NO MATTER THE PERSON, no one has the right to touch them IN ANY WAY if they don’t want to be touched. Period. And your annoyance, faulty logic, and empty accusations surely won’t change anyone’s mind.

    7. I am another where it happened amongst family. If I’m taking a risk of my child being emotionally repressed by letting her choose who to hug, so be it. I’d rather do that than have her grow up thinking she has no control or decision over her body like I did. Those scars hurt way more for way longer than hurting grandmas feelings.

    8. Assuming your son is one of those children whose father is not a child rapist. For lots of children being forced to hug Daddy is exactly what destroys their boundaries and sets them up for rape.

    9. This strategy is not teaching kids to be hyper-aware of touch. It is teaching them that they are in charge of their bodies and setting boundaries that they are comfortable with. It’ is supporting them in the way they feel. Haven’t you ever heard of “grooming?” That’s when a pedophile, or other predator starts with seemingly innocent touch, and then slowly increases it until it’s full-on molestation. The child, or other victim has a hard time figuring out where the line is and when it’s okay for them to say no or stop. Especially if they have adults they trust telling them to go give other adults hugs and affection when they feel uncomfortable with it. DO you have any idea how high the rate is for children being molested? Somewhere between 1 in 3 and 1 in 8, depending on the child’s gender. It still happens more often to little girls, though the rate that it happens to little boys is rising rapidly, too. I was molested by my step-grandpa as a child. I didn’t want to give him hugs or kisses because it made me feel uncomfortable, even before he really did any touch that an adult would consider wrong. You mention teaching your kids about bad touch, which is also important, but what about all the “in between” stuff that happens with the sicko is grooming them? What about when they are held too tightly an he won’t let them go, and makes them feel trapped and panicked? What about when he is sure to press against her back to push any 10 or 11 year old breast buds up against him and rub them against his chest in a very discrete way? What about when he starts slipping the tongue during kisses? I wish that I had felt that I could refuse without being embarrassed or shamed, or have it insisted on that I give him a hug and a kiss anyway.

    10. She never said that she rejects her child’s hugs, just that she allows her child to reject other people’s hugs. If the child wants a hug, give them a hug. If they don’t, DON’T FORCE THEM!

      Certainly, a child who is denied physical affection will not turn out well. But it’s a pretty big leap to go from ‘my child is not forced to hug’ to ‘my child is forced not to hug’. Especially when she explicitly describes ASKING her child if she wants to hug someone.

    11. I can’t count the number of sexual abuse survivors I’ve heard say that they were abused or molested by a family member who the young were then made to hug/sit on the lap of/kiss or otherwise touch because either their family didn’t believe them and continued to force “normal” interactions, or else the child was too afraid to tell their family and had to go along with the charade of “normalcy.” I’m not saying treat your family member like sex offenders, but you never know when you are making a situation even more unbearable by forcing physical touch when something hasn’t gone wrong. Maybe if children were taught self-agency like in the article above then they would feel comfortable saying “no” to Uncle Ted molesting them before being made to sit on his lap at the Christmas gathering. It may not exist in your family but the stats show it exists in way too many

    12. You lack understanding of child developmental psychology. People whose boundaries are respected feel much more safe opening up to people than those who have had even their smallest boundaries constantly crossed.
      When a child grows up learning that their boundaries will be crossed, they will TIGHTEN their boundaries and in that case THEN they will be repressed and shy adults.
      People who feel comfortable and safe expressing ANY boundary are much more outgoing.
      Your understanding of human psychology is entirely lacking. And that is coming from a university psychology student.

      1. (My above comment: @annoyed
        Idk how these replies show up)

  18. I think that the kindergarten teacher is coming from the right direction. It is good manners to say good bye and hello. It is good manners to make eye contact (instead of staring at your feet) when you are greeted and reply verbally to compliments. I like to add waving as a touch free option for situations where the human (I don’t think this is a child issue alone) doesn’t want contact. I agree that it is important for all humans (kids included) to feel in control of their personal space and how other people interact with them. I am struggling with the grandma part though. Why do we hug/kiss grandma hello/goodbye? It is more than manners. It is respect and affection. A way to say a special greeting to someone who is extra special…just like hugs and kisses goodnight from Mom/Dad. I don’t expect my children to show affection to the extended family members that they are less familiar with, but Grandma, she totally deserves a hug hello and goodbye – to be polite. Maybe the discussion to have here is why to hug her and how it demonstrates good manners and shows how much we love her. If my kids try to skip this it is most certainly a power struggle and one I am not willing to lose. We have a similar struggle with photos. SO we discuss, Why do we take a pic when we see (long distance) cousins? BC picts help us remember how fun it is to hang out with these special people and when Grandma sees your picture she does’t miss you so much. Since we can’t be with them all of the time, they can keep our picture with them to remember how much fun we have when we can be together. Do three year olds like to have their pictures taken? of course not. do they have to do it anyways, you bet. It is more than manners.

  19. Why would you want a hug that a child had been directed to give? It wouldn’t have any meaning and I wouldn’t want to place A child in an uncomfortable situation. They are little but they have the rights to their own body.
    I am extremely affectionate by nature but even with my own kids I sometimes ask if they want a cuddle Or not if they’re in a mood. It’s not about rape it’s about respecting their personaL space and giving them the confidence to speak up when someone doesn’t.

  20. I have never forced my grandchildren to hug me, but because they are all being brought up with love, I get hugs and kisses every time I see them and so does Poppy. They are very aware of what is a good hug and a bad hug, and know that if they feel uncomfortable with someone hugging them, they can refuse, and then talk about it with Mum and Dad if they want to. One of my nephews was very shy and never let me hug him when he was little. I never forced the issue, and it was his choice. He took a shine to my daughter though, and crawled up on the lounge and she read him stories. She was the only one who had not tried to cuddle him in the beginning though. She just ignored him and he came to her. Yes, I agree children should not be forced to hug anybody, but don’t go overboard with the attitude that all hugs are to be greeted with suspicion either. And don’t let it be an excuse for bad behaviour. Respect should always be maintained.

  21. Lauren Jacks says:

    Great story! I completely agree with you!!

  22. KUDOS to you for this post and the success this mindset has had with your daughter!!!!! I come from a family of “huggers”. For me that is okay. What is not okay, for me, is when it becomes an issue of “hug me or no Christmas presents” “Give me a kiss or I’ll give your birthday presents to someone else”. Even if intended as a harmless “joke or teasing” it still sends the message of trading controls. I’ll be sharing this all over :)
    BTW, our son gets to choose every morning at pre-school if he’d like a “Hello, Hand-shake, High-Five, or Hug”. The 4 choices are pictured near the door and the teacher always asks, each kid individually, “How would you like to be greeted today?” I think I might try incorporating that question for my own children, nieces and nephews, and other children…who knows maybe others will pick up on it!

  23. Brilliant article on an emotive subject. I don’t agree with it in the slightest…but I appreciate the argument. I live in Spain, where it is completely normal for a STRANGER to kiss you. I’ve had old ladies in the street pick up my child from their pushchair to squeeze their cheek, hug and kiss them. Men give kids candy in the stores and ask for hugs. Teachers cradle, hug, kiss and cuddle the children in their class. They even (and this will FREAK you out) have sleepovers in kindergarden for 1-5 year olds and if the child wakes in the night they may even sleep with the (female) teacher. Imagine that in your world!! It is merely a cultural thing (and believe me it pays off, the teenagers in this country have much better relationship with adults than in other countries as they are accepted). I believe that in a world full of segregation and repression it is wonderful to have affectionate, loving, gregarious, confident children who are open in spirit. This article prompted me to ask my five year old about touching and she knows exactly what is inappropriate (phew, thought it best to check) yet it fills me with pride that she will hug mummy’s friends with no coercing….because I love them, and she trusts me.

    1. But a culture like this still doesn’t mean the children are forced if they didn’t want to. Plus.. the rape rate in the US is almost 10 times that of Spain. Something needs to change here and it might just be initiated by empowering our children and respecting what boundaries they have.

  24. Well stated, I agree completely, we need to empower our children by teaching them they have control of their own bodies. It is definitely hard to put the idea into action, sometimes I catch myself pressuring my kids to give goodbye hugs.

    Also, I definitely have received some crazy looks when I attempt to articulate my stance on this issue to family members. Thank you, I will be sharing your essay. :)

  25. Katie Ambrose says:

    I tend to be pretty aware of this type of stuff too. I’ve never been sexually assaulted, but I guess I was sexually molested when I was 15 by my then 20 year old boyfriend. I tend to even stop tickling my kids if they say stop. I think sometimes though I can get caught up in the mommy and daddy of it. With strangers, or distanced family members, there’s no way in hell I would force my kids to touch them or hug them if they didn’t want to. But at home, I think we tend to use the “that hurts my feelings” or “that hurts daddy’s feelings” card more often than we realize if my kids don’t want to hug us. Thanks for the reminder!! This is definitely something I find VITALLY important, and I def want to make sure we’re honoring their bodies in all situations:-)

  26. Overprotective says:

    IMO you are setting up your kid to believe that how they feel trumps how other people feel. You said how it does not matter how the grandparents feel, they are adults. That is dangerous. The hug goodbye, the high five, the handshake are all greetings and are meant to show respect and affection. I get your kid is shy but all you are doing is playing and spoiling her by not helping her break past her shyness. Soon she will not feel comfortable hugging you, what now? What is she feels like NOT doing her homework? This is amateur parenting at best and shows a thread of thinking you have that will end with a self-centered adult who in the end will do the same to you. Others matter and that has to be taught. We should be teaching emotional maturity and sometimes that does not feel comfortable. And if you think hugging grandma when you were a child will lead to rape is a bit dramatic … but it is your blog.

    1. Mandi_Leigh says:

      Are you serious? You are stating you are okay with forcing a child to do something that makes her feel uncomfortable, that bothers her badly, with HER body(NOT yours) simply because you the adult want her to? I sincerely hope you are never around any children. If you did that to my child, forcing her to hug/kiss you just because you the adult wanted her to, I would likely call the police. Forcing a child to do something with their body that makes them feel uncomfortable( and no, homework, etc are not in that category) is abuse. I have worked with children for years. I have two teaching degrees, have been a Nanny, and have children of my own. You have some pretty serious issues if you think that overcoming shyness, or feeling uncomfortable with touching others, is as easy as forcing them to your will, you don’t need to be around children. All you will do is make it worse, and lead to likely permanent mental side effects.

    2. Proactive Parent says:

      Not amateur parenting at all. We need to respect people’s basic personalities, whether or not they match up with our expectations of what is “typical.” She may outgrow her shyness, she may not, but as adults I think it’s our job to be more accepting of differences rather than trying to force our kids into one-size-fits-all. I can only imagine how imsulting your argument to force touch on kids is to an Aspie or someone on the spectrum. And I applaud this mom for teaching her kids the basics of consent. Maybe if more people would teach their kids that no one has a right to touch them without permission and vice versa–if someone tells you to stop touching them you need to stop–then our sexual assault statistics could finally drop.

    3. “IMO you are setting up your kid to believe that how they feel trumps how other people feel.”

      And why shouldn’t her feelings trump theirs? It’s her body. Her body does not belong to them.

  27. 100% agree, for the reasons you give. People who don’t think it happens are in denial. It does. I know. And I feel the same way and do the same with my kid. And I’m going to start the hug/handshake/high-5 with my child :)

  28. Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! As a mom of six kids, I agree 185% and think this is spot on! I think the most important thing being said here is that you are taking the intuitive road of child discernment. You are knowing YOUR children and listening to THEM and guiding their hearts and minds in the best way you know. And it is repeatedly annoying to me right now that there is this underlying principle of “avoiding offense” that sickens my stomach because it is at the heart of nearly every major dividing issue in the country right now. “When I became [an adult] I put childish ways behind me.” Sadly, the culture right now is in a constant state of attempting to make people into clones who all think and act the same, right down to the way a child speaks or thinks. Great post. Great wisdom. And, I’ll be teaching my kids the “hug, handshake, or high five” slogan today!

  29. I loved this, thank you.
    My son is nearly 3 and he is very, very affectionate to most people. However, sometimes he doesn’t want to hug people and I don’t make him.

    Our rule is that touch is options, but manners are not; he is required to say hi/bye, but not required to give hugs/kisses. Most of the time he wants to. Sometimes he doesn’t.

    But int he end, how can I teach my son to one day respect others’ bodily integrity and consent, or I override his own?

  30. Not a parent, but THANK YOU for this post. I wish more people would teach their children this, and certainly wish my parents had for me. Wonderful, WONDERFUL post.

  31. As someone who has always been uncomfortable with physical contact, this makes me very happy to read. I’m in a long distance relationship, and my husband understands that I need a few hours, sometimes even the whole night, before I can slip back into a familiar intimacy with him after our 3-6 month breaks between seeing each other.

    My daughter was not a physically affectionate child from the get-go (whereas I was physically affectionate as a child but later became the opposite), and people treated that like it was a flaw in her. I got really tired of defending HER choice to not be glued to me or her dad or her grandparents like they all expected her to. Frankly, I don’t know how I would have managed a kid who needed to be close to me all the time. She’s much more interested in sitting near her immediate family and hugging us all now, but it took her 12 years, and she has no interest in touching/being touched by her extended family that she doesn’t see nearly daily. And that’s 100% okay.

  32. i agree with you. i don’t really remember ever having to touch an adult i didn’t want to. when my stepdaughter was probably 7 her mother made her kiss her boyfriend on the lips to say goodbye. it was obvious how uncomfortable my child was and when we spoke to her mother about it later her mother told us that was just the way things are. that girlie sees him as a father figure (she is 10 now and has spent 4 months of her life total with him) and she wants to do it. made me so sad her own mother wasn’t able to see how uncomfortable she was. we have since told girlie she does not have to do that if she doesn’t want to and they we actually find it kind of creepy…

  33. Jen Bauer says:

    Yes yes yes! I am parenting my kids the same way. My 4yo and I regularly discuss how she is the one in charge of her body. I think you’re right – we shouldn’t force kids to have any physical interaction they are not comfortable with!

  34. So I see your point, especially with extended family & those the children are not especially close to. I would never FORCE a child to hug/kiss a person. But we are a very touchy family. We hug and kiss a lot. I wouldn’t dream of asking my child if I can touch them before doing so and most of our family would do the same. I just hug a kid or kiss the top of their head. If they shy away or show a sign they aren’t comfortable, I don’t keep doing it. But it’s totally natural to show affection through touch.

    One thing you didn’t address, I don’t believe it’s OK for a child to be RUDE. It’s fine if they don’t want to be touched. Nothing wrong with that and it’s good that she can use her words to express this. And she is also allowed to be shy – but we’ve always told our son that he can’t be RUDE. Acknowledge the person talking to you, even if it’s with a polite smile and a ‘Hi’. You don’t have to hug/kiss/shake hands or hold a long conversation. But it is NOT OK to completely ignore a person who is speaking to you.

    1. Glad you pointed that out! I was thinking that too. I never make my kids hug anyone they do not want to hug, but they need to acknowledge the person with a simple hello and smile.

  35. I read your post because you address things I never even stop to think about. Being that one in five women, I know what its like. I’m a little ashamed I have pushed my 2 yr old niece into giving hugs. But now I’ll definitely think twice about doing it with my own daughter. I never want her to go through what I did as a kid. Thank you for addressing this.

  36. Just say no says:

    I, like you, taught my daughters the same thing, for the same reasons. I had an experience that I didn’t even know was wrong until I was much older. Why? Because on my paternal side, children were not permitted to say no. It took me saying, quite vocally, “No, sorry, I don’t force my girls to give hugs and kisses. If they want to, they will.” Now, as other family members have had children, they’ve followed my example. :)

  37. Great article! We do the same thing. Since my daughter was around 1 she just didn’t like people in her personal space and it obviously made her uncomfortable. I can’t tell you how many times we have gone out and complete strangers have invaded her personal space by grabbing her hands or pinching her cheeks because she is “just so cute!” They would just walk right up to her and touch her without even asking! My daughter would cry and try to turn away or withdraw from them. When i would tell the stranger to stop touching my child the stranger would get offended! Like they had any right to just walk up to her and touch her. Most of the offenders were older grandmotherly women. Once I actually grabbed an older womans hand as she was reaching for my daughter. The woman was super offended! She told me to stop touching her as I had no right. At that point I turned around and told her she didn’t have any right to touch my daughter either so back off. These early incidences have only added to my daughter’s insistence on her personal space. My DD is now 2.5yo and we do the hug, high five or fist bump with family and friends. We ask her what she feels comfortable with and with whom. If she doesn’t want to then we say ok that’s fine. Sure the family member or friend might be a little disappointed but now they understand. When we first started letting our daughter (around 1 yo) decide if she wanted to hug or kiss a family member or friend they made a big deal if she didn’t want to. Some of them still tried to force her and she would desperately try to wiggle and run away. I had to be firm with them and tell them it’s her body it’s her choice. She will hug or kiss you when she wants to so don’t force it. Now she is very affectionate and loving, but on her terms.

  38. Melissa Renno says:

    Couldn’t agree more! Way to go Mama! We do the same thing with our 2 boys and even as young as 2 1/2 years old our oldest learned to say “No thank you” when asked for a hug or even just a high five. He’s even told people “I don’t want you to touch me please” when people come up to him at church and pat his head or whatever. It still amazes me how people feel they have those liberties in the first place. I was forced to give hugs and kisses as a child and I will never do that to my kids.

  39. Mommy of one says:

    I really like this and coming from someone who was molested when I was 5 by a family member then becoming a victims advocate for sexual assault and domestic violence it makes so much sense. We would teach “My Body is My own”. Thank you for this post!

  40. As an adult who does not like touching people or being touched by others most of the time, we add “wave goodbye or blow a kiss” to the options. We acknowledge purple but we do not have to actually touch then to greet or say good bye.

  41. I can totally relate to this.. I remember as a child having to hug and kiss all these relatives I would see once a year and they were like complete strangers to me.. My mother only sees her Grandchildren once a year, my kids don’t know her and don’t want to hug her and she tells me all the time I have rude kids.. But if she actually made the effort to be in their lives she would get a much different response. My Mother In Law who is in my kids lives regularly is knocked over with hugs and kisses from my children. I never force them to hug and kiss anyone, but I do make them use ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’ and be considerate of others

  42. I totally agree with you. Sadly not all do. My oldest son wasn’t a hugger and people use to say he was stingy with his hugs and kisses. Now my daughter who just turned 10 doesn’t hug unless she is 100% comfortable. She wouldn’t hug my father her grandfather for years. He got so offended that he wouldn’t talk to her for about a year. This was when she was about 3 My mother babysat twice a week. He would stay in his den and not come out until I picked her up. I never force her to hug him now at 10 she will if I say do you want to hug him but not all the time. Sadly he never really connected to her or tried to like he is with his other grandkids. His loss. All because she isn’t forced to hug him. Funny she has people she will run up to and hug no prompting and others she will stand by my side. I tried explaining to my parents why I wont force it but they don’t want to hear it. I agree what is posted below if they really want to show love they can do many things read to the child, take interest in what the child is doing. Go to the childs activities and support them.

  43. Danielle T says:

    I raised my kids the same way(much to the disagreement of family).but I believed it’s their choice. I don’t feel any need to push them into something they are not comfortable with and I had my choices confirmed when I took a class in prep for foster parenting. telling them they don’t have a choice opens them up to child abuse. many people think well it’s just uncle so and so I’ve known him my whole life, but children are most likely to be assaulted by someone they know. and are made to feel like they have to do what they are told because that person is an adult. giving them the choice means if something ever were to happen they know saying no is ok and that they can come to you knowing you wont be mad at them for saying no.

  44. I’ve read this concept long when raising my boys. They are 30 ish now. I agree with you. And now I have have an amazing 3 yr old grandson. While I love his hugs of affection, I don’t make him show it unless he wants to. However my daughter in law thinks he should because she sees it as rude I guess. So I give him my affection /hugs and say, that’s ok about him returning it. It’s great that you’ve shared it. This Grammie agrees.

  45. mitch lee says:

    love I,t love it, love it, I too don’t like to hug ppl I don’t know, only my close family get to hug me, I too let my children decided if its a hug or a high five, my daughter is very affectionate and will give a hug, my son not so much,( I think that’s a boy thing ) he is out going and is not shy, he is a high five first then a hand shake cos he`s of that age, then like me , a hug, The post was right on the nail , its very important for ppl young and old to be the ones to decide who touches them.

    1. Just wanted to comment that it’s definitely not a boy thing! I know many male children and babies who are very physically affectionate. It’s just a personality thing :)

  46. I’ve been doing this for years with my nieces, nephews and own children. I have a great nephew that I may see 3-4 times a year. This child doesn’t know me, but his aunt ( when she has him with her) always says give aunt…. a kiss / hug. I’ll say how about five (high five)instead.If he doesn’t want to give five either, oh well. I don’t believe in invading someone’s personal space.

  47. muzziklady says:

    What a refreshing article. Basically you empower your children more and prepare them for adulthood. These children will grow to being more open with Mom & Dad when they have a problem during those dreadful puberty and teen years. Maybe even more open to trying thingsout of her comfort zone when they know that you are so supportive.
    I like how you ask if ahe wants to give a hug quietly, so the family member doesn’t have to hear a terrifying scream of “No! I DONT WANNA!”
    It’s different, and not everybody’s style, but they aren’t the parents of your children!
    Parent/teach on!

  48. Ok. So I have so much I want to say, mainly because this article says everything that I am trying to impart on my family. Nothing drives me crazier than when my mother in law gets in my 14 month old’s face and asks repeatedly “Give Grandma a kiss” and when my daughter pushes away, she gets CLOSER, and eventually holds her face and kisses her.

    I’m going to share your words with her, and hope that she takes it as constructive and not an attack on her behavior personally.

    The people that don’t agree with this are people who don’t understand how terrifying and confusing the world can be when you are forced to do something you don’t want to do. That bleeds over into every aspect of your life. And it doesn’t have to be something that leads to a case of molestation or rape, but being forced into anything you don’t want to do has repercussions.

    But I also want to say that I have been binge reading your blog since yesterday. I found it in a Pinterest pin called 25 Must-Follow Parenting Blogs and I am in love with everything you say. You are my new go-to for a blog to read whether it be for advice, guidance, or just enjoyment. Is it wrong to say that I have an internet mom-crush on you?

  49. I have to say I agree with this. I was shy growing up, and being forced to show affection in some way would be embarrassing and confusing. As I got older, one of my close family members made me feel very uncomfortable, telling me I HAD to hug him because he deserved it, even going so far as to call me the B-word when I wouldn’t comply. I still feel awkward around this person and don’t want him touching me.

    We don’t press the issue with our kids when we are in the company of others, but we make a point of talking about situations before and after – what we can do and say to be polite, etc. It’s not like we’re leaving all of the decisions up to our children, rather teaching them and letting them decide certain boundaries (and how to be nice at the same time).

  50. I’m late in the discussion but I totally agree! I don’t remember being forced to hug anyone, and luckily I am not part of the 1 in 5 statistic. However, I don’t like a lot of physical affection (other than my hubby) and some people act like something’s wrong with me because I don’t like a lot of touching. In fact, it makes me extremely uncomfortable to be an adult and be forced to hug in-laws because that’s “their way of expressing themselves.” Why should MY body be touched, by someone I don’t want touching it, because it makes THAT person feel better and it’s a societal norm? And why am I the weird one if I want to decline kisses from someone who has hurt my feelings before? I will not be making my kids hug and kiss if they don’t want to!

  51. Dawn Reber says:

    Awesome-oly! As I child, I was forced to show “appropriate” affection, regardless of how I was feeling. I was sexually abused as a child and never told anyone for a lot of years. I carried the guilt and shame of “what I did wrong” well into my adulthood. I still have not told my parents, but I have worked through it. I have 2 generations of children, literally, and I have to admit that I did some of the same things to my older kids. “Go give grandma and grandpa a hug”, for sure came out of my mouth a time or two. Or more. Now that I’ve redone parenting and have a little one again, I try not to force her with her affection. I’ve often thought that it’s strange how we try to force our kids to have that relationship with “strangers”. Just because I was raised by my parents, doesn’t automatically create that close relationship between my daughter and her grandpa (her maternal grandma now lives in Heaven). When we see him once or twice a year, he needs to understand that she needs a chance to “get to know him” again and that can take a bit of time. Thank you for sharing and being an “oddball” and giving me the courage to follow my instincts on this hard topic too!

  52. Great article. Could have been me writing the first paragraph! My 6yr old is just the same, and the number of times Grandma has forced unwanted affection on her all to make Grandma feel loved. She even said one day “Oh well you don’t want to give Grandma a hug, well you obviously don’t love Grandma”. Way to guilt trip a kid just because of her own insecurities. Perhaps if Grandma spent more time with her she would actually want to hug her. At home she is really snuggly and affectionate with our family, just shy with strangers. I hate how adults think it’s okay to treat children how they would never dream of treating adults.

  53. CabotMama says:

    My husband has lovingly instructed our children – beginning with our oldest, a son – to greet people with a handshake. Look the person in the eye, extend a hand, say hello, and give a firm shake. That’s all we require when greeting family, friends, and acquaintances. IF the child wants to hug the person, the child is more than welcome to initiate; however, we never prompt or push. At the same time, by age three or four, we do not allow them to cower behind our legs. Instead, we have trained them to greet people confidently yet with physical space. My now ten year old son has a friend who liked to hug close friends when he was in preschool. We reached a compromise: my son gave him a sideways shoulder hug. To this day, they greet each other that way.

  54. I love this. You are instilling at a young age it is okay to say NO. When children get to their teen years and they’re pressured into physical acts, they will at the very least on a subconscious level react based on how they were taught. If they know it is really OK to say ‘no’ – they will. If their parents pressured them into physical acts of expression and their parents love them, they’re more likely to think, “Well, so and so loved me so I will go ahead and do this because hey…my family put this pressure on me, too.” Bravo to you for recognizing the RIGHT thing for your child.

  55. Tricia Goodmama says:

    I really like this post and I have always loved the “hug, handshake or high five.” I used it often when I was a teacher. I don’t think your philosophy is strange, but then again I know in my own family we have adults who aren’t huge huggers or super affectionate. My son is only two, but he will often decide he would rather give a high five instead of a hug. I don’t see why that’s a big deal and family members and friends shouldn’t take it personal.

  56. This post just made my day!!! My son does not want to hug/kiss family members and I don’t think j should force that. Love this article and will read the book!!!

  57. Thanks for the post. I totally agree with what you write and we practice the same thing, no matter who the people are and no matter when they were last seen. I’m a huge kisser myself and often enough I get refused. Sure, I would really like to give her a huge big smooch and I’m sad I don’t get to but at the same time I’m proud my daughter stands up for herself even to me and accept her boundaries. How much sweeter are the moments when she just up and grabs me and plants a biiig kiss on me!! Knowing it is her choice and not some trained behavior makes it really mean something.
    It’s sad some here judge so harshly on the issue. No, we’re not an emotionally repressed family and my daughter most certainly is affectionate, thank you.
    The line from grannys hug to possible rape might not be so straightforward – but I wont get into that. Many here in the comments have explained it so well already there’s nothing to add.
    However, that is not the reason why we are doing this, more an added bonus. I “just” (haha) want my girl to be confident with her body. Deciding for herself who gets to touch it and how much physical intimacy she wants at any given moment – and being RESPECTED in that decision to me is a huge part of that.

  58. Jolene Robinson says:

    I always whisper in his ear if he wants to give a hug, then ask if he wants to give a fist bump in no way does he have to give either..he is 5…

  59. Snoopyandwoodstock says:

    I always did this with my kids and my grandkids, but I see them 5 days a week, and when they want a hug they come and give me hugs, I do not force them to hug me. Gosh, no as a victim of child sex abuse, I did not like having uncles and people grabbing and hugging me, I hated it. and would be the child hiding behind everyone looking for an escape. So would never force that on a child or expect it from a child. Now in my granddaughters kindergarten class a few of the girls will come to me and ask me for a hug. I am the one who is playing ring around the rosy with my granddaughters 4, and 5 and fellow students and singing and being silly so the kids have gotten to know me. I get waves and hi from them as they pass me in the hall waiting for school to be out. So I feel that children like dogs sense good people and feel comfortable around some people and would never force myself on a child or force a child onto someone else.

  60. My god we are grandparents why would you make this about something it’s not . They are being taught wrong if the are not safe with their own grandparentswho clearly aren’t perverted… WHY is this even a subject I’m a grandparent of a daughter-in lawn who apparently read this article and now we were told not to hug our own grandkids ??

    1. auntiehallie says:

      Are you being a little dramatic maybe? If the child feels safe with you and grandpa she/he will certainly want to hug you or eventually warm up enough to offer one but why would you want a hug of the child who didn’t want to give one anyway? i know 3 people whose children were molested by their bio grandfathers and the statistic is 1 in 4 girls (not 1 in 5) and 1 in 6 boys. there is no “clearly” not perverted, predators do not announce that they are and none of the people that had to lock up bio grandfathers felt they had to worry either. my best friend adopted her niece at age 2 who was basically feral and i am the only person she will hug outside of adoptive parents and she only just started that this year and she’s 7.

  61. Well, kids also need to be able to relate to others. I can see not insisting a hug or kiss to a friend or a aquaintance, but grandmother? In this age of distance or great mileage between visits, grandparents are upset enough about not having that closeness, distance which is not by choice. They’re not going to be around forever. And, sorry, but some moms resent closeness between the child and the grandparent, and are happy to tell the child they don’t have to hug or kiss anyone. The child needs to learn what it is to be kind and loving to someone who is obviously safe. Sometimes it’s that little hug or peck on the cheek that does break the ice and help them warm up to a grandparent who does not live close.

  62. i do get you point of view. we have 3 boys 5,9 and 11. we have a approach that they deside how they greet we just say “do you want to go sat hello to_____?” or “look there is______” so they really do deside if its just saying hello or giving a hug or whatever. not greeting is not optional unfortunately maybe because we are past baby stage they now know socialy exepted behaviour ect. and they have always been used to seeing alot of people. very social family.

  63. this is lovely and really repectful, however id just like to share my experience, my family are not very touchy feely and dont kiss and cuddle or say i love you, although its clear we all love each other very much its just something we dont do, when i was younger i was never forced to kiss and cuddle relatives or say love you, now as an adult i find it aukward to cuddle and kiss relatives as its something i wasnt brought up with or encouraged to do, because we dont say i love you its hard to express my love and feelings towards my family as an adult, all i want to do is throw my arms around them and hug them say i love you but i feel i cant for some reason as its not the norm, out of charector and would be slightly aukward. the only person i hug kiss and say i love you too is my husband. its sad and upsetting thinking about it as i dont feel as close as i could be towards my family although i do know they know i love them lots its very hard for me to show it. i do know when i have my own children i will encourage kisses hugs and i love yous as its what i wished id had, and currently envy off other families including my husbands side of family who are very open hug kiss and tell each other i love you all the time. but this read was lovely and so nice to see the respect and understanding between you both and clearly right for you.

    1. Clinton Shane Ekdahl says:

      Comming from a man who was never told “I love you” as a child, please trust me, unless it is said or felt, I child might not know you love them. Kids don’t understand the minutia of social graces and might not understand other “I love you clues.” Having said that, even as an adult now, I have no idea if my parents loved me because they never once said it. I also don’t know if many of my aunts and uncles love me either, because they never say it. I have tried to break that cycle by telling people I love them, when I love them. that awkwardness you mentioned might be your inner child telling you that something is wrong not being affectionate with people you love. In my case for my parents, their their funerals were too late for them. And because they never said it, I will never know if they did.

  64. Hi. I am a new mom and not comfortable with people carrying my baby.
    How do i reinforce this and also teach her early not to have any kind of contact she does not like

  65. Charlotte says:

    I know a few people who have been forced to do this sort of behaviour, into adulthood. And I find they have very little natural affection for people they’ve been forced to do things with. They have very little natural empathy aswell. It’s all forced when they feel they have to or its what they should do. Fake love. I hate to see it. It would have probably come naturally if it was allowed to. It’s nice to show your close ones love but it’s certainly worth remembering monkey see monkey do. Be loving and kind and they’ll find their natural way to be so. Without forcing them to do something that they aren’t ready for or comfortable with.

  66. I have an interesting perspective. I love the article, but you also have to think about cultural differences. This is perfect for the USA or other countries where not everyone is affectionate, but if you visit all of South America, Central America and European countries like Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and many others, people are very affectionate and so are all children there.

    I have traveled extensively and have observed very interesting cultural traits from people from all walks of life. In Asia they are not as warm, for example, we have housed students from Asian countries and the only warm ones so far have been the Vietnamese teens, they don’t kiss but they hug me if I reach out.

    I have 3 kids and 7 nieces and nephews all 12 and under and we are all affectionate. We don’t kiss other adults while living in the USA but we always look in the eye, shake hands and say hello or hug, it’s a cultural thing since my husband is from Spain and I’m from Mexico. It’s expected there and you seldom see someone not doing it, and people do comment as to the “education” of the person not saying hello.

    My least affectionate kid, my middle daughter who is now 15, I struggled with. I noticed since a very young age that she didn’t want to be hugged or touched by almost anyone except mommy and daddy. I tried really hard to hug and kiss her since she let me, and it took a lot of kisses, high fives and hugs to get her to warm up a bit. But she still wasn’t super crazy about it. Of course I’m talking about family, not strangers. However, it was when we sent her to Spain alone in the summer of 2016 that everything changed. She flew to Madrid to stay with my husband’s family who had a house with 6 children, all 15 and under, including one with down syndrome who was 1 year-old. She experienced a warm culture where everyone smiles and reaches out to give you two kisses on the cheek and welcomes you into their homes. Again, family here, not strangers. She came back to the USA 2 months later a completely different person. She now hugs me and is much more affectionate ON HER OWN. I no longer have to remind her. Interesting experience of ours to share.

    But, having also traveled to Denmark, Finland, England, and other Northern European countries where people are not warm, they barely even smile sometimes, then I understood that it all depends on your environment/surroundings.

    We have a huge diverse population in the USA and we do, of course, respect those who don’t hug or kiss nor do we impose or force. I love it when kids come to me because they want to.

    Thanks for the article, just wanted to put my two cents in! ;)

  67. I love this. As a teacher I added “hug, handshake, high-five, or wave.” Some students didn’t want to touch the others, which is FINE! I need to be better about giving my own toddler his autonomy with his body. Great article and reminder. Thank you!

  68. Guide and Teach says:

    I love the idea of coloring the printable and hanging it as a reminder. I think hanging it by the door(s) of your home would be especially helpful.

  69. All my grandchildren are huggers, from almost 18 to 3 yrs, plus a 1 month old that’s too small yet to know. Sometimes they want to kiss, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they don’t feel like hugging, and I don’t take it personal. I’ve had more than one grandchild think if they don’t hug me goodbye I won’t leave, and sometimes the 3 yr old is “busy” and doesn’t feel like it. Whenever parents tell them to give me a kiss and a hug, and I see any hesitation, I always say it’s ok, they don’t have to, and I mean it. I usually get that last minute hug anyway, but not too many kisses. I remember when I didn’t want to kiss someone, and it’s fine to feel that way. Every child is different.

  70. Sash Gilroy says:

    Excellent post! If I had children, I would 100% do this. I’ll encourage it in interactions with kids and definitely employ H/H/HF! And, I am 45 years old and my mother still says go give so and so a hug/they want a hug (non-family!).

  71. Great article-have you read any picture books that you could recommend about this subject? I’m not the best at starting conversations; we love reading and some of the best conversations happen when we’ve read a book on a subject and discussed it. Thanks

  72. Catherine says:

    I totally agree Kelly. The only reason I say ‘give Granny a hug’ to my daughter is that we’ve often gone home after visiting Granny, and daughter has said ‘I forgot to give Granny a hugggggg!! Nooooooo! We have to go back!’
    But if she EVER refused to hug someone, I would never force her. Her dad’s tipsy colleague tried to kiss her cheek at a wedding once and she flinched so I said ‘no thank you’ to the man and shielded her.

  73. Hug, handshake or high-five. That’s beautiful! What a clever way to let your child choose the contact-issue. I wish I had known that when my kids were little, but I will definitely let them know now- thank you for sharing this!

  74. I love this advice. I would add that in our family one of my nieces was particularly shy and standoffish when she was very young. I am quite empathetic so I caught myself feeling quite shy and standoffish when I was with her. I made it a point to continue to show her how happy I was to see her and in time she came to trust that.

  75. I SO agree with your philosophy. I was pressured to hug my relatives when I was a child. I didn’t like it (one uncle in particular creeped me out), but I felt I had no choice. As a result, I never made my own kids hug anyone. They were naturally affectionate with their grandparents, which was nice. Now that I’m a grandma, I never force a hug on my little grandson. Sometimes he wants to, sometimes not, and that is A-OK with me.

  76. Very interesting. I always want a hug from my grandson but I will think about it being his choice more now! I work at a daycare so I like that hug, handshake or high five idea!

  77. For us Filipinos, kids (including adult) shows respect to our parents, elders, godmother or godfathers, etc by way of putting thier hand to our forehead (and say mano po). My kids are also doing this too!

  78. My son never liked to be hugged or kissed by anyone except is his parents
    When grandparents came we explained to them it was nothing personal
    They all understood
    He was willing to high five the grandparents and when he got older and was ready he started hugging them
    Today with my own grandchildren I will only hug or kiss them when they are in the mood and sometimes ask is it is ok to kiss them. This works so well I get inundated with hugs and kisses as they know when they are not in the mood that is more the ok
    I hated having to hug and kiss everyone as a child ?

  79. Robin Bryant says:

    I have the opposite problem. I am not a hugger at all. My daughter is a total hugger. I have to remind her that other people have the right to not be touched if they dont want to.

  80. As a teacher, I use hug, handshake, or high five at the end of the day. However, my students also have the option to say, “No, thank you.” I want them to know that they are free to say, “No.”

  81. I love everything’s this article has to say! Speaking of not wanting to force physical touch, I was wondering, Kelly, how do you handle a child who will not let you change his/her diaper? I have come to the point numerous times where I have just had to force my daughter to let me change her diaper after she has sat in a poop for too long. I have tried to negotiate with her, and I feel a level of guilt when I’m forcing her to let me do it, especially when dealing with such a private area of her body. This isn’t a huge ongoing issue, but it effects me enough when it actually does happen. Thanks!!

  82. Catherine says:

    Does the child ask the adult this? Or does the child say ‘I want to have a hug/ handshake/ high five’ (whichever one they want) to the adult. I’m a little confused.

  83. Jennifer Blythe says:

    I love the idea of letting my child be in the driver’s seat. How true it is, only she can decide what fits her. Thanks and Merry Christmas!

  84. What a terrible trend to start. Even to compare respect and admiration for adults to santa or star wars loses all credibility. Many kids now have zero respect for adults. In my opinion too many kids have too many options and parents therefore get a free pass on actually parenting through difficult times and mutual respect . I am a parent of two girls and they outshine all other kids with their loving, caring, and respectful personality. Thats not because its who they are its because i parented them to do the right thing and taught them why it’s important. I also have worked in child behavior for over 15 years so i should have some credibility.

  85. I’ve taught my son the “Namaste” greeting or farewell, as he is not comfortable with any of the suggested ideas (though we’ve tried)!
    Thank you for this. The tricky part is getting others to understand that it’s about respecting our children’s bodies as their own. My hope is that this will catch on more and become the “norm”.

  86. To this day (age 77) I would find any of the 3 choices too intimate. I come from a very non demonstrative family. I think I learned that emotions do not have much to do with touch.

  87. Sarah Parry says:

    When I became a grand parent for the first time, I used to feel a little hurt when my granddaughter would not want a hug each time I visited or visa versa. She would just run past me and refuse any contact. My daughter told me not to take it personally but she wasn’t going to force her children into any physical contact with relatives or any one (including hugs and kisses) as it was the child’s decision who touches her and who doesn’t. I have enormous respect for that and I get it completely plus I am now a massive advocate for that philosophy as it give a child confidence and a sense of independent self. The bonus has been that since the age of about 4, my granddaughter (now 6) literally leaps into my arms and showers me with kisses on every hello and goodbye, I am so lucky!

  88. I love this and really appreciate what you have written and I plan to teach my children the same. I couldn’t agree more about teaching your child that they are in charge of their body. I taught this to my students (I’m a primary school teacher) and it really helped cut down on the unwanted physical tough (hitting and kicking) during recess time.

  89. I disagree with this however I understand your approach. I would never tell another parent how to parent. If it works for your children by all means. My son is very affectionate and loves hugging people. I on the other hand do not only if they are family. Most of my colleagues and friends no it’s a fist bump. That is just in his genes. My nephew is stand offish when it comes to hugging and he is 4. To me it hurts personally because the way I was taught and most of society too. So if you do this I hope you take the time to explain it to your family because they may not understand and it may hurt them. My brother and SIL I believe use this approach but, not in as many words.

    1. Clinton Shane Ekdahl says:

      If it hurts you personally, remember it is not about you. It is about the child. If you wanted to hug a family member you have only seen a few times, you would probably ask permission – or it would be awkward. Afford children the same respect.

  90. Kirsty dale says:

    I love this! Thank you so much for not only sharing but also including such great insight and additional reading for us.

  91. You are so on track! We as adults , should follow the same track. There are lots of adults I would prefer not to hug and certainly not kiss! Children are not yet driven by tradition , or practise. but follow their instincts! Support their inner gut, listen to their natural sense of honesty!

  92. Interesting to note that hou write that you and your husband smile, hug,kiss etc and are sending the children mixted inconsistant messages. That when they become adults impacts their peer relatiomships. Confusing violation rather than warmth and terms of affection and endearment. To each their own. Thank you for the thought provoking articile.

  93. My son does high five, fist bump, noggin (touching foreheads) with his girls all the time. All the family have seen this at some point. We’ve never thought of doing this as a choice for greeting or saying goodbye at family gatherings. I’ll ask him what he thinks about adding a hug option. Maybe…
    High five, fist bump, noggin, or give me a hug or blow me a kiss? Most of the time the girls (ages 2 & 3) do all those things. I really like the idea of presenting it as a choice. The girls are generally affectionate with family, but this would give them a choice if there is someone there they haven’t had time to get to warm up to or if they’re just exhausted and don’t want to do the traditional goodbyes. I teach and use conscience discipline in the classroom, but have never thought of using this greeting/goodbye ritual with the grandkids.

  94. Clinton Shane Ekdahl says:

    I am a 45 year old man. For a variety of reasons, I wish my parents had this knowledge. As it turns out, when i was a child, I was forced to hug a male family friend and he would tickle me to the point of literal torture. I would not be able to breath or get in a word to say stop – because I was laughing. If I was laughing, it must be good right? No. While he tickled with one hand, he was touching my privates with another… right in front of my parents at times. That very quickly evolved into sexual abuse and rape. And yet every time this man came over, I was told to go hug him. At his house with his kids and wife in other rooms, he would sexually assault me. No one said or did anything. It told me that what he was doing was normal. But I still felt the need to tell my mom when I was around 5-6. She did not believe me and allowed the abuse to continue for about another ten years. Through her neglect, I was raped more times than I can count. Even when it stopped because I got too old, I though this was normal. Perhaps you can write something about tickling and how it can turn into assault. And that if a child like I did reports a man touching him in a funny way. For the love of god, do something about it.

  95. Sarah Rowe says:

    Excellent advice, thought provoking and personally I agree
    I have never demanded a hug or kiss from my family members’ children and never forced my son

  96. Eilis Biggs says:

    I totally agree but would add a non touch greeting too. I Often say how about a thumbs up?

  97. I agree with everything you said I’m 75 years old and my children are in their 50s and that’s how I raised them. I never hugged or kissed my nephews Or nieces without asking them if they wanted a hug or a kiss. Very glad other people think the way I do

  98. Someone please explain this to me, because I am legit curious, and I know I’m going to get a lot of hate for this. As far as I can see, the only thing this is teaching them is to be entitled. It’s teaching them that only their choices and only their feelings matter. Do you ever talk to them and tell them that Grandma’s feelings are hurt? Or is that guilt tripping? Do we ever advocate for Grandma that she is a safe person, or do we just continue to diminish and shame her feelings about being unwanted by her grandchildren? Do we tell Grandma to suck it up because she is the adult? When do we teach kids that sometimes they will have to do uncomfortable things? How does this double standard work? As a parent I know we want to protect our children, but we still need to make them respectful. If your kid is that shy and wants to do the high five or wave thing, you as parents at the very least need to enforce it every time. They have to at least do something to show that they don’t hate their grandparents. And you, parents, how do you have this conversation with said grandparents?

  99. Kate St John says:

    I think that’s a brilliant idea and will use it with our 6 year old.

  100. Cheryl Mason says:

    Wish to high heaven that this had been a topic when I was younger. I remember one occasion of stepping away from a relative who grabbed my arm and literally almost yanked me off my feet in an effort to kiss me–only to be reprimanded and called every kind of rude there is by my so-called father. Had it been two adults, there are those who might well have said I was being rather low key in my response.

  101. Barbara Behringer says:

    As a grandparent who has been on the other side of this, with my own grands and the children of friends, if I sense any hesitation on the part of the child, I always tell the child – and the parent – “No, they don’t have to hug me if they don’t want to, it’s their body and their choice, not mine.” then offer a different sort of greeting, High 5, Hi – Lo – Too Slow, of just a verbal assurance that I’m available, but only if they want to, even if parents object to my position.