Friday, May 2, 2014

Hugs & Kisses

So I’ve made a parenting decision that seems to be stirring a bit of trouble. Ends up neither set of grandparents like the decision, and my mother-in-law actually finds it “rude”.

What could this be?

Well, I decided from the beginning that Jena would not be forced to give hugs or kisses as a greeting. Even to us. Even to grandparents.

This was a deliberate, thought-out decision.

My thinking is that I don’t ever want to teach my daughter that anyone has the right to obligate, coerce, or force her to show physical affection. Anyone. Including me.

My hope is that this type of thinking will stick to her, long past her childhood years, into her teenage years, into dating, and relationships, and quite frankly throughout the rest of her life.

In fact, dear readers, let me reiterate this teaching for you, in case no one ever told you:

No one has the right to obligate, coerce, force, or shame you to extend or receive physical affection. No one.

It’s not something that I plan on backing down from. I understand there are those who disagree; those who think that children should be taught to give hugs & kisses as greetings, especially to family members.

That’s okay. We’re just gonna have to agree to disagree.

With Jena, I can tell you it’s probably about a 50/50 shot whether or not she gives hugs. Kisses are very rare. This is whether it is me, Jason, my parents, or my mother-in-law. Outside of that circle, your chances of receiving physical affection of her of any sort are very slim.

And I’m okay with that.

Are there times when I would like a hug & a kiss instead of an outstretched hand followed by a loud “BYE!” ? Sure there are. She’s my daughter. I’d smother her with affection on a regular basis. Except she’s not comfortable with that. And I respect that.

Not all family members do
My parents have decided to respect our parenting decision, but they also let us know that it sometimes hurts their feelings if she doesn’t want to give them a hug or kiss.

My mother-in-law recently described Jena’s behavior as “rude” and “disrespectful”. When pressed for examples, not giving a hug or kiss every time they see each other was one of only two she could provide. And she’s upset that we don’t “correct” her behavior.

I’ll be honest,  I’m not sure how to handle this. I certainly don’t want my child to be truly rude or disrespectful, to anyone, let alone her grandmother. But I also am not backing down on this issue either. And since we’ve previously explained our stance on this, and why, to ask Jena to do otherwise, or to ask us to “correct” her behavior when she’s following the guidelines we’ve set forth, is quite  disrespectful to us as her parents.

At the same time, MIL appears to be quite upset about the “respect” issue, and since this is only one of two issues she brought up, part of me feels compelled to act. I just don’t know how.

Any thoughts, dear readers?


'Yellow Rose' Jasmine said...

What you have taught your daughter is so freeing and respectful to herself that I would never back down on this particular issue. Too many of us have experienced the breaking of important boundaries because of politeness and what that does to the psyche. You have given your daughter a place of strength to start with and that is invaluable.
The only thing I can possibly think of to make your MIL feel a little more respected is to maybe have your daughter offer a heartfelt greeting of some sort- something like expressing how happy she is to see her/how glad she is that she got to see her today- upon meeting or leaving. A smile and a nice heartfelt display of gratefulness surely would appease any reasonable person!

S said...

I subscribe to the same viewpoint and am teaching my sons the same thing. How can we teach our children that their right to bodily autonomy and boundaries is to be respected if we don't extend that to family members (who, statistically speaking, are the ones most likely to be their molesters, btw).

I think that, so long as your daughter is acknowledging your MIL and others with a "hi" or "bye" and perhaps a handshake, "high five," fist bump or the like, she is not being rude. Let the expression of affection--or not--be her choice, as you intend.

S said...

P.S. I have faced the same sort of negative feedback from my dad and his wife about our decision. I have explained the reasoning behind it, and while it didn't totally bring them around to my way of thinking, it helped a little to explain why I wouldn't "correct" them.

Frozen OJ said...

Does MIL try to initiate hugs and kisses and is being told no? Or does she expect Jena to initiate them? If MIL is initiating maybe you can work on a politer way to say no. like "No thank you, Grandma, but I love you!" If she's expecting Jena to initiate I don't know what you can do other than explaining that she's not being rude. Maybe they could start a special grandma greeting like a secret handshake?

Aunt Murry said...

Being an aunt to many, I am always uncomfortable when a parent or friend forces their children to give me a hug. To me that is up to them. I am always happy with a waive or maybe Jenna can bow your MIL a kiss but I think you are right on the money not to force her.

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