“Don’t be rude. Give your uncle a hug.”
“Get back here and give Mr. Whatever a kiss.”
“Did you say thank you and give Miss Lady a hug?”
“Go give everyone a kiss and a hug goodnight.”
I can still hear my parents saying these words to me as a child. And now I say them to my own children.
But recently I heard a conversation around this “hugging and kissing” topic that stopped me dead in my tracks. Basically, the premiss was:
How can we tell our kids not to do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, then force them to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable?
I never thought about it but it makes total sense. Christmas, birthday parties, barbeques, church outings, graduations, even playdates. Whenever someone walks through the door, before someone walks out the door, any time we see old friends, even if it’s someone we see every day. As parents, we are always teaching our kids to be polite and dole out the hugs and kisses. But shouldn’t we ask them first? “Do you want to give Uncle WhatsHisName a hug goodbye?” And if they say, “No.” shouldn’t we respect how they feel?
Ok, sure… 99.9% of the time it’s just our kids being brats. They’re simply ignoring us or refusing to listen. Or they don’t want to put down a toy long enough to give Mr. BlahBlahBlah a hug. That’s usually the case. But what about the other .10% of the time? That’s a big percentage when you think about the flip side. And if we’re trying to protect them and teach them to follow their instincts, we have to give them the chance to practice those instincts. Don’t we?