Girl Scouts: Don’t force your daughter to hug relatives

NEW YORK (WPRI) – This holiday season, Girl Scouts of America has an important-if controversial-message for parents: don’t force your daughter to hug or kiss relatives.

It’s a situation nearly every child has been in: being prodded by parents to hug the great-aunt they haven’t seen all year or kiss the distant cousin who brought them a gift.

But this year Girl Scouts is reminding parents that putting a child, especially a girl, in this situation at a young age can set the stage for how she understands consent later in life.

“The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children,” says Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, “but the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime, and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older.”

Bastiani added that learning these boundaries early can help a girl understand what is appropriate and better identify when an adult is crossing a line.  A statement on the Girl Scouts USA website explained in part:

Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she “owes” another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life.

Instead of forcing affection, Girl Scouts advises parents to let a girl decide for herself how to greet and thank family members, as there are ways to do so politely without necessarily offering a hug or kiss.