As we get in to the full swing of the holidays The Girl Scouts of America had a gentle reminder for families, that children don’t owe anyone a hug over Christmas. Or any time really. The key component is this – no matter the occasion you don’t ever owe anyone physical affection you don’t readily want to give. It’s an important lesson on physical autonomy and consent, so far so good right?
Girl Scout of America’s post has opened up discussions on when is the correct time to teach their children about consent, boundaries and inappropriate touching. And the answer is well, there is no set answer. Talking to a child about consent can seem so big and scary especially when we’re still trying to teach adults about it. Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald for Girl Scouts of America highlighted that “sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help.” It’s not about not showing gratitude but teaching children about where there own physical boundaries are – whether that’s a high five, an air kiss or a hug. And come on, who wants someone to hug you just because they’ve been told to?
Not everyone was in agreement with the Girl Scouts advice for this, putting forward that hugging your family at Christmas doesn’t teach women that men who show them attention deserve your physical affection. Others argued that showing affection readily was their way of raising kind, compassionate and loving children, while other commenters suggested that teaching children this promoted a victimhood mentality citing a cotton wooling of childhood going forward.
While I’d argue that there’s certainly more nuance to the discussion than commenters are suggesting (welcome to the internet where hyperbole is king) any outrage or celebration does come from a place of love and compassion and a desire to keep children safe. And if you were brought up being told to hug family member redefining the rules around physical boundaries can feel so loaded. As if you’re defaulting to a worst case scenario before you’re out the gate.
What all commenters seem to agree on is that they want to raise strong, empowered young girls (and children in general.) Of course they should be taught about boundaries and autonomy over their own bodies, however how and when remains the great divider.
In the wake of #MeToo parents are having to have difficult discussions perhaps earlier than they had planned. However how we change and move forward from predatory behaviour is by teaching children that they do have the power to say no. That there body is there’s and who they are physically affectionate with it on their terms. Especially at the holidays.