THAT "UH-OH" FEELING
ON FORCING YOUR CHILD TO SHOW AFFECTION
Have you insisted that your child hug or kiss "Uncle Charlie, Aunt Esther" or that "Friend" that came home from work with your Father or Mother, or that other relative who visits on weekends or holidays, even though your child obviously feels uncomfortable doing so?
Of course every parent wants to make sure they aren’t raising rude children, but it can be a dangerous message we give our children when we insist that they deny their own instincts, and force them to be polite or physical with another adult, just so that you as their parent can save face. It can be especially risky to insist that they express physical affection when they are clearly uncomfortable doing so.
Why? Because one of the most important things we can teach our kids when it comes to their personal safety is to “listen” to their inner voice: Their instinct – better known as that “Uh-Oh" feeling. It’s not about being suspicious of every relative who wants to hug our kids. It is about letting your child decide how they want to express affection and to whom, rather than forcing them to please people, simply because they may be getting a feeling that you are not aware of.
Maybe earlier in the evening, unknown to you, Uncle Charlie, that "friend" stopping by or Aunt Esther said or did something that felt incredibly uncomfortable to your child that you don't know about, and then later on when it's time to go home, you insist that your daughter kiss Uncle Charlie or Aunt Esther goodbye or Mommy's or Daddy's friend, even demanding it when your child flat out refuses.
The message you are sending to your child is this:.
- Don't trust your own instincts
- You have to obey the grownups no matter what, and
- Mom and Dad will not believe you if you tell them about an uncomfortable feeling or touch because you haven’t got the right to speak up for yourself.
On the other hand, the message you are sending to Uncle Charlie, that visiting relative or maybe even to Dear Aunt Esther is this: "Jackpot! Here’s a target — a child who’s been taught to be polite no matter what. Here’s a child who probably won’t know how to resist an inappropriate touch or have the ability to tell anyone about it."
... And then, the next time either of them are at your home, they might even decide to take their actions a little further with your child, since you’ve basically laid the ground work out for them already.
There will always be times when your child just doesn't want to hug or kiss someone. It doesn't necessarily mean it's because the person's a child molester. Who knows - maybe Uncle Charlie smells funny that day, or maybe he hugs too tightly and it hurts. Maybe that "Friend" is a little too "adamant" about positioning your child on his grown, adult lap in a certain way or spot that is uncomfortable to your child. Maybe Aunt Esther is simply wearing too much perfume, or something even more serious - like the fact that she squeezes your childs' buttocks or pats their genitals afterwards, commenting on "how big" or "nice and fat" its getting.
Whatever the reason, your child should have the right to decide for themselves. It is understood that sometimes when you feel that you are "put the spot" so to speak, and you don't know what to do, you force your child to give them a kiss or hug just to get it over with.
Have you ever said something to your child like: "Oh, that's just how Uncle Charlie hugs, or Aunt Esther kisses," when they complain to you later? Just imagine being that child - hoping his / her Mother or Father is going to help them out of this situation, only to find that you don't. Even worse, now here's a child who may question him / herself, not trusting her own instincts because she's been instructed not to, so early in life.
If you really want to do something to protect your child, let them decide how they want to express affection and to whom. Ask them if they want to kiss or hug a friend or relative without forcing them to, only because it makes "you" feel better. After all, there are other ways to express affection that don’t have to be as physical.
ONE VOICE / ONE SOUND