Should we require children to be physically demonstrative?

I read a commentary today by Katia Hetter, which can be found here, who doesn’t require her four-year-old to hug or kiss relatives or acquaintances. Her theory is that her child is learning to respect her own feelings and intuitions about people and learning to set boundaries about physical contact. She links this pressure to please and accommodate others to an increased risk of sexual abuse and, in girls, an increased desire to please others by using their bodies (i.e., increased risk of engaging in early or unwanted sexual activity). I remember when my now 17-year-old son was around the same age as the author’s daughter. When he was reluctant to hug his uncle (my husband’s twin brother) I refused to force him. His uncle became angry and stated, “you think I’m a child molester!” “No,” I said, “I don’t. But I also don’t think he should be forced to be touched by anyone for any reason against his will, because when a real child molester shows up, he may not feel comfortable enough to say no.”

A few years later my son told me in confidence that he didn’t like to be around one of my husband’s employees. I asked why and he stated that “I feel funny when he’s around.” I immediately reinforced with him that that was God talking to him. Others might call it intuition, but I believe that little voice, hair standing up on the back of your neck or arms, or nagging feeling that something just isn’t right, is God.  I urged him to remember what this felt like and not to ever ignore it.   This was something important that needed to be attend to.  Far too often we override our anxiety or fear because we don’t want to be rude or hurt someone’s feelings.

Of course, the combox posts run the gamut from agreement to disbelief. What do you think?  Have you had the same issue come up in your family?  If so, how have you handled it?

This entry was posted in Faith, Intuition, Parenting, sex abuse. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Should we require children to be physically demonstrative?

  1. We don’t force physical affection. The whole idea takes the “affection” out of it. I really appreciate the book “Protecting the Gift” and am convinced that teaching kids to listen to their intuition is one of the best things we can do for their life-long safety.

  2. help4yourfamily says:

    I agree with you 100%. I am a therapist and work with many children who have been sexually abused. They are children that did not get the message that the person who controls their body is them. Your son is lucky to have you.

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