Should we force little children to kiss and hug friends and relatives?

There’s a news story doing the newspaper and radio rounds at today about whether we should force little children to kiss and hug friends and relatives.

Sex education chiefs are saying that forcing little kids to kiss and hug can leave them vulnerable to future abuse, because it isn’t helping them understand boundaries and that their bodies are their own.

The story cites a blog post in August of this year by author Kasey Edwards, ‘Stop Asking My Daughter To Kiss You‘. Kasey wrote the post after becoming exasperated with strangers asking her then four year old daughter to give them a kiss.

My first thought when I heard the story on the radio was, “well I get the point, but surely this is the nanny state going into overdrive. What next, boundaries about small children kissing their own parents?”

But then as I thought about it more and I realised that actually it is pretty weird to force or cajole any person, big or small, into kissing or hugging another, especially if they clearly don’t want to.

As parents we can get caught in situations where we don’t want the actions of our young off-spring to cause offence. It’s easier to push a young child into doing something for the sake of keeping the status quo. I wrote a post last year on a similar subject, about the Montessori ideology of not forcing young children to say “sorry“.

I’ve never had an encounter where a stranger has asked for any form of affection from my daughter (who is about to turn four). And our family and friends are all pretty chilled if M doesn’t want to kiss or hug them goodbye.

But it is something I will now bear in mind. I don’t really see the need for any governmental guidelines. However, as parents, I think it serves us all well to be aware, that helping children understand that no-one but them can decide when they show physical affection, is far more important than trying to avert causing offence to someone else.

What do you think about this subject? Should we be more cautious, or are we in danger of wrapping our kids up in cotton wool the the nth degree?