Archive for June, 2012

Requiring a child to hug/kiss another person

June 22, 2012

When I read this article, I thought to myself, somewhere between completely ruling your child and letting your child do whatever he/she pleases to do, there must lie a position wherein we encourage children to grow in independence all the while listening to the advice and counsel of wise and caring moms and dads.  Ms. Hetter has established a position here which, I suspect, will bring forth many questions in the minds of those young people still engaged in raising healthy kids.  I can hear a grandmother/grandfather saying, “We give gifts to our grandchildren, can’t we then expect to get a hug now and then?”  I can hear some saying, “Should a child be expected to hug (and/or kiss) a person – yea, even a relative – that the child barely knows?”  I would encourage you to read carefully what Ms.  Hetter makes very clear – that she would not forbid hugging nor kissing – but, instead would leave the decision to the child!  I would certainly be interested in chatting with you about Ms. Hetter’s postition.

I don’t own my child’s body

By Katia Hetter, CNN

updated 9:09 PM EDT, Wed June 20, 2012

Some experts advise parents not to make their children hug and kiss relatives, so children will feel in control of their bodies.


  1. Katia Hetter does not tell her daughter she must hug or kiss visiting relatives
  2. The Sandusky case solidified her resolve to let her child make choices about her own body
  3. A personal safety expert agrees that children shouldn’t be compelled to touch anyone

Editor’s note: Katia Hetter is a travel writer for CNN. She also covers parenting and relationship issues.

(CNN) — My daughter occasionally goes on a hugging and kissing strike.  She’s 4. Her parents could get a hug or a kiss, but many people who know her cannot, at least right now. And I won’t make her.

“I would like you to hug Grandma, but I won’t make you do it,” I told her recently.

“I don’t have to?” she asked, cuddling up to me at bedtime, confirming the facts to be sure.

No, she doesn’t have to. And just to be clear, there is no passive-aggressive, conditional, manipulative nonsense behind my statement. I mean what I say. She doesn’t have to hug or kiss anyone just because I say so, not even me. I will not override my own child’s currently strong instincts to back off from touching someone who she chooses not to touch.

I figure her body is actually hers, not mine.

It doesn’t belong to her parents, preschool teacher, dance teacher or soccer coach. While she must treat people with respect, she doesn’t have to offer physical affection to please them. And the earlier she learns ownership of herself and responsibility for her body, the better for her.

The trial of Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football coach accused of sexually abusing young boys, has only strengthened my resolve to teach my kid that it’s OK to say no to an adult who lays a hand on her — even a seemingly friendly hand.

Sandusky’s comments on child rape allegations

“When we force children to submit to unwanted affection in order not to offend a relative or hurt a friend’s feelings, we teach them that their bodies do not really belong to them because they have to push aside their own feelings about what feels right to them,” said Irene van der Zande, co-founder and executive director of Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International, a nonprofit specializing in teaching personal safety and violence prevention. “This leads to children getting sexually abused, teen girls submitting to sexual behavior so ‘he’ll like me’ and kids enduring bullying because everyone is ‘having fun.’ ”

Protection against predators

Forcing children to touch people when they don’t want to leaves them vulnerable to sexual abusers, most of whom are people known to the children they abuse, according to Ursula Wagner, a mental health clinician with the FamilyWorks program at Heartland Alliance in Chicago. None of the child victims of sexual abuse or assault she’s counseled was attacked by strangers, she said.

Readers react strongly to this article

Sometimes a child picks up on something odd about your brother-in-law that no one knows. It may not be that he’s a sexual predator. He may just have no sense of boundaries or tickle too much, which can be torture for a person who doesn’t like it. Or he may be a predator.

“It sends a message that there are certain situations [when] it’s not up to them what they do with their bodies,” said Wagner. “If they are obligated to be affectionate even if they don’t want to, it makes them vulnerable to sexual abuse later on.”

Why wait until there’s trouble? Parenting coach Sharon Silver worked hard to cultivate her children’s detector. Silver says her sons easily pick up on subtle clues that suggest something isn’t quite right about particular people or situations.

In your child’s case, it may be that something’s off about Aunt Linda or the music teacher down the street.

“It’s something inside of you that tells you when something is wrong,” said Silver. Training your child to pay attention to those instincts may protect him or her in the future.

Having sex to please someone else

Would you want your daughter to have sex with her boyfriend simply to make him happy? Parents who justify ordering their children to kiss grandma might say, “It’s different.”

No, it’s not, according to author Jennifer Lehr, who blogs about her parenting style. Ordering children to kiss or hug an adult they don’t want to touch teaches them to use their body to please you or someone else in authority or, really, anyone.

“The message a child gets is that not only is another person’s emotional state their responsibility but that they must also sacrifice their own bodies to buoy another’s ego or satisfy their desire for love or affection,” said Lehr.

“Certainly no parent would wish for their teenager or adult child to feel pressure to reciprocate unwanted sexual advances, yet many teach their children at a young age that it’s their job to use their bodies to make others happy,” she said.

We can’t be rude

You might think my daughter’s shiftless parents are not teaching her manners, but that’s not true. She will shake your hand in greeting or give you a high-five when we’re saying goodbye. She knows how to set the table and place a napkin in her lap. She even has me saying a little all-inclusive blessing she brought home from school.

We’ve trained her to say please and thank you so often that she’ll say it back to me when I ask her anything. “What did you say?” I sometimes ask her when I didn’t hear her. “Please?” she’ll answer. No, I meant what did she actually say? (Maybe we’re overdoing it.)

Once a cheater, always a cheater?

She has to be polite when greeting people, whether she knows them or not. When family and friends greet us, I give her the option of “a hug or a high-five.” Since she’s been watching adults greet each other with a handshake, she sometimes offers that option. We talk about high-fives so often she’s started using them to meet anyone, which can make the start of any social occasion look like a touchdown celebration.

“When kids are really little and shy, parents can start to offer them choices for treating people with respect and care,” said van der Zande. “By age 6 or 7, even shy kids can shake somebody’s hand or wave or do something to communicate respect and care. Manners — treating people with respect and care — is different than demanding physical displays of affection.”

It creates more work

Refusing to order her to hand out hugs or kisses on demand means there’s more work to keep the relationships going and keep feelings from being hurt. Most of our extended family live far away, so it’s my job to teach my kiddo about people she doesn’t see on a daily basis.

We make sure to keep in contact with calls and Skype and presents. In advance of loved ones’ visits, which usually means an all-day plane ride, I talk a lot about how we’re related to our guests, what they mean to me and what we’re going to do when they arrive. I give them plenty of opportunity to interact with her so she can learn to trust them.

I explain to relatives who want to know why we’re letting her decide who she touches. And when she does hug them, the joy is palpable. Not from obligation or a direct order from Mom.

And while I hope I’m teaching my child how to take care of herself in the future, there are benefits to allowing her to express affection in her own way and on her own timeline. When my child cuddled up to my mother on the sofa recently, happily talking to her about stories and socks and toes and other things, my mother’s face lit up. She knew it was real.

Did your parents make you hug and kiss relatives? Are your kids required to give grandma a hug? Share your experience in the comments section below.


A Gift More Valuable Than Material Possessions

June 7, 2012

   “Tomorrow will be June the 9th, 2012 and just 76 years ago my mother gave birth to a seven pound plus baby boy, and my father named him James Lewis Kern (I have at times wished that he had just named me ‘Jim’ as that’s how people know me!) and now I’m able to sit here and share with you some thoughts on this remarkable technology. 

On the negative side of today’s discussion, I want to just state that as we watch television and listen to our leaders (and many others who are not leaders) talk, we might well ask, “What (or Who) can we now believe?”  One of the values we hold dear to our hearts is ‘Honesty’ and this amongst other values seems to have disappeared from living in the 21st Century.  With that as background, I’d like to discuss with you today – just in case you have any influence over our young one – some values that I believe might help people in this world of ours now. 

How many times have we heard (or maybe said) ‘ . . values are ‘caught’, not ‘taught’?  I think this is correct, and if it is, we need to be careful with our own display of values in the presence of those who might be following us and modeling themselves after us.  

So, now let me borrow a title I think is ‘Just Right’ for this discussion – a statement by Lindsay Mead Russell, a writer: ‘A Design So Vast’.  Lindsay shares with us this provocative title for one of her blog entries:  “10 Things I Want My Daughter To Know Before She Turns 10”.   Here are those ten things (You can read Ms.Russell’s expansion on these values by going to:

  1. It is not your job to keep the people you love happy.
  2. Your physical fearlessness is a strength.
  3. You should never be afraid to share your passions.
  4. It is okay to disagree with me and others.
  5. You are so very beautiful.
  6. Reading is essential.
  7. You are not me.
  8. It is almost never about you.
  9. There is no single person who can be your everything.
  10. I am trying my very best.

And, another blogger, Joshua Becker, shares this thought with us for our consideration:  “Our child’s tomorrow will be heavily influenced by the values they learn today.  Therefore, it is of utmost importance to intentionally instill into our children values that will help bend their lives toward a positive future.  Joshua suggests that we expose our children to these fundamental values: 

  1. Honesty.
  2. The importance of family members.
  3. The importance of learning.
  4. Kids are more than flesh and blood -they also possess mind, heart, soul, and will.
  5. Learn to value and respect members of the opposite sex.
  6. Learn to appreciate the world around them.
  7. Good friends – while tough to come by – can determine what kind of life we live.
  8. Learn the rewards of persistence.
  9. Take time to enjoy quietness and solitude.
  10. Learn to value hard work.
  11. Recognize the the world is not always fair – believe in justice.
  12. Become familiar with the world of art.
  13. Appreciate the value of animals.
  14. Dare to love and be loved.
  15. Learn to value yourself – rewards:  self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.

I’d be interested in your thoughts in this area.  (and, many thanks to Lindsey Russell and Joshua Becker).