Girl Scouts issue reminder that children don't 'owe anyone a hug'

The message has received mixed responses

Rachel Hosie
Wednesday 22 November 2017 11:09

American girl scouts are being reminded that they never “owe” anyone a hug.

With family get-togethers peaking around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year, it’s not uncommon for young children to be urged to hug relatives or show some other sign of physical affection.

But at a time when issues of consent and sexual harassment are at the forefront of public consciousness, the Girl Scouts of the USA has issued a reminder: “She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays.”

Of course, if your child is happy to give his or her grandmother, aunt or other relative a hug, that’s fine.

But the organisation is warning against forcing reluctant children to do so because that sets the precedent that a child always has to show physical affection if an adult tells them to.

“Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she ‘owes’ another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life.”

Ensuring girls and boys understand the concept of consent from a young age is essential.

“The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children,” says Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald.

“But the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime, and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older.

“Plus, 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.”

Whilst some people have reacted to the advice and dismissed it as unnecessary, other parents agree that it’s a controversial topic.

“I raised my children this way over 20 years ago,” one woman wrote into CNN after the subject was raised in 2015.

“Why did we do this? Because I had been a victim of sexual abuse by a family ‘friend’ for many years as a child. I did not want my children to think they had to hug or touch others unless the contact was wanted.”

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