Why You Need to Stop Forcing Your Kids to Hug People

Imagine you and your kids are attending a family event. As soon as your family walks in, your kids are mauled by loving and well-meaning adults, like grandparents and aunts, people who just love your kids and want to hug them. Except your kid is like, Don’t hug me. Or, I don’t want to be touched. What do you do? Do you force your kid to hug? Do you make excuses to your mother-in-law who refuses to take no for an answer? Or do you say, “He doesn’t want to be hugged right now. And that’s that.”


Lyz Lenz tackles a sensitive issue here in this Mashable article. She talks about a time her two-year-old ran away from her grandmother, refusing to give a hug. Lyz was embarrassed. She wanted her son to behave. But then she spoke to Lori Day, an educational psychologist and author, who had this to say: “Children can be fickle and unpredictable at family gatherings. It is important that parents affirm the boundaries their children set, even if it means running from great-grandma.”

I’m not entirely sure why adults insist on giving children hugs even if the child is totally resisting. When we force our children to do this, we are basically teaching them that their bodies don’t matter. “Empower children to say no in situations where the person making them uncomfortable is someone close or a loved one,” Day told her. “Even if there is no immediate threat, there may be in the future.” Look, it’s a lot of pressure to say no to a well-meaning adult. I know when I see my niece and nephew I want to squeeze them. But it’s not up to me. It’s up to them. By the way, Lyz isn’t saying that being rude is acceptable either. She’s just saying, listen to your kid. Your kid should still be able to greet an adult without being a dick. Your kid should be able to say, “Hi Grandma.” Or say nothing. How about a wave?