I was reading this article at For Harriet about teaching children, especially little Black girls that they have a say in who touches them and showing affection. Her point was that it’s bad to force kids to kiss and hug people on demand, particularly strangers or relatives they aren’t close to. I agree, however the author put the emphasis on the fact that kids aren’t property. That left the heart of the matter unsaid.
As a child, I remember relatives, family friends, and even strangers feeling entitled to kiss, hold, and touch children. Even if the child obviously didn’t want to. Even if the child cried or showed other signs of distress. Luckily for me, my parents never forced that on me. I think that’s very important, but not because I wasn’t their property.
I think it is hypocritical to teach children that no one can touch them, especially in a sexual way, while simultaneously making them touch and display affection to people when their parent/guardian says so. If a child has a right to reject sexual touch, they can only understand and act on that right if they can reject ALL touch. Even if it hurts an adults feelings. Or makes them upset. Or makes them seem rude.
How do you tell a child that kissing Aunt Jujube that they’ve never met before is right, but it’s wrong if the neighbor wants him/her to sit in his lap?
If no one listens when they show they don’t want to be touched, they won’t be able to differentiate. They will think they have no say in what people they don’t know or trust do to their bodies.
And that won’t improve as they get older. They will believe that they have to be “polite” and do what other people want them to do, especially concerning their bodies. And no wonder. They learn that some touching is bad. But they are forced to experience or give “good” touch when they don’t want to.
So if a peer or teacher touches them inappropriately. If a person they are dating pressures them sexually. If a stranger violates them. They have learned to be “polite”. They have learned to be accommodating in what may be harmful situations. They have learned that they have no right to control their bodies.
I’ve seen my cousins be forced to hug and kiss and touch. As a child just seeing it made me uncomfortable. And some of cousins were molested by those people who were allowed to have access to their bodies.
Don’t do that to your babies.
Am I saying that we should children as little adults who are fully capable of running their lives? No. They are children. They don’t have the life experience, knowledge, or maturity to make all their own decisions. I am saying guide them in healthy behavior. Let them know that their concerns are valid. Support them in setting boundaries. Above all else protect them.