Behind The Scenes: Is it okay for me to say "no" to family who want to hug and kiss my kid?
Twitter DM from an anonymous follower:
"Hi! I read your _Kids and Safety_ post* and it made me think about family members who try to hug and kiss kids. Is it ever okay to say "no" to them?"
Great question! You are NOT wrong for wanting to enforce a "no" you set...with anyone.
It's really important to make a big deal about listening to a "no". When we teach kids that "no" is an acceptable response, we are teaching them to listen to their bodies, gut and heart. That's a crucial life skill. "No" is also a boundary, right? Setting and maintaining good boundaries with people, especially family, is another life skill. These life skills are ones that perpetrators and abusers look for in kids and adults. When they are missing, kids and adults alike are more likely to be exploited and hurt.
Putting kids on the receiving end of an adult's desired way of showing affection deprives a child of their ability (and right) to listen to and learn from their own body. That's across the board: from listening to their body when they need to pee in the middle of the night to listening to their body when it's hungry and listening to their body when they feel nervous about someone. Remember, sexual predators are usually folks kids know. So it's especially important to help kids listen to their bodies, especially around familiar people.
Before you start, it may be helpful to practice. Saying something out loud always makes us more confident, especially when it comes to setting boundaries. You might say, "Actually we/I have decided to let the kids decide when and who they give hugs and kisses. Thanks for helping us allow them to make those choices." You never need to explain a boundary. But if you want, you could say, "we want little Bridgett to learn to listen to own body instead of what other people tell her she should do with your body."
Last thing! Boundaries only work when they are clear, consistent and you stick to them. Repetition is your friend.
Thanks for being a good mom.
PS.* That post is here.