Presumably, in response to the myriad of sexual harassment and abuse allegations in which the victims are too often minors, The Girl Scouts of America posted a warning to parents not to force their girls to hug or kiss adults as part of the holiday tradition or as a form of saying thank you if they don’t want to.
A piece on the Girl Scouts website entitled “Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays” highlights scenarios in which kids are often encouraged to show affection with adults like with the arrival of an uncle at a holiday gathering or when an aunt gives the child a gift.
“’Have you ever insisted, “Uncle just got here—go give him a big hug!’ or ‘Auntie gave you that nice toy, go give her a kiss,’ when you were worried your child might not offer affection on her own?” reads the piece. “If yes, you might want to reconsider the urge to do that in the future.”
Amidst the sexual harassment deluge that has occurred since the New York Times broke a piece about Harvey Weinstein’s decades of serial sexual abuse, teaching girls how to have the agency to say “no” appears to have become a priority for the organization. The piece from the Girl Scouts suggests that encouraging girls to thank adults with physical affection can set them up for confusing, even dangerous, situations later in life.
“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,” the piece reads.
Developmental child psychologist for the Girl Scouts, Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, explained the idea behind teaching girls about consent at an early age:
“The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children,” “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.”
The piece goes on to say that kids don’t get to be rude to adults who do nice things for them or that they haven’t seen in a while, but suggests parents allow their girls to decide how to say thank you and whether or not they want to show physical affection in the form of a kiss or a hug.