I am very much guilty of this very thing that I am about to talk about. But I have decided it needs to stop.
As a child, growing up, can you remember how adults who were a part of your life in a big or a miniscule way just HAD to give you kisses or cuddles whenever they saw you? I can remember, and we Norwegians aren’t the cuddliest of people. I can remember older people, aunties and uncles wanting that big hug and sometimes a sloppy kiss, too. My brother mostly got away with a handshake, although he got his share of the affection as well.
My girls are very affectionate. They kiss each other, they kiss the dog, and they kiss their dad and I. They kiss us goodnight, good morning, goodbye and hello. In public and in private. I ask them for kisses, and when they say ‘No’ – I grab one anyway. And I need to stop.
Not long ago, I read an article about this very subject. We need to teach girls and boys how to take charge of their bodies. To teach them that a No means No. It does not mean ‘No, but I’ll do it because it will make you happy.’ It does not mean ‘No, but please, force your kiss on me anyway.’ We need to teach them that their voice matters, that them taking a stand actually means something. Even when it is 3-year-old Sophia declining a request for a kiss because she is being silly or Ricky says No because she has just learnt that saying No makes us laugh. It is our responsibility to teach them to respect their own bodies.
You may say that this is a bit ‘extreme.’ Or that ‘they are just kids’ – but you would never ask an adult for a kiss, then proceed to do it anyway after they’ve turned you down? That’s sexual harassment. Of course, kissing my little ones has nothing to do with sexuality at all, but one day they are going to be teenagers – young ladies who very much need to know that they are in charge of their own bodies, and it all starts with letting them be in charge of who gets to do what to them.
Most cases of child abuse happens with someone known to the child. If that person has always been allowed to kiss, hug and touch the child, then one day when they try to take it a step further, it can very much be used against the child in the form of “You let me kiss you, now let me do this” – and similar. If the child has been allowed to say their No, it may be harder for the adult to abuse that child.
I need my girls to know they are in charge. The oldest ones are already trained in doing most of their own washing, and we regularly talk about who would be allowed to touch and see them in the nude. Melodie knows what the rules are, and Sophia is catching on. There is a fine line between creating a body issue and body awareness.
I have made some ‘rules’ in regards to how to approach this issue:
- Obviously, if they are sitting with you in an affectionate way, kissing their head and generally cuddling them is something they always enjoy. We don’t have to stop doing the spontaneous signs of affection. Unless, of course, they try to get away, but you’d notice that!
- All of them would mostly soften up rather quickly, and be happy to hand out cuddles, but when you first see them, they may not. If your offer of a hug or a kiss is refused, don’t tell them that it makes you sad. Or that it hurt your feelings. I don’t want my kids to feel responsible for your happiness, and guilting them into kissing you is not okay.
- Accept a No as what it is. It is simply an “I don’t feel like kissing you right now, try again later.” It is not an “I hate you, go away forever.” If they say no to a kiss, ask for a cuddle. If that’s not okay for them, offer a high-five or a hand-shake. They generally love that.
- Please, don’t try to ‘buy’ kisses. Don’t offer them something in return for a kiss. It is a bad habit for them to think that showing affection will or should give them something.
- One kiss does not mean there is now an unlimited amount for you. Take what you get. If that means a kissing competition between Ricky and Sophia (as we often have here) and that floats your boat, you’re lucky. If that means that Melodie tells you to kiss her head, then be happy. Sometimes that’s all her dad gets, too.
- Don’t let them kiss you if YOU don’t want to either. They need to learn that it goes both ways. I have, sometimes, declined their kiss and downgraded it to a cuddle instead.
- And yes, this goes for everyone – whether you’re grandmother, auntie or the neighbour down the street.
You may read this and think I am a bit hysterical, and if you do, so be it. In most parts of motherhood and raising children I take things as they come, very relaxed, and I am not at all caught up in the political correctness and hysteria some mums are, but this one thing is important to me. So there 🙂