In today's edition of the Poor Parenting Report we learn about a CNN reporter who does not require her daughter to hug her relatives if she doesn't want to do it. Katia Hetter entitles her story "I Don't Own My Child's Body" Hetter (and "experts") claim that by allowing her 7-year old to decide who she is going to hug and who she is going to withhold affection from will keep her safer from molestation.
Before we get into the whole "hugging Grandma against your will will lead to you being raped" argument--let's first consider the title of the story. Parents do--in fact--own their children's bodies. It is their responsibility to make sure that body doesn't run in the road, doesn't ingest poison, doesn't abuse animals, doesn't injure other children, doesn't try to jump out of a second story window, doesn't eat Cheetos and Capri Sun for every meal and doesn't relieve itself in the middle of the living room. All of those activities that if given the choice, a child would likely choose to do. And by preventing them from just doing only what they want to do, adults are performing the main function of the task known as "Parenting".
Now onto the hugging issue. Hetter claims that children have an innate instinct to know when a person wants to do them harm--and that in fostering that instinct by allowing the refusal to hug a loved one it will protect them from those that want to molest them. But she forgets that children also have an innate desire to push the boundaries placed upon them by adults and to gain a sense of control over the actions of those adults. How can she know if her daughter doesn't want to hug Grandpa because it makes her feel creepy or just because it's a situation where she can say "NO!!" and Mom capitulates to her wishes?
You also run the risk of losing any semblance of authority when it comes to that child doing things later on that you know will be harmful to them. When Hetter's daughter decides to become sexually active at 13 because it's 'what she wants to do with her body", how does the mother then justify her opposition to the idea? Or can we expect a story from Hetter about how glad she is that her daughter can get birth control pills without her consent and the boy can get free condoms from the middle school nurse?
And shouldn't the child be given all the information on the ramifications of her "hug/no hug" decision? Is Ms. Hetter explaining to her daughter that Grandma and Grandpa are getting up there in years and may die soon? And will she share with her child all of her own regrets about the people in her life that have passed away without hearing "I love you" and getting a hug and a kiss one final time? Who among us doesn't have at least one person they wish they could have done that with?
Near the end of her story, Hetter tries to build up her "Mother of the Year" credentials by pointing out how much more work it is to not have her daughter hug loved ones. She points out that there are "a lot of calls, Skype visits and presents" instead. Ah yes, technology and objects--the modern replacement for actual human interaction. Why not just have her send a text with a few emojis over to Grandma's cellphone before possibly seeing her for the last time? Remember, it's the thought that counts.