Should children be made to hug relatives at Christmas?

The Girl Scouts of America has caused a huge debate among the parenting community about whether children should be made to hug their relatives at Christmas.

The Girl Scouts of America has caused a huge debate after saying children shouldn’t be forced to hug their relatives at Christmas [Photo: Getty]

The children’s organisation warned parents not to encourage their daughters in particular to hug family members who give them presents.


Because young girls may feel that they “owed physical affection” to someone who gives them things later on in life. For example, a man who buys them a drink or dinner.

Entitled “Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays”, the advice was issued in response to the ongoing sexual harassment allegations against well-known members of the the film industry.

Some parents think it’s important to girls about consent from a young age [Photo: Getty]

“Think of it this way – 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 have bought her dinner, or done something else seemingly nice, for her later in life,” Girls Scout wrote.

Instead of encouraging hugs, it said “there are many other ways to show appreciation, thankfulness, and love that don’t require physical contact. Saying how much she’s missed someone or thank you with a smile, a high-five, or even an air kiss, are all ways she can express herself, and it’s important that she knows she gets to choose which feels most comfortable to her.”

Some experts have disagreed with the advice, accusing Girls Scout of causing a “mass hysteria.”

New York-based psychiatrist Dr Janet Taylor told ABC News that parents shouldn’t make children “afraid of who they should not be afraid of.”

However, developmental psychologist for the Girls Scout of America, Dr Andrea Bastiani, added that “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.”

Naturally, plenty of people have spoken out against the words of warning, with one dad labelling it as “ridiculous”.

“GS should teach kids to speak up instead. Empower them instead of falsely shielding them,” tweeted one woman.

“How can a hug put you in such a debt? I only see the purpose is to destroy family and its extension,” commented one man.

Another Twitter user wrote: “Girl Scouts needs to sell the cookies and leave the parenting to real parents, not a bunch of numbskulls.”

A lot of parents, however, agreed with the advice, saying it’s important for young girls not to feel pressured.

“Thanks Girl Scouts. It is never wise to force a child (girl or boy) to hug, kiss or otherwise be “affectionate” if they don’t want to. Boundaries!” commented one woman.

“My partner routinely says to daughters “don’t you want to give XYZ a hug, kiss” etc. and doesn’t understand why I intervene. NO ONE owes ANYONE physical attention. EVER. Period,” agreed another mum.

Another supporter commented: “Love it. Remind to us ALL not to allow parents to force us to hug their children either. You can tell if a kid (BOY OR GIRL) feels weird about hugging, and we as adults should say “it’s ok, I respect your desire not to hug” and that’s totally fine.”

The advice coincidentally comes at the same time as Pixar co-founder and Disney Animation boss John Lasseter agreed to take a six-month leave of absence after being accused of giving “unwanted hugs” in the office.

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