If you’re not much of a hugger, you probably struggled as a child. Children are expected to hug anyone who asks, regardless of whether they really feel like it.
If the hugger is a family member, the pressure is even stronger. As a kid, it’s considered impolite to say no to relatives.
But one mother and blogger refuses to make her kids hug anyone, no matter who they are. Laura Mazza, who runs Mum on the Run, views it as an important lesson in boundaries. Forcing children to touch someone else is hypocritical and harmful – even if it’s just a loving hug. If Laura’s kids don’t want to hug, they don’t have to.
In a recent Facebook post, Laura explained her thinking.
She wants her children to honor the power of the word “no,” whether it comes from another person or their own mouth. In other words: No means no.
“It means no when you say you don’t want to do something with your body that you don’t want to do. So it definitely means no when someone asks you for a hug and you don’t want to give them one,” Laura said.
Alongside a photo of her son Luca, Laura shared a recent situation in which a relative asked him for a hug, and he said no.
“Recently relatives came to visit and asked for a goodbye hug, and my son promptly said no.” Laura wrote. “This person said ‘ohhh come on!! Just one big hug’ and I was looked at by the relative like I should encourage him by saying ‘go on give her a hug!’ But instead I said ‘that’s okay you don’t have to.'”
She continued: “And what may have been considered as slightly awkward or rude on my part, it’s something I’m proud as a parent to say or do.”
Laura is committed to respecting her children’s boundaries, even when others judge her.
“My responsibility first and foremost is to my children. As their mother it’s my job to stand up for them when they can’t and teach them to learn to stand up for themselves,” Laura said. “I am their safe place, one that they trust and I won’t abuse that by insisting that they do something that makes them feel uncomfortable to be polite.”
The mom-of-three continued: “My son gets too much sometimes and wants to hug other kids, or his sister, a little too much. I can’t tell him ‘You can’t hug her/him if they don’t want to be hugged, but if uncle Albert demands a hug, you should give him one.’ Because I’m teaching my kids that no means no and that’s it’s okay to say no.”
“It means no when I say ‘you can’t have an extra cookie.’ It means no when your sister doesn’t want to wrestle. It means ‘no’ when your girlfriend/boyfriend says ‘no’ to sex or if you or they say, ‘I’m not ready.’ It means no when you say you don’t want to do something with your body that you don’t want to do.”
“So it definitely means no when someone asks you for a hug and you don’t want to give them one.”
“The message is that you can still be polite, nice and a good person and still say no,” Laura said.
Laura posted the message on her Facebook page, where she regularly talks to her 183,000 followers about life as a mom.
Fellow moms loved Laura’s message.
In fact, many moms are raising their kids the exact same way that Laura is, without forcing them to hug or kiss anyone.
And other family members are getting the hang of it, too.
Even as a parent, it’s important to respect your child’s physical boundaries, commenters said.
Because a child with healthy boundaries will feel free to give all the affection he wants.
And there are other ways to be polite to loved ones.
There’s no need to force anything, moms said.
It’s all about consent, even — or maybe especially — for toddlers.