You don't own me
When do a parent’s rights end and a kid’s begin?
It’s a complicated matter when your son or daughter literally came out of your body and is genetically part you, or even if you are not biologically related but still their legal guardian. You most likely care for them, provide for them, and protect them. In many cases, you gave them life.
But how long until what they do is no longer your decision?
And we’re not talking about things like dating or drinking or staying out late. We’re talking about hugging, kissing, and showing other common signs of affection.
A new campaign is helping kids (and supportive adults) rally for their own rights, but parents are pretty split on the subject. Keep reading to learn about the movement that’s telling kids it’s okay not to hug their own family members.
I don’t own my child’s body.
While the movement for kids’ rights has certainly existed for generations, a recent uptake started after CNN journalist Katie Hetter wrote about her own feelings on the matter in an article title “I Don’t Own My Child’s Body.”
Inside the article, Hetter explains that her seven-year-old daughter isn’t overly fond of kissing and hugging others, and that she’ll sometimes go on strikes where she won’t show any physical affection.
But this behavior doesn’t worry Hetter, who told her daughter one key piece of advice: “I would like you to hug Grandma, but I won’t make you do it.” Hetter’s article was backed by a post on the popular A Might Girl Facebook wall along with the meme pictured above.
Her body, her choices.
Learning to say ‘no’
Hetter defends her statement by assuring us that this is no parenting trick, no manipulative or passive aggressive way to get something out of her daughter. On the contrary, it is a direct and honest approach to teaching her daughter about her inalienable rights to protect her own body and dignity.
“She doesn’t have to hug or kiss anyone just because I say so, not even me. I will not override my own child’s currently strong instincts to back off from touching someone who she chooses not to touch,” Hetter explains. “I figure her body is actually hers, not mine.
“It doesn’t belong to her parents, uncles and aunts, school teachers or soccer coach. While she must treat people with respect, she doesn’t have to offer physical affection to please them. And the earlier she learns ownership of herself and responsibility for her body, the better for her.”
Hetter isn’t alone in the way she raises her daughter to be independent and make choices about her body, even at the expense of appearing rude or apathetic towards others.
Co-founder and executive director at Kidpower International, Irene van der Zande showed her support for this more practical and less patronizing form of parenting. “When we force children to submit to unwanted affection in order not to offend a relative or hurt a friend’s feelings, we teach them that their bodies do not really belong to them because they have to push aside their own feelings about what feels right to them. This leads to children getting sexually abused, teen girls submitting to sexual behavior so ‘he’ll like me,’ and kids enduring bullying because everyone is ‘having fun.'”
Other parenting and behavior experts agree that forcing kids to hug or accept being touched by others normalizes uncomfortable or inappropriate touching and teaches them to ignore their instincts.
Of course, not all parents agree with this more progressive parenting that puts the ball in the kid’s court. Keep reading!