I believe in bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy is defined as, “the right to make decisions over one’s own [body]. It is about being empowered to make informed choices.”
When it comes to my child(ren), I want them to learn bodily autonomy right from the get go. I want them to know that their body is their own and that they can choose what they want to do with it, when they want to.
Now, how does this play out with a child so young? It starts by adults being okay with hearing the word “no,” or seeing a head shake “no,” or understanding a cry “no,” or responding to a body-tense-up “no”.
I have never forced my daughter to hug anyone, because I don’t want to teach her that she has to do anything with her body that she doesn’t want to do herself. I’ve shared this often, and with it comes a lot of push back from people, saying things like, “how can you not make sure your child hugs their grandma and grandpa goodbye?” Truth is, I fully understand if my daughter doesn’t want to hug her grandma, or grandpa, or auntie, or uncle, or cousin, or dad, or me for that matter!!
I often explain it to people by getting them to think of a child as an adult. How would YOU feel, as an adult, if you were told you had to hug, or kiss, or hold hands, with someone?
How to implement this:
- Ask The Child: My phrases are usually something like, “Do you want to give grandma a hug? A high five? Do you want to blow a kiss?”
- Be Okay with “No:” If they don’t want to do any of those things, that’s okay! I then follow up with something like, “That’s okay. Maybe next time if you want to!” Or “Alright, I’m going to wave goodbye to grandma!”
- Be Confident with Your Boundaries: Not everyone is going to be okay with this. But I would rather take the brunt of it, than my child. This is when I will say to those people, “She will hug you when/if she’s ready.” And if I need to, I explain more of the why behind these choices.
Here’s My Why!
I want my children to grow up and become adults who don’t feel guilt that then forces them to do something they don’t want to do.
If I teach my children they have to hug someone even when they don’t want to, what is going to happen when they are older and someone tells them they have to do something more physical? Or what if someone simply asks them to do something more physical, and they are too scared to say no, because they’ve never been allowed to?
“No” is an important word. “No” is a full sentence. And “no” starts before babies can even say it!