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Don’t make your children give hugs

You are holding your toddler in your arms as you walk to the front door. The doorbell has just rung, and you open it to let your parents in. They have just driven hours through snowdrifts to see you and they want to hold their grandchild.

But your child has tightened her grip on your arm and doesn’t want to go to the people who have just walked in the front door.


Yeah, I understand, you are embarrassed. Your child doesn’t want to hug, so you try and make them. They don’t know the people. But, you do. You want your child to obey, so you make them hug their grandparents, or their Aunt, or the Uncle, or your best friend from college.

You have not taught your child to be obedient, you have taught your child that their body is not their own. You have taught them to not trust their own feelings about what touch to allow or not allow.

You have taught them to not say no if an adult wants to touch them. You have taught them that someone else’s feelings are more important than their own.

I was molested when I was seven by a man we called Uncle Carl. I didn’t know I should have said no.

My childhood experience affected how I parent my own children.

When my daughter was three her grandparents came to visit us. They flew from Minnesota to California. They saw their granddaughter once a year. When we went to the zoo, her grandmother, my mother-in-law, wanted to push the stroller.

When I gave the stroller to Nana to push, my daughter turned around and said, “No. Mama do.”

I let my daughter decide who pushed her stroller. I risked offending my mother-in-law.

This wasn’t about being obedient, this was about my daughter being in control of her personal space.

Let your child decide who they hug.

Don’t make them give hugs.Teach them their body is their own. Teach them to say no.

Don't make your children give hugs. Teach them to say no. Click To Tweet

Twenty-four years ago I met my nephew for the first time; he was two. He hid behind my brother and sister in law’s legs and didn’t come to me when I came in the house. He didn’t know me. They didn’t make him hug me.

He watched me from a distance the few days I was there. I lived in the United States and he lived in Canada.

The day I left, as my brother put my suitcase in the car to drive me to airport, he ran to me and hugged me. The hug was his idea, he chose to give me affection.

Your body is your own

Today is the day before Christmas. You might have company coming over, or you might be going to someone else’s house.

You might have kids, or you might not.

But one thing you do have. You have the right to say no.

If you don’t want to hug someone. Don’t.

Children grow up to be adults who think they can’t say no.



Click Here to comment. I always love to hear from you.

p.s. That is a photograph of me missing a tooth.



About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • Peabea

    A very excellent message.

  • If the child is not comfortable, there is no point forcing them to love. It was a good read Pamela. Hows your Christmas?

  • Susan W A

    no words worthy of what i want to express
    my heart breaks that you (and so many others, including those who have shared here) were abused

    my heart rejoices that you are such a source of inspiration
    willing to reflect and share and connect

    and yes, we must honor children’s rights to set boundaries for themselves
    we must respect their perspective
    we must realize that it is more than okay to parent with our children as partners not pawns

    love, gratitude, respect

  • E.R.G. Bennett

    Yes, yes, yes! I see this happen a lot in some of the families I spend time with. No abuse or anything, but it makes me cringe when one of the kids is gets scolded for not greeting me with affection. “You don’t have to hug me if you don’t want to,” I tell them, and that will be the rule with my future children. It’s so important for kids to develop healthy personal boundaries and learn how to enforce them.

  • Berdeane Bodley

    What an excellent message for everyone, also loved the video “the living room protest”, thank goodness I was there for you when I learned of it!! love, love, love.

  • Melody Potter

    Hi Pamela,
    As usual, I love your work. Merry Christmas!!!

  • Robn Patrick

    Right on. And honestly, adults shouldn’t be made to hug either. When I first became a member of a church that hugged it was hard. I didn’t know what to do. Of course I let people hug me. That’s what you do, right? Well, there’s a positive and a negative to that. I now love that people want to hug me. NOT always, not with everyone, and not in every way. Hugs are special and intimate sharing and I have no idea why people think it’s ok to mash your body to theirs when they see you are not reciprocating. But I have learned that for 99% of people it’s saying I care about you. I have also learned that even though I know that, I reserve the right to allow it.

  • Excellent message, Pamela. Having been in law enforcement for 26 years, I’ve investigated my fair share of abuse and molest cases. I couldn’t agree more with your advice. Thank you for having the courage to share your own story and help others to raise confident children! Merry Christmas!

    • Hello John Patrick Weiss,
      Thank you for validating my advice from the law enforcement angle. And thank you for your encouragement as a friend, to share my story.
      Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • La McCoy

    I agree so very much.

  • Claudia

    I’m an old lady now and I can’t even talk about the incident that occurred in an upstairs bedroom in my grandmother’s house 57 years ago. We have a duty to believe. We have a duty to acknowledge that the victim of unwanted attention is harmed not only by the perpetrator’s actions but also by the wilfully blind who fail to act. We have a duty to report abuse. It is not good enough to simply tell your children to stay away from the offender. We all know it doesn’t work that way.

    • Hello Claudia,
      Thank you for sharing your story here. I am so sorry you experienced abuse as a child. And further abused when no one took action against the abuser.
      I don’t understand why people don’t call the police.
      Yes, we have a duty to believe, and a duty to take action.
      I am airmailing you a hug today, (with your permission)

      • Claudia

        That was back in the ’50s, Pamela, and I’m reasonably sure that no one would call the police for that type of incident at that moment in time. It was not uncommon for parents to reinforce the family rules – don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel. Nobody knew any better. It was a different time. People are a bit more knowledgeable today.

  • Tori

    Such an important message, thanks for sharing Pamela, and for letting your own daughter say no. I experienced something like this as a child that surely pales in comparison to sexual abuse, but that I am still fighting the effects of 30 years later. These things matter.

    • Hi Tori,
      Yes, these things matter. I am sorry you are still fighting something from 30 years ago. But, you are always worth the battle. Keep fighting. I am on your side.

  • GirlGriot

    100% yes! I am reminded of one of Staceyann and Zuri Chin’s Living Room Protests on this exact subject: https://youtu.be/YsaPukypOU4

    Happy Christmas to you and your family, my friend! ❤

    • Thank you GirlGriot,
      This is great. I love this little girl being taught to say no. Thank you for introducing me to them.
      Hugs to you, (with your permission)

  • Lorraine Norwood

    Pamela thanks so much for these important words of advice. It’s important too for parents to model behavior so that children are confident saying no about their bodies. Otherwise they grow up to be people-pleasers —- like me.

    • Hello Lorraine,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment. So nice to hear from you. We are never too old to learn to say no, and to take care of ourselves. I wish you sunshine and laughter.
      Remember how much you are loved.

  • EmFairley

    Pamela, this is such an important lesson. I’m sorry for your pain. It is something I know all too well, because I’m a survivor myself.

    Wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas.

    Em xoxox

    • Hello EmFairley,
      Thank you for your concern. I am sorry you know this story well yourself. I appreciate your friendship.

      Blowing hugs to you and your family.