Overheard on CNN.com: Are you a 'huggy' person? Would you make a child hug?
Some experts advise parents not to make their children hug and kiss relatives, so children will feel in control of their bodies.
June 20th, 2012
09:00 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Are you a 'huggy' person? Would you make a child hug?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

As the Jerry Sandusky trial moves forward, some people are talking about the roots of child molestation. Katia Hetter wrote an article about whether children should be required to hug or kiss their grandmothers, their relatives, and other people children are typically asked to embrace. Readers had varying attitudes toward such compulsory affection and any possible consequences that could result.

I don't own my child's body

Many readers were in support of letting the child have some freedom over who they hug and kiss, but others said there are lessons to be learned about manners and the way to show affection.

runabout: "Good article. I visited my cousin (who I had not seen in 10 years) and she practically forced her daughter to hug me goodbye. This kid had never seen me in her life and had now seen me for all of two hours. She didn't want to hug me. And I was OK with that. It felt weird she got forced by her Mom. I kept saying, 'It's OK, I understand ... why should she hug someone she barely knows.' Since I brought a little gift, it was appropriate that her Mom reminded her to say 'Thank You.' And I agree that a Mom should teach their kids to formally say 'Goodbye' to guests. But forcing unwanted touching? And if a older relative is offended ... tell them to get over it ... they are adults."

2sc00ps: "Um, long-lost cousin vs. grandmother is completely different. You're damn right you're going to hug the woman who gave your mother/father life so you could have life."

But what if there is something else going on with the child?

FreonP: "All of the people agreeing with the author clearly know nothing about autism or myriad other problems that can make an adult seem different or creepy to a child. They assume that a child's instincts are correct and that no child is ever controlling or cruel toward adults. If the child doesn't like hugging anyone, fine. But don't encourage the child to be cruel by discriminating."

Hugging can be a greeting in some cases.

russpro82: "But is asking them to give their grandmother a hug really a matter of controlling their body? It's a way that we greet people who are close and special to us, and I think if we explain to our children that we should hug grandma because she is a special lady and she deserves a hug, then we are teaching them that hugging is OK for special people but not for just anyone."

Scarred for life?

banjoist1234: "I have a friend who was forced by their parent to kiss their grandmother in her casket, and he carried that horrible memory into adulthood. Hearing him talk about it, you could hear the anger and resentment in his voice towards the parent, 40 years later. Kids are not intelligent obedient pets; they're human beings, and it's their body to control as they wish."

This person said they experienced an episode of abuse when younger, and didn't want their child to feel obligated to touch anyone.

penquin3: "I raised my children this way over 20 years ago. Why did we do this? Because I had been a victim of sexual abuse by a family 'friend' for many years as a child. I did not want my children to think they had to hug or touch others unless the contact was wanted. Now when my grandson does not feel like hugging me and his mom tries to make him, I tell her no, he has the right to his body and who touches it. Even though he is only 2 and his reasons are simply matters of him exerting independence, he still needs to learn his body is his own. This author is doing the right thing. By the way, all of my kids are college grads who have jobs."

Some said worrying children will be more vulnerable to child molesters if they hug might be a bit of a reach.

Selendis: "While I think having your child hug grandma as a precusor to being a victim is quite a reach, I do admire somebody willing to accept that their child has a right to make their own decisions about their bodies. This story shouldn't be so much about child molesters, as about respecting children as thinking, feeling beings."

Not everybody saw this point the same way.

Alex Bishop: "Last time I checked, there's a difference between hugging your grandmother and showering with your football coach."

KamJos: "Most children are molested by family members. It's not a difference."

Some readers pointed out that molestation often originates from the people children know the best.

Michelle M. Williams: "A lot of these people claiming that this kid is going to be a brat are part of the problem. Children are rarely molested by strangers. No, most relatives are not molesters but most molesters ARE relatives. Children often have a difficult time saying that they are molested. Often the first hints are that a kid doesn't want to go over to a relative's house or doesn't want to give them a hug. The VAST majority of parents blow off sexual abuse and don't believe the kid or they just think the kid is being a 'brat.' "

A commenter talked about how her son was reluctant to hug his 84-year-old grandmother, and the discussion turned to the ways predators reduce resistance in their victims.

blackhart: "Yes it is sad but that is how predators work ... they don't jump right in and start molesting kids ... otherwise it would be easy to catch them. They work on trust and inexperience. In your instance, you were there to reason with your son ... but what happens when you are not there and say a coach he sees on a regular basis gradually works on his emotions? We can't guard our children 24/7 most of us have to work its the way of the world. It's sad that a lot of things happen but unfortunately we need to empower even a child to protect themselves."

If kids are left to choose, might they hug anyway?

Jennifer65: "I am a parent, and I demand that my child be respectful, polite, kind to others, do his chores and maintain excellent grades. He doesn't have an Xbox, and is being raised without the obscene sense of entitlement too prevalent today. He is not, however, forced to hug or kiss people. I give him the respect to decide on his own when and to whom he offers physical affection. And by the way, he has never chosen to not hug or kiss a grandparent."

Who needs a hug?

Techsupp0rt: "What is it with people being so hell bent on hugging kids anyway? Why do they feel so entitled to snuggle up to a kid if they don't want it? Why do they feel they should be offended if they don't? Are these people that hard up for affection? THAT is freakin' creepy."

A child's apprehension can also be a teaching moment.

true2faith: "At 4 years old, my son decided he didn't want to hug his 94-year-old grandma when we visited with her at the nursing home. She said it was OK and nodded in understanding, but we couldn't help but see in her eyes that it hurt her feelings. When it came time to tuck our son in that night, my husband and I decided against hugging and kissing him. Why? Because he needed to learn compassion ... the impact of his actions on others. We wanted for him to understand how grandma felt when he didn't want to hug her. I can now say 'remember how it felt?' and he understands. Part of my job as a parent is to teach him what he needs to know to grow into a good, kind, caring, compassionate person. The Sandusky comparison is so absurd, I'm not even going to bother addressing that."

This reader says they don't mind if their grandsons don't hug them.

JaJaD: "I have two grandsons, 6 and 2, and sometimes they don't want to hug me hello and/or goodbye and that's OK; that's their choice and I respect that. I'm not generally a hugger myself so I respect when others don't want to hug, people should never be obligated to touch, wish I hadn't been obligated to as a child."

This reader is tired of feeling obligated to hug people, and said the need to hug is a fairly recent phenomena they observed starting roughly in the 1990s.

charley764: "I often wonder how the U.S. turned into this must-hug culture. When I was a kid, you might hug your mother, but you certainly didn't go around hugging your friends when they came over, your neighbor when she gave you a birthday present, etc. You used to say "thank you" or shake hands. Nowadays everybody is expected to hug everyone else and nobody is asking why. As recently as the 1980s, social hugging was considered rather outrageous. Remember Leo Buscaglia, who used to go around encouraging people to show love with hugs? That was considered goofy in the '80s! Now it's expected or even demanded from men, women, children. When I go out to dinner with a friend and we part at the end of the night, hugging is expected. When I see my family members, hugging is expected. I think it's weird, and I'd like people to keep in mind that this is a very new phenomenon."

One reader griped about people that are too eager to touch kids.

locovelo: "I also hate it when grown-ups just pick up and hug little kids, pinch their cheeks, kiss them, as if they were a puppy or a toy. Even when I say "don't touch them, they have a cold" they say "Oh, I don't mind." They are just clueless."

MomofThree66: "You're absolutely right. No boundaries ... on the part of the adults, not the kids! My first daughter was six weeks premature and born in the winter. Therefore, we were on high alert for RSV that whole first winter. So, we took her out in a stroller and put a blanket over the top of it so that she was hidden. Still, at times, we had to stop complete strangers from grabbing for the blanket to yank it aside so they could stick their gross faces into my daughter's as she slept, on a heart monitor, in her stroller."

drowlord: "Where do you live? Someone would get shot in Texas for that. Hell, I'd shoot twice. An armed society is a polite society."

Where are your boundaries?

runabout: "The article is a little overdramatic, but I agree with a major theme. People (and children are people) shouldn't be required to touch someone they don't want to. Be polite ... yes. Be considerate ... yes. Give a fake compliment about Grandma's funny looking hat ... yes."

Chad Deering: "I like hugging my Grandma : )"

AndreaMilnes: "I'm sorry but you're the parent, she's the 4-year-old. Kids these days too often don't understand that sometimes you have to do things you don't like. Of course teach them "no-no parts" and things like that, but not hugging grandma because she doesn't want to is pure idiocy. You're raising a spoiled brat."

Ule Notknow: "No, you don't have to hug Grandma. But if you don't, forget about licking the leftover frosting out of the bowl."

Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

soundoff (90 Responses)
  1. Khurt

    Anyone recall the family gatherings with little girls trying to hug and even kiss the boy and the boy nearly in tears trying to pry her away?

    Never cared for the pretentious hugs and I guess I'm offended or hurt by it. Never cared for the hand shake that way either, especially in the doctors office. A 'hey' and, nod and or fist bump is more acceptable. How many times have people such as strangers, greeted and pretended to care how your day was, often in monotone and than ignored your reply anyway? Some things we should read into and sometimes too much. I have sometimes been accused of over analyzing things to death.

    Ask the kid if they want to give the person a hug and the kid does a wide eyed scary shake of the head is curious and worth questioning when the person leaves.

    June 22, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. joan

    i dont think you should MAKE them, but you should have a little talk and make them understand why they should and then allow them to make their own choice!

    June 22, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • anna

      I agree with you, my children only kissed family members though and would give a hug to good friends.

      June 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Raymond P. Bilodeau, Worcester, MA

    If children are not willing to greet other family members appropriately, someone needs to ask them why. Children often don't want to hug or kiss grandma or grandpa because they "smell old," which we now know to be true. And if you train your children to avoid strangers, and they don't see grandma more than once a year, the children will treat her as a stranger.

    It may also be they think the person is like someone who is abusing them, and so they are afraid. Talk to the child about why. Don't demand answers, don't suggest answers and don't blame the child.

    June 22, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  4. Susan

    My kids are 8 & 12 and every single time we have guest over... they will hug them hello and hug them goodbye, whether they have met them for the first time or they've known them for a while. It's just a habit in our family. I've never ever forced them to hug... but thats their way of greeting people "I" know. My kids are very loving and I will never discourage them from doing it, but will never force them if they didn't want to.

    June 22, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  5. hypatia

    Sounds like parents allowing the kids to drag themselves up instead of raising them to be polite.

    June 22, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  6. Linda

    Are you kidding me? Yes. If my child acted strange about hugging a relative, then I might investigate it further.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. kurt

    this is just stupid, Hugging is an act of socialization not an assault. and if she doesn't own her child she is responsible for it and the interactions and connections that child will make in the future. no wonder teens are walking side by side on the sidewalk texting each other.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Richard A. Lawhern

    Probably the key word that much of this discussion revolves around is "forced". We force children to do many things - some of them ultimately healthy and others not so much. Behavioral expectations are a part of socialization that kids cannot do spontaneously for themselves. Unfortunately, we can also create an over-wariness and fear of strangers, or a lack of wariness where it is appropriate. Another missing piece in this discussion is that many kids grow up without adequate parental supervision, in two-income families. Protecting children from abuse has many dimensions and no simple answers. "One size fits all" does not apply.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. sidney

    All I can say is development and advancement is destroying us! where is the innocence of creation and pure love and affection that we are supposed to exhibit to one another? May God have mercy on us and bring us back to innocence.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ViK100

      agree with you 100%

      June 22, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      I'm pretty sure you mean "let's return to ignorance, when people did as they were told out of fear".

      June 23, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. linda tibbets

    years ago, my friend would make her daughter hug and kiss people. not only family and friends-but strangers too. Samantha was a beautiful little girl and people would gush over her in shopping malls or any public event and her
    mother would force her to respond to complete strangers when they would try to hug and kiss her.
    i held my tongue for awhile- but unable to no more, i told her " what you are doing is telling her she has no right to
    say " NO" .
    she remarked that she had never even thought of what repercussions it might have later in her child's life
    i am not saying we should make our children fearful of showing affection. but it shouldn't be forced. it should be
    our child's choice.
    my son was the opposite, he would hug or kiss everyone, i worried he would walk off with someone. but, i just did my
    job as a parent and kept a watchful eye on him, and let him be who he was.
    both children are grown now with children of their own, and both are wonderful parents, wonderful adults. they were just different
    both situations can be quite dangerous- taking the power away from your child and a child too trusting. that's where
    our job as parents come in. WE have to watch them, protect them. let's not take away their tools. if they don't want to kiss or hug someone, let them be who they are. if they are too trusting, watch carefully.

    June 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mary ann walker

    Children need to choose who and when they hug. They learn how to treat others by the modeling that significant adults provide them. Children who get to choose, learn to trust their gut instincts regarding comfort and safety. When we tell them who and when to hug, we can send very mixed messages to them and this is something they need to have crystal clear. This is especially true with and between family members. Most children are molested by people they are familiar with in trusting relationships, not strangers.

    June 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ray Comeau

    Unfortunately , this article is untimely, coming on the heels of the Sandusky trial. From witness's reports Sandusky was doing more than hugging his victims. And should be seen as such !

    Could this article be a 'softener' to make Sandusky's actions seem like mere affectionate hugs ?

    I believe even the hug of a child requires parent and the child's consent when both are persent !
    Ray

    June 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ViK100

    Her body is not your but she's only 4 for God's sake!!! Stop this nonsense! "Do whatever makes you happy!!" BS! What if the child one days grabs a knife, kills the cat and desides that is what makes her happy?? YOU are the parent, that kid learns from you. I understand not forcing them to hug someone they don't want to hug is understandable but EVEN YOU??? Ridiculous!! If a kid does not want to hug mom or dad, that kid has issues. You hug her and and ask questions, guide her, etc.. This is the dumbest idea ever! You let your child do and be whatever they want, and you're raising a careless person. No feelings but only centered on herself. Bad, Bad, Bad!!

    June 22, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Coigne

    Within the family OK but with knowledgeable reserve.

    June 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ma & pa

    The intention of any act helps determine it's appropriateness and validity.

    June 22, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
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