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. Susan Marley

    I find it very interesting that most comments in this article refer to hugging "grandma"; I do not believe there is a single reference to forcing a child to hug "grandpa" or "uncle". This tells me that most folks are less comfortable with forcing children to physically interact with a male relative or friend.......

    June 20, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • nsaidi

      You know, that's a really interesting point you made there, Susan Marley. Do you think people feel that way, and if so, why?

      June 20, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • BK

      Men have an unfair stereotype in this regard, it's like just being an adult male by itself hangs a cloud of paranoia over your head, regardless of how decent you might be. I myself feel uncomfortable hugging children because society's paranoia always has me worried someone will think the wrong thing. You can't even really smile at a child in passing anymore without risking a paranoid parent.

      June 20, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • CLC

      I am curious to know whether the author of this article is pro-life or pro-abortion. If she is the latter, which I suspect, then her hypocrisy is bone-chilling. If she is the former, then her argument is reasonable.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:38 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Me huggy? What people read about and even know about me, would say, at times, yes I am huggy. And it is a simple reinforcing gesture of kinship and love. It for some, the hug can have detrimental overshadows too. Especially if it was done out of insincerity, or just like some people, to put on a show.
    But to ask a child to hug somebody? Perhaps, if the child has antisocial tendencies. But you have to stop and think why is it, he or she doesn't hug certain people. Truth comes the mouths of babes, and they may be freightened to hug someone that gives them "bad vibes".

    June 20, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Fritz Hohenheim

    So people who were forced to hug trees as children become treehuggers as adults?

    June 20, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Portland tony

    Sometimes a youngster just needs a hug. As a grandpa I've hugged my four grandkids when their feelings are hurt, maybe bruise a knee, bad day at school etc...at the same time wiping their tears and talking to them. I'm not a hugger at heart and normally a "Hi grandpa Tony" does me just right!

    June 20, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jason

    I skimmed through the comments on the original piece, and there were quite a few linking the idea "I don't own my child's body" to the concept that abortion is infringing on the body of an unborn child. There were enough, in fact, that I am curious why CNN does not mention any in its followup article here.

    June 20, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • nsaidi

      @Jason To be quite honest, I had not read any comments of that sort, but I appreciate you pointing that out because it is an interesting angle. I'm trying to find some now ...

      June 20, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • fred

      People should tell those women who want to get an abortion that they don't own their child's body either. You can't have it both ways. Just like it is extremely hypocritcal for the laws in our country to allow abortion and yet charge a person for manslaughter who kills a woman who is pregnant.

      June 21, 2012 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      A fetus is not a person. Until birth, it is nothing more than a potential human being inside of the woman. If a person murders a pregnant woman, there should only be ONE count of manslaughter and ONE count of willful property damage. The money from the damages should be given to her family, since the woman is no longer alive. If it were just an attack that damaged the fetus and it could not come to term, then the money from the damages go to the woman. Her property was destroyed. Abortion should be legal until the minutes before birth. It might make people uncomfortable, but when you assign value to the fetus, you take that value away from the woman carrying the fetus. She is the important one and the only one who should matter in any situation, like it or not.

      June 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dazzle ©

    As an adult, I love giving and receiving hugs where appropriate. I was never forced as a child to hug and kiss every relative. I instilled the same value in my child whereas her father hugs strangers and doesn't know a stranger. I was just recently reunited with a long lost family member and my instinct was to run to him, jump into his arms and hold on to dear life. We stayed like that for 5 minutes until a relative said it wasn't appropriate in an airport setting. That relative got a bit of a tongue lashing and no hug from me.

    June 20, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • JBo

      Two adults clinging to each other for 5 minutes straight in public is definitely outside the social norm....most people would say "get a room," so hopefully it's a *distant* family member.....

      June 20, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Guest

    This review is extremely selective in posting comments. A significant majority of the commenters thought the article was hogwash and the author's concern that hugging her grandmother would somehow teach her daughter to be more receptive to pedophiles was way over the top. The commenters who agreed with any or all of the article are grossly overrepresented in the quotes chosen above. It's frustrating to find not just a puffy blog on unsupported pop psychology being touted as a news item, but then have obvious bias in the attempt to sell it even harder.

    June 20, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @JBo, screw societal norms. This was a very special reunion so put your judgmental self in a box.

      June 20, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • nsaidi

      I dunno, Guest. I saw a lot of comments that seemed to agree with the article, although the opinion was not by any means unanimous. There were strong arguments from both sides. That seems to be consistent with the response to other stories we've had about issues related to outward displays of affection. (And think about it for a sec, we're all communicating online ...)

      One thing I want to emphasize is no one is trying to force an idea on you; if you disagree with an aspect of a story, you can speak your mind and that becomes the conversation and we'll hear you. If you disagree with the points above, please share your views and explain why you feel the way you do. Who knows, you might just change someone's outlook on life! From my non-parental perspective, this is something I had never really thought about, until today when I had to read the article.

      June 21, 2012 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Guest02

      I agree. I read many of the comments to the original article, and there were many, many comments that absolutely disagreed with the author's viewpoint, called it psychobabble garbage (and worse), and pointed out that being asked to hug a relative occasionally was not, in any way, proven to be related to being more likely to become the victim of an abuser. CNN definitely cherry-picked the reader responses to flesh out this "follow up" to the original piece.

      June 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Portland tony

    From the comments, some say men shouldn't hug kids, some say men are uncomfortable hugging kids...and poor grandma ....nobody wants her hugs.

    June 20, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rascal Rabble

    sanford chief of police just got axed...betcha he can use a hug right now!

    June 20, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      We'll leave that for you to do Rascal Rabble.

      June 20, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ProudCitizen

    And to the person in Texas...shooting people? What about verbally and firmly telling someone not to do something? Gun crazy-gun happy people (an "armed society") is NOT a polite society. It's a shoot-first-me-first-don't-car-about-you mentality. And it really is a problem when more people are thinking like this person. Guns are a problem, and so are the people who use them, a lot of the time (law enforcement not included).

    June 20, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @Rascal Rabble, I know he is so this mom will give you a pass.

      June 20, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Obama Mama

    I am a hugger. I hug my whole family. I hug my friends. Yep, I am a hugger.
    Not a hand shaker, a hugger. Now strange children, nope. I would not want to scare them or force a hug. If they came to me first with open arms, yes, I would not want to hurt their feelings by pushing them aside.

    June 20, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. nsaidi

    Yeah, that's a good point. Different cultures definitely view hugging in different ways.

    June 20, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carol

      Exactly, I am Latina, and hugging showing affection is a big part of who and what we are. Unfortunately, people who are non-ethnic are not warm and hugging is foriegn to them. I have seen it many times, and always thought it was odd and creepy really.

      July 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Joe

    I'm an adult, and I'm not into hugging. I'd prefer a handshake, high five, or fist bump.

    June 21, 2012 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. khazle

    I used to be a hugger but am not so much anymore except for close family members. My step-son and his his wife insist that their 3-year-old daughter hug my husband and me. She usually hugs us without her parents telling her to do so. I also tell L that I love her, and I think that this is important! The world is filled with too much hate and indifference. My husband and I are professionals who are required, because of our jobs, to be finger printed and approved of by the FBI! We hardly pose a threat to anyone no less our own grandaughter!

    June 21, 2012 at 5:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. Disagree

    I disagree with the article, educate your child as you grow up and these won't be issues, I'm 20 now and growing up my parents let me stay home alone by 8, travel alone everything but I was extremely worldly and cultured and always educated about the dangers of society... it was a sign of love and respect to say goodbye to close family through hugs etc.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:35 am | Report abuse |
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