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. Missy

    I would never make my child hug anyone. I taught her to say please and thank you and if you are comfortable hugging your aunts and uncles grandmas or grandpas thats fine but never would I make her and only if it was her decision to and not pressured by anyone and I mean anyone.. Of course my family and my sisters are huggie people so we hug all of our respective children but outside of us any other adult like older men I never even encouraged her to hug them.as a matter of fact did not allow her to. There is nothing wrong with shaking hands to show respect but that was it. If she wanted to and was comfortable and i was there or one of her aunts fine but never made her touch anyone she wasn't comfortable with and didn't want to hug herself. I didn't want her hugging just anyone and she didn't. Touching was not allowed outside family and even then they were suspect always.

    June 22, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bess moore

    This is utterly stupid. Kids aren't supposed to hug? OMG! How are kids going to learn how to interact with people? We are making them afraid of everything. No hugs?Stupid.

    June 23, 2012 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Try reading, Bess. It says that people shouldn't force children to hug people they might not want to touch. If you force your child to hug someone they don't want to make physical contact with, you're teaching your child that an adult has the right to tell the child what to do with their bodies. That is what the author is saying, not that children "should not hug". If they want to hug, fine. If not, fine.

      June 23, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • alex.Brooklyn

      I was raised in a Russian home and Church.Now these people love to greet and hug people and I as a child never felt weird about it. I think this type of message you are sending to children borders on paranoia. I was never forced to hug anyone and my natural response would shelter me from hugging anyone who I felt was strange to me in any manner. Sadly I know that there are evil doers out there who hunt for the innocent but it is up to the PARENT to educate their children and keep them safe and smart.This comment is for everyone to read.

      June 25, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. no forced hugs

    no. i would not force a kid to hug anyone.

    June 23, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  4. ccready

    Kudos to Ms. Hetter. As a teacher and coach for 30 years and father and husband for 20, I couldn't agree more with her take on forced hugging and kissing. Coaches, as demonstrated in Sandusky case, along with all the teachers, priests, rabbis and law enforcement officers convicted of child abuse, are in positions of power and influence over children (and too many adults). Their victims life-long suffering is so much more punishment than they will ever experience. Many victims, like those who's comments I see here that are so twisted, will continue the abuse and /or victimization in their own adult lives. So let's be reminded that ever child owns their body and with their parent's, will learn to care for it, protect it and build it into a healthy one. Forcing kids to hug or kiss someone is wrong, and reinforces the message that you are a piece of property, not an individual person with human rights and protections that are universal and not negotiable. So when you see or hear about any abuse – have the courage to say something – do something – step in and call the adult on it (or report to an effective authority) immediately. You may be the only one that ever will show that child what it means to have courage, conscience and personal and professional boundries. And that just might be the one time it takes to make a difference to the child and abusing adult.

    June 23, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • youdontthink

      It's silly stories like this that causes the problems. Obviously parents own their children’s bodies. This story missed the point by miles... Kids do not usually have a more developed sense of danger than adults. The problem isn't telling your kids who to hug. The problem comes from not telling your kids who to avoid and refusing to let them hug anyone they feel like. It is up to the parents to keep their young naive children from showering their affection on the wrong people. Parents have a better chance of seeing what they think may be wrong, then the child. Don' get caught up in crazy psycho bable that makes you believe your children know best. Use some common sense.

      June 25, 2012 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  5. Harviele

    Kids should not be forced to hug anyone. If the person becomes a special person to the child then the child will usually give hugs. To avoid molesters, simply teach the kids about good touch and bad touch. Boys should not be showering with men other than their parent and they should be taught that. Most molesters are trusted individuals. Coaches, preachers, priests, school teachers, relatives or family friends. You cannot be paranoid though or your child will be paranoid. It actually is okay for little Susie to bounce on Uncle Joe's knee. It is not okay for Uncle Joe to feel her up though and she should be taught the difference. The same goes for boys. Boys have heroes but don't trust the heroes alone with your son or daughter.

    June 23, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. djyueng

    These same idiots that wouldn't make their kids hug grandma force them to go through TSA pat downs at the airport in the name of "safety."

    June 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mirabelle

      they don't force them, it's a requirement to fly. if you don't see the difference, you're blind.

      June 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jeffery

    How about if I just walk up to you and hug you? Really young kids don't know who the he*l is who. Just because you, the parent, like hugging your relatives doesn't mean a small child does. And stop with the "man-hug" stuff, too. Real men shake hands like real men.

    June 24, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Nikki

    Hugging one grandmother was terrific! My memories of her are warm and loving. Wish I could have lived with her.
    The other one? No way in hell. For starters, she smelled of Cool cigarettes and mothballs. Went downhill fast after that. When I was old enough, I told my father that I wasn't going to see her in East Texas again. As an adult, I tried to talk myself into visiting her (as we did with the other grandparents). Truly made me sick to my stomach. Even now at 60 yrs old, I cringe at the thought of even going to anywhere near East Texas.
    If a child doesn't want to hug someone (relative or not), leave them alone.

    June 25, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  9. Deb24532

    Good heavens!! Was no one on this blog ever FORCED to allow hugs and kisses by a father and an uncle, only then to be caressed, and then fondled, and then ultimately penetrated, when mom was out of the room!! Was I the only one? If the kid doesn't want to be touched, let her be!!! Good grief.

    June 25, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  10. rosethornne

    There are people forcing their children to accept unwanted touching, and then turning around and warning those same children about 'stranger danger' and unwanted touching?

    Way to go, noooooo, children don't need aaaany consistency or logic in their lives

    Get this through your heads: just because you know someone does not mean your child knows them. A stranger with similar DNA is still a stranger. If you don't want them to be a stranger then better think about your family dynamics.

    June 25, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Maggie McDuh

    If your kid doesn't want to hug Grandma your kid doesn't see Grandma enough to have an emotional attachment or Grandma is a repulsive person. The problem is not the kid it's usually the situation. Kids should never be forced to hug anyone and should never never NEVER be punished for not hugging someone. Kids are people too. They need to be able to be in control themselves in order to learn self control. Any adult expecting perfect behavior from a child is an idiot.

    June 25, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dylan

    In our modern society there are more and more problems regarding politics, social etiquette, and how people live. Children are people, yes, and should be allowed to defend and control their bodies. However, children of our generation are becoming more distant. Nowadays, children are exposed to more adult things through the media. You see 8-year-old girls wearing make-up and more than above the knee shorts. Boys acting "cool". The concept of child molestation is a serious matter. Parents should watch their kids but keep their distance. Finding that balance is key. Children should be taught manners and if they are comfortable with a family member or friend then they should probably want to hug them. If a child doesn't then the person probably has something to hide. If you think your child is being a brat then just ask why. They might shed some light. All in all, children should be taught fairness and manners but finding the right balance in parenting is difficult. Nobody said life would be easy, they just said it would be worth it in the end.

    June 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Julie

    parents can and do (not should) make body decisions for their children until they are ready to do it for themselves. each child is different... in fact society tries to take your kid if he/she is too obese, too cold, you refuse to give the kids drugs, etc

    June 25, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JJ

    What is grandma is a scorpion or tarantula or something like that? What then?

    June 25, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. William

    I have a close friend of mine (another guy to be exact), and in the 14 years I have known him, and we have always and probably always will greet each other with a hug. I have never asked my children to hug anyone, and I always respect their choices. I myself am a touchy person, I see nothing wrong with it, and in this instance it is mutual!

    June 25, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
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