The Girl Scouts of America is sending a stern warning to parents: Your daughter doesn’t “owe” anyone in the family a hug.
The organization is sending the message during a time when top figures from Hollywood to Washington are being accused of sexual misconduct and harassment, and in some cases dating back years.
“Have you ever insisted, ‘Uncle just got here – go give him a big hug!’ or ‘Auntie gave you that nice toy, go give her a kiss,’ when you were worried your child might not offer affection on her own?” the group said in a 373-word blog post. “If yes, you might want to reconsider the urge to do that in the future.”
By urging your child to show affection just because it’s been a while since they’ve seen Uncle Tom, it may “set the stage for her questioning” whether she owes someone else affection if they, for instance, bought her dinner or another gift when she gets older.
Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, a developmental psychologist at the Girl Scouts, said while the notion of consent might appear to be a “very grown-up” topic, girls establish physical boundaries and the expectation that they be respected can impact how she sees herself into adulthood.
“Plus, sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help,” Archibald wrote.
If your daughter is apprehensive about giving out hugs and kisses to relatives, simply “don’t force her.”
“Of course, this doesn’t give her license to be rude!” the post continued. “There are many other ways to show appreciation, thankfulness, and love that doesn’t require physical contact.”
Try giving high-fives or even an “air kiss,” the Girl Scouts suggest as possible alternatives. In the end, it’s all about what “feels most comfortable to her,” according to the post, which was also shared on Facebook more than 6,900 times and generated mixed reactions.
“I believe this article is more trying to point out: it’s never too early to teach a young girl that she is allowed to say ‘no thank you,’” one comment read, adding that it was a valuable lesson to share.
Others claimed that unless something inappropriate is happening, there shouldn’t even be a discussion.
“How can you justify this post?” another user replied. “You make it seem like a hug to a family member will force a girl to make bad decisions later if a boy buys her a steak. As a lifetime member of Girl Scouts, I don’t approve of this post. It is misleading.”
The Girl Scouts said the advice was, in fact, partly in reaction to the recent string of news stories on sexual harassment rocking a growing number of industries, including politics and journalism.
“Given our expertise in healthy relationship development for girls, and in light of recent news stories about sexual harassment, we are proud to provide girls’ parents and caregivers with age-appropriate guidance to use when discussing this sensitive matter and other challenging topics, should they wish to do so,” the organization of 1.8 million girls said in a statement to ABC News. “Obviously, our advice will not apply in all situations, and we recognize that parents and caregivers are in the best position to judge which conversations they should have with their girls.”
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