Comment Of The Day: “Thanksgiving Ethics Quiz: The Girl Scouts Anti-Hug Campaign”

Now and then I see an issue and immediately think, “Now THIS should get the comments flowing.” So it was when I caught a mention of the Girl Scouts’ anti-hugging screed on CNN’s Headline News. Sure enough, the resulting ethics quiz not only sparked a lot of comments, but a lot of excellent ones. This, by Emily, was a standout.

Here is her Comment of the Day on the post, Thanksgiving Ethics Quiz: The Girl Scouts Anti-Hug Campaign.

Oh goodness, do I have thoughts on this. It isn’t new to me at all; my Facebook page is full of young moms who share this stuff (it’s been going around for years) and it drives me nuts.

First of all, we all show affection at different times when maybe we don’t totally want to. You give a friend or spouse or family member a hug because they’re feeling down, or they’re leaving for a six month trip to Japan, or you want to show you’re glad to see them, even if they need a shower or a breath mint or you don’t feel like getting out if your comfy chair. This is part of the give and take of personal relationships; you’d feel insulted if they didn’t offer your preferred form of affection or support when you need it.

Children need to be taught this, or we’re going to raise a generation who think their comfort is the only thing that matters, even in personal relationships and within their family.

On top of that, in as much as you do have a choice as to how close your relationship with Grandma or Great Uncle Joe should be, kids are in no way qualified to make that call. Kids have no idea that Grandma is 96 and this might be their last chance to hug her, or remember that Great Uncle Joe loaned their family the money to send them to summer camp. They don’t know that the reason they only see Aunt Jenny once a year is that she lives across the country and she saves all year to come home for the holidays because it means so much to her, and that’s why her presents aren’t cool.

As an adult you can decide if these things matter to you (they should) but kids shouldn’t be counted on to recognize the full context of situations. Now, obviously if part of the context is if there is something dangerous or creepy going on, but either way it’s a parents place to make the call and to override the kid’s judgement, in either direction, when it’s uninformed.

Letting kids make the decision themselves is setting them up to make decisions they’ll regret, hurting people they care about, and teaching them that making even those they love comfortable doesn’t matter. And we all know that’s only acceptable if it’s someone who voted for Trump.


15 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Thanksgiving Ethics Quiz: The Girl Scouts Anti-Hug Campaign”

  1. Wow!! What a great comment!

    My parents taught me to get over the uncomfortable things with old relatives by thinking how old they are and how much it means to them to feel loved.

    So thankful for the lesson.

    Again, fantastic comment!

  2. This is a tough one. Physical affection to me isn’t something you talk about, it’s just something you do or you don’t do. As adults we know what society’s parameters and people’s parameters are, and we can usually get a pretty good read on how others will react. Occasionally someone will surprise you, like one of my coworkers, who is usually very reserved, who gave me a farewell hug last Christmas, after she had one too many, but no harm done.

    Some people say that children are naturally loving. I think that’s nonsense, I think children are naturally selfish, but, since a lot of them are hugged and loved endlessly as babies, I think that often carries over into toddler and kindergarten age. However, as the natural selfishness also kicks in, they start to see that their affection is something others like, and that they can send the message of like or dislike by doling it out or withholding it. They also start to decide who they like and dislike.

    They may well love Grandma because she always has treats in her purse or Uncle Eric whose job enables him to always show up with cool presents, or Cousin Katie who is pretty, and readily hug them. They may not care for their widower grandfather who is wrinkled, gray, and just uninteresting, or Uncle Mike who is clueless about kids and gives lame gifts, or Cousin Erin, who had a colostomy and as a result doesn’t smell so good, and, given the choice, give them a wide berth.

    Kids also know how to lie. If they know they have an out from a situation they don’t like they can be very convincing. No, no, mom, I’m not repulsed, I’m just not in a huggy mood today when Uncle Mike brings his pencils in a case and dollar store balls. The same kid will make a beeline for Cousin Katie who looks like a Disney princess when she walks through the door, though, suddenly her huggy mood is back.

    That said, this isn’t that much different than the girl who doles out affection like candy to good looking classmates but treats less attractive classmates like they have the plague, or the woman who let’s the hunky co-worker get away with outrageous flirting but snaps at the less attractive guy who even looks at her sideways. This is just bringing that same attitude into the family and giving girls a license to act bitchy and aloof except to those who please them from day one. Message, X-chromosome units, you’re not all Disney princesses or Barbies, and occasionally you are going to run into the unattractive, the less than wonderful, and those who don’t think their prime purpose is to please you. Get used to the idea.

  3. I absolutely agree with everything you wrote except allowing kids not to hug somebody who voted for Trump. That was a silly comment considering many people voted for Trump for all sorts of reasons. I for one voted for him since my first choice of Republican candidates didn’t get enough votes in the primary. You kind of invalidated your post by that comment since children can hardly be expected to understand the American electoral process. Parents indoctrinating their children to distrust grandpa or grandma because they made an choice in an election is kind of shitty, don’t you think?

    • I was absolutly being sarcastic in that last line, as kind of a “this is the direction we’re currently moving” refference to the morning warm-up that morning, which had an item about ruining Thanksgiving for relitives who were conservative. That’s all part of the same mindset to me, and it’s a really bad direction for society.

      • Someone should have written a counterpunch article instructing how to deal with relatives who tried to do just that. It’s pretty easy, when you think about it. Start with a phone call or an email warning them that no political talk or troublemaking will be tolerated. A word to the wise is usually sufficient, and a word sometimes deters hardcore jerks from showing up. If someone starts trouble, then pull them aside and tell them to knock it off. If they still won’t listen, hand them their coat.

  4. Nice, Emily. My parents made the decisions on behavior with family, guests and strangers up through high school, and that, I believe, was directly responsible for how I behaved later on. It was called good manners and became pretty much automatic. It still surprises me when new-met young (usually under age 60) people are discombobulated when I put out a hand.

    And of course you were being sarcastic about stiffing people who voted for Trump. I mean, how would you know how the person voted?

    • For adults, no, though they can and should weigh their own social obligations with regards to relationships with people (that is, I shouldn’t be forced to hug anyone, but I might choose to let my husband hug me even when I really would rather not.)

      For children, it depends on the context. My 3-year-old is on the autism spectrum, and there are times when I’ll tell other adults they should back off to avoid serious problems. There are other days when she’s doing well and I feel like she should have the contact to get used to the interactions so she can lead a more normal life, even if she’s not happy with it. I think it would be unethical of me to let her condition dictate her life rather than using my judgement to help her push her limits, which at times involves forcing her to accept physical contact.

  5. We had Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house last night and my kiddos gave hugs to their friends (same age) as well as several “aunts” and “uncles.” They did not hug a couple of people that they didn’t know very well — but this was not a big deal. I asked one of my friend’s kids if I could hug them before they left, and they nodded. At the same time, their dad was instructing them to hug me. I thought that was odd. Hugging should come naturally.

    My mom is not a touchy/feely person although she is very loving. She hates being hugged/kissed. All of us have to warn her when we are going to do it so she can steel herself. She is the only person with whom my (extended) family forces hugs.

  6. I’m not a touchy-feely person either. But about the Girl Scouts…

    What about the BOYS? Are they immune? “Spotlight,” priests, and the Boston Archdiocese scandal should have made that clear. Is it up to parents to warn small children that ‘hugs’ can be more than simple affection? Are we to the point that a gentle hug of an old relative is somehow dangerous? In some cases this is true: but kids are incredibly intuitive and if they have an open relationship with their parents can share ‘funny feelings’ if they have them. This helps divide the ‘affection’ between “she’s old and smells funny’ from “he hugs me too hard.”

    I had one uncle who we told our parents had (in today’s terms) ‘wandering hands.’ This never became a family fight or embarrassment, but my parents agreed that we never had to hug him again. We never did, and I’m sure he knew why. Perhaps this was the chickenshit way out, but it helped us learn to make our own decisions about what is kindness and what is unhealthy.

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