With the holiday season fast approaching and stories about sexual misconduct and abuse making daily headlines, the Girl Scouts of America is advising parents not to push their daughters to hug relatives.
The Girl Scouts’ recommendation was titled, “Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays.”
The hugs referred to in the title are obviously non-sexual in nature. However, the Girls Scouts’ believe if young girls are told to embrace aunts, uncles or grandparents for giving them presents at holiday celebrations, they might later in life feel they “owe” physical affection to someone else who does them a favor.
“Think of it this way – telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while, or because they gave her a gift, can set the stage for her questioning whether she 'owes' another person any type of physical affection when they have bought her dinner, or done something else seemingly nice, for her later in life,” said the organization in a statement.
Instead, the Girls Scouts’ say there are plenty of other non-physical ways girls can show their gratitude or affection to someone, like telling them they missed them or giving them a high-five or an air kiss.
The statement seems to have divided the nation in two.
Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, a development psychologist for the organization, said its natural for children to want to hug their family members and relatives, but those who are not willing to do so should not be forced.
The psychologists believe the notion of consent should start a very young age, which includes letting girls decide how and whom they want to show affection to and letting them set “physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected.”
Actress Amber Tamblyn, one of the loud voices calling out sexual harassment in Hollywood, thanked the Girl Scouts for the message.
“Our daughters owe no one hugs, smiles or kisses and we should start teaching them this young,” she said.
CNN’s Katia Hetter advocated such a practice in 2015, which allowed readers to post uncomfortable stories about their childhood that resulted in unexpected emotional consequences.
"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," one reader said.
However, not everyone was happy with the statement, with some accusing the Girl Scouts of blowing things out of proportion.
Dr. Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist in New York, warned against spreading “mass hysteria” and said it is important to ensure children are not afraid of people who “they should not be afraid of.”
“I just caution parents about limiting family attachment and that kind of loving space that a lot of time only happens at the holidays,” she told ABC News.
The Girl Scouts need to stand down. It’s not their job to tell little girls who to hug or not hug. Step up parents and do your job!!— Bonnie W. Iahn (@iahn_walkerB) November 22, 2017
Seriously, now we're not supposed to let our daughters hug anyone including family because it might harm them in... https://t.co/7QYB8Ft8vI— Shiela Stewart (@ShielaSue) November 21, 2017
Girl Scouts tells parents not to force daughters to hug relatives over the holidays https://t.co/E7zAvzPJnf #FoxNews I think G.S. is over stepping their bonds & possibly undermining the parents & families. G.S. can guide girls w/dating issues.....etc.— Barbara L Hallisy (@B_Hallisy) November 22, 2017
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