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When I was growing up, it was common to have an adult insist
that I greet someone with a hug and a kiss, or at least with a hello, even if I
didn't want to do so. I was a very outgoing child and welcomed any chance I got
to talk with adults and never hesitated to greet them "properly."
But today I
experience something very different as a parent.
There are many occasions when my son doesn't want to say hello, to hug or to be touched. I've watched my son turn
away angrily from strangers as they've asked him with a big smile, "Hello
little fella, what's your name?"
For a long time I'd get embarrassed by his
response and try to insist that he say hello. I'd suggest that he was being
rude, unkind and even hurting their feelings. He's even done this with my
family; once he refused to enter my auntie's home, the home I was raised in.
After trying everything to get him into the front door, I eventually apologized
to my aunt, who I could see felt badly, and took my son home.
The longer I'm a parent, the more and more I'm confronted
with who I was as a child. I may have been more interested in pleasing
grown-ups than my son is, but I too had a sixth sense of who was not nice and
who could do hurtful things. Watching my son recoil from certain people and
situations has begun to teach me about his inner wisdom, and I've started to
better grasp that he might be seeing or experiencing something that I just
For instance, the home I grew up in has lots of negative memories
for my auntie and me, and we really struggle to be kind with one another. My
son never wants to go into her home, and on the rare occasion where he does, he
holds onto me the entire time.
I believe we should never force children to interact with
others when they are giving us clear signals against doing so. Here are 5 reasons we would should not force children to be with people they have
an aversion to:
It's important that we teach our children how
to respect boundaries and there is no better way to do it than by modeling it
on their behalf. When our children say no to interacting with someone, I would
recommend that we allow them to make that choice, and take the opportunity to explain
that we are doing so.
We want them to understand that saying, "I don't want to talk or to touch," is perfectly OK because they have dominion over their bodies.
Our children have ownership over
their bodies and how they use their bodies. If we want them to understand that,
it's our job as parents to teach them. We want them to understand that saying, "I don't want to talk or to touch," is perfectly OK because they have
dominion over their bodies.
Teaching our children that "no" is acceptable
and allowing them to set reasonable boundaries empowers them to use these words
and make choices with confidence. There will likely be other times with peers
when they want to say no to an activity, and they will have practice allowing
and offering no.
Building self-trust is important in a big
world where information and people are constantly telling you how to think and
feel. If you trust your children's instincts and choices, they will learn to
trust themselves and listen to themselves.
Most children have a great deal of intuition.
They may not have language for it, but they have a knowing of many things. For
instance, I've met toddlers who are fearful of the ocean, without ever having a
negative experience in the sea. Their intuition informs them of its power and
inherent danger. Allow your children to own their intuition, and encourage them
to honor it rather than dismissing or dismantling it.