Comments 2

  1. Dlaw

    As a father of a young daughter, I run into this attitude all the time. From the male perspective, it seems really tragic. The tragedy isn’t that little girls aren’t giving hugs, but that mothers are perpetuating an inability to negotiate power relationships.

    The idea of giving a three-year-old the “autonomy” to negotiate adult power relationships is facially absurd. That’s a parent’s job. Obviously, modeling affection does NOT lead to date rape. What may is modeling rule-following rather than problem solving.

    This “policy” is strikes me as yet another rule substitute for problem solving and an inappropriate burden on a toddler, which is why I don’t do the same thing.

    What I do – and it may or may not be helpful to you – is teach my daughter first that sharing affection among people whom I tell her to trust is good. THEN, that there are relationships where trust has to be measured. THEN, that when she learns the vocabulary of trust, she can tell me if there is something about this trust relationship I have missed.

    “Trust but verify” is the basis of male relationships. It starts with the handshake. A boy is taught to offer a handshake as an expression of himself when he is only old enough to learn about expressing himself. He’s taught to look a person in the eye when he’s shaking hands. Later he learns why we do that. He learns to anticipate the too-hard handshake of someone who’s being a jerk or the fact that a complex rather than a simple handshake is coming.

    Tragically, we don’t teach girls to shake hands. We teach them to hug, which often requires averting the eyes and feigning affection. There are more formal ways of hugging, ones that allow the negotiation of trust and communication of personality, but few parents bother with that, as formality disappears and they themselves lose touch with this kind of communication.

    If I had to choose – if I really felt that for some reason there really were only two choices – I guess I might teach my daughter to ignore people rather than accept a touch blindly. I just don’t think it’s a valid choice and it’s certainly not one I want to make for her before I do my best to teach her how the world works.

    1. Post
      Vanessa McGrady

      I really appreciate your comments and think you make a lot of good points. This is what I’ve chosen for my daughter, because of the kind of kid she is. Other parents clearly have different rules. I actually do model social behavior for her but she knows better than I do who she wants to touch and who she doesn’t — yes, even at 3.

      I like the idea of teaching handshakes. That’s a good social construct to have when she’s ready for it.

      Girls are taught in so many areas to be pleasers, subconsciously and overtly. You never hear “girls will be girls” when a female child has done something displeasing. The reason why I included the example with our neighbor at the end where she blows a kiss is because she came up with her own way to express affection, because she didn’t want to be touched. It was something there wouldn’t have been room for if I was forcing her to hug or high-five or something.

      And she does give the BEST hugs — when she wants to.

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