My mother spent a lot of time being mad at me just after my oldest started to walk. She felt I was teaching my daughter to not trust her grandmother, to not like her. The issue would always arise just after we stopped in for a visit, or as we were getting ready to leave. Instead of saying, “Go hug your grandmother,” I would ask my daughter if she wanted to hug her. If she said, “No,” and my mother insisted, I would say, “Maybe next time.” Same thing with my father, but he was (oddly) never the one to take offence.
Anyway, one day we arrived at my mother’s house, and my eldest child went running into the house and yelled, “Gramma!” giving her a big hug. My mother didn’t bring up the fact I didn’t insist my kids hug her ever again. Both my daughters and my son learned their bodies were their own, their rights to those bodies were their own, and their instincts were their own. Each has grown into an impressive young adult with a healthy set of boundaries, and anyone allowed into their “personal bubble” knows it’s a valuable space to occupy.
I’m a huge advocate of teaching our kids about forced affection and its unacceptability. The first physical “technique” I teach in my classes is how to deal with a non-violent hug (a good number of people aren’t really all that comfortable saying, “No” to a hug) in a way that communicates a respect for the intention of the hugger (affection) without the disrespect to ourselves of passively accepting an unwanted hug.
I’m thankful to my kids for having so profoundly influenced the way I teach, and for continuing to do so.