Some years ago, the husband and I noticed our oldest wasn't too keen on saying hello and good-bye to his relatives, in fact he often shied away from warm embraces. Now growing up in a very Latino family where hugging and kissing hello is standard, this clearly goes against how we were raised. In fact, we began to feel like we must have been doing something wrong as parents.
Our philosophy has always been to raise children who learn through what we model. We want them to form their own attachments and comfort-ability with embracing. So we hug and kiss relatives, but they don't have to.
Now this isn't to say my kids aren't likely to bear-hug grammy first chance they get. My kids seem very happy to love all over relatives, but they make that decision for themselves and so one day Auntie M gets a big squeeze and maybe one day she doesn't.
Sometimes we ask so much of little children that we'd never ask of adults. I mean do adults force friends to HUG when coming into contact? AWKWARD! And by no means, do we want our children to display poor manners. Good manners are critical and stressed in our home. We expect courteous behavior, but never forced affection to spare an adult's hurt feelings. I mean don't my kiddos have feelings too?
We're raising our children to share their thoughts, to cope with emotions by talking about them and never pushing them into anything they don't want for themselves. We guide, we model, we even suggest, but we don't want to force them into something like hugging which is highly personal.
So we get those passing comments: "my child was nevvvvver like that" with that tone that somehow my child is doing something "wrong." When truthfully just because we parent our children differently doesn't make one way "right" and one way "wrong." So big deal if someone labels our children "rude" or "disrespectful" because of their choice to not hug hello! We're not doing something wrong as parents and neither is our child.
Besides, just like our 1st grader learned in his anti-bullying assembly: "when someone judges you - that's their problem, NOT yours!"
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