The Girl Scouts have taken a stance against obligatory hugs. Girls don’t owe anyone a hug regardless of the reason. This topic is controversial because some adults feel that hugs are an acceptable way to show gratitude and affection with family members.
It’s okay for girls to say “no” if they don’t want to give somebody a hug. Many parents might worry about hurting a relative’s feelings, which is the wrong thing to worry about. What’s more important is the message that the girls don’t have a right to say no, which in the bigger picture has implications when they’re dating or working (sexual harassment). What you teach girls when they’re young can impact their decisions as adults. If you force your daughter to give a hug when they don’t want to then they quickly realize that they don’t have a voice and that “no” doesn’t matter.
Instead of giving hugs, girls can say “hello” with a big smile and direct eye contact, a high five, a fist bump, a wave, a handshake.
As a parent, it's important to support your daughter when she says no. Let her know that it’s ok to say “no”. Support them when they’re assertive. When the relative looks at you or asks your daughter again for a hug, “Come on, what’s one hug for Uncle Jack.” You say, “Emily said no, she’d rather give you a fist bump”. Every time you support your daughter you’re building her confidence in herself. Confidence is what she needs to tackle tricky situations when she’s on her own.
Blanca Cobb is a WFMY News 2 Contributing Editor, body language expert and keynote speaker/corporate trainer who covers nonverbal communication, psychology and behavior. Follow her @blancacobb. The opinions expressed in this article are exclusively hers.