The Happiness Connection  

The gift of choice

When I was young, my mom and dad were confident that if they took me, or my siblings, anywhere we would behave well. They were proud of what good kids we were.

In truth, I don’t think we were naturally angelic. We behaved well because we knew what would happen if we talked back, or openly rebelled against our parents.

I don’t think we were unusual. Many people of my age and older, were raised at a time when children were meant to be seen and not heard. We weren’t supposed to have a voice, or articulate our opinions.

Disagreeing with parental decisions, or doing something they don’t approve of is still considered to be unacceptable in the eyes of many.

How can children possibly know more than their parents do?

If you are told to hug, or kiss a relative, that’s what you do. No questions asked. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to, or feel uncomfortable giving that peck or embrace.

This practice may seem harmless enough, but it is teaching children they don’t have a choice; that their instincts aren’t as important as doing what is expected.

The “Me Too” movement has drawn our attention to this conversation. Why have so many women been subjected to unwanted sexual advances, not been confident enough to walk away the minute they began to feel uncomfortable, and then felt the need to hide what happened?

The Girl Scouts of America must have been asking themselves the same question, because they published a blog post urging parents not to pressure their children to hug, or kiss relatives. No child, should feel they owe anyone physical contact.

Hugging another person should be a choice, not an expectation.

This guideline is important, not because your relatives may be predators, but because it tells youngsters they have the right to refuse physical contact if they want to.

Just because the person involved is a family member or friend, it doesn’t mean you have to ignore personal feelings of discomfort.

Children need to practise standing up for themselves and setting personal boundaries if they are going to feel confident doing it when they are adults. The best place to practice is at home with their family.

How do you react when your child talks back to you? Is it something you don’t tolerate? Do you punish them when they stand up for themselves by disagreeing with you?

Having taught Elementary and Middle school for many years, I was determined that my children would not be easy prey for predators. I always told them the bottom line was their own gut instinct. The could say no to anyone, including police officers, teachers, ministers, and doctors, if what they were being asked to do didn’t feel right.

The good news about this situation was they took my advice to heart, and had no problem saying no or standing up for what they believed.

The bad news was their comfort voicing opinions when I asked them to do something. If they didn’t consider my requests to be fair, or reasonable, they would say so. They might disagree even if my requests were fair and reasonable.

It was a difficult time, but I recognized they were using the safety of their home to learn how to stand up for themselves.

We had more conversations about how to voice your opinions in a respectful manner, than I care to think about.

It would have been much easier to parent in a more traditional way and refuse to accept any backtalk or disagreement, but rarely is the best way the easy way. Good parenting is about helping your children prepare to be strong adults, not to simply do as they are told.

I wonder how many of the women who are now standing up and revealing the inappropriate experiences they have endured were raised not to speak up when they felt uncomfortable with a situation?

It’s a sobering thought for the Christmas season, but there is no better time to start preparing your children than now. Talk with them and let them know you expect them to be respectful to all the people who are included in their celebrations, but hugs and kisses are about choice, not expectation.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories