You know forcing kids to give hugs is very wrong, but why are women far more than men guilty of this parenting mistake?
Being that you found this article, I’m going to assume that you fully realize just how wrong it is for parents to force their children to give hugs — especially to people they barely know or just met.
A hug is not necessary to show gratitude or deliver a gracious greeting. But for some reason, women far more than men make their children take part in hugging.
Young kids are inclined to obey their parents. If they don’t want to receive or give a hug, they are still likely to just go ahead and do this (even though they dread it), because the parent is standing right there.
These same children can be disobedient in other venues where they can get away with it, but the hugging thing is hard to escape from.
Women, far more than men, are victimized in a sexual way, ranging from unwanted groping of their butt, to fondling of their breasts, forced kissing and forced penetration.
Thus, you’d think that women would have a heightened understanding of how harmful it is to make children think that adults have a right to touch them any way they please — and that ordering them to “go hug Aunt Sue” or “give that nice man a hug for fixing your bicycle” sets them up for letting adults touch them sexually against their will.
“Women have been socialized to be friendlier with physical contact,” says Patricia Celan, MD, a senior psychiatry resident at Dalhousie University in Canada.
“While most (not all) men may often greet their friends with a handshake or no physical touch, many more women have a tendency to hug,” continues Dr. Celan.
“Because of this socialization of increased openness and tenderness in women, compared to the more closed-off and independent nature of men, women naturally want to continue the trend by encouraging others to hug too.
“That being said, this is a generalization based on norms, and there are exceptions; plenty of men do hug their friends, just less commonly than women.”
The Harm of the Forced Hug
It also sets children up for allowing others to get away with touching them out of anger, such as being grabbed by the arm by an aggravated boss at work — and the boss may even be a woman — or being pushed by an irate customer who thinks the victim stole her place in the checkout line.
Perhaps the roots of why women more than men force children to hug stem from a childhood where, as little girls, they themselves were made to give hugs more often than were their brothers.
Or, if they had no brothers, the effect was still the same: That females should be touchy-feely and huggy — which goes back to what Dr. Celan explained.
From an Early Age, Girls Observe this Everywhere
- Females hugging each other and hugging men (in their family, extended family, in public and on TV shows and in movies)
- Men hugging women (ditto)
- And by the time a girl is 18, how many times has she seen a TV show or movie where two men proceed to hug (maybe they’re showing gratitude or settling an argument) and at the last moment, before their bodies make contact, they pull away and just shake hands? This scene has played out zillions of times on film, impressing upon kids that hugging is girly stuff.
How would the mothers, who force their kids (especially daughters) to give and take hugs, feel if someone forced THEM to do the same with an adult they were not comfortable with? Now think about that!
And the reason a child feels awkward or dreadful about having to put their arms around an adult doesn’t always indicate sexual abuse from that adult.
First off, in many cases, the adult is someone they barely know or someone they just met (like the “nice man” who retrieved the child’s runaway puppy).
Second, usually the adult is a female, whom we can safely assume did not previously molest the child.
It may just be that the child hates the act of hugging. Period. It’s not in their nature.
Why are children expected to be so huggy?
Does that mother who makes her kids hug act the same way herself?
- When’s the last time she hugged her boss at work for letting her go home early so that she could take her child to a dental appointment?
- When’s the last time that mother, who orders her child to give hugs, embraced her neighbor for bringing her her improperly delivered mail?
Stop making your kids give hugs just because you’re a woman. It’s wrong.
Dr. Celan is a post-graduate trainee in psychiatry, working in diagnosing and treating patients with psychiatric conditions. She is passionate about psychotherapy, especially in trauma, anxiety and depression.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.