Child Kiss

Family gatherings are always more fun with little ones present. When conversation with grandparents becomes repetitive, that adorable sticky-fingered, loose-lipped younger cousin can serve as the perfect distraction. But when guests part ways at the end of the night, those same kids are sometimes the cause for a bit of an awkward situation.

Over the holiday season, I've noticed that, when it comes time to pack up and head out the door, my relatives with young children often prompt their kids to hug and kiss the other guests goodbye before leaving. On some occasions, the child willingly complies, as those who have ever sported a slobbery, Christmas-cookie-crumb-laden cheek can attest. Yet, on other occasions, the child maintains a death grip on his parent's arm and refuses to do as told, either because of a sudden spark of shyness, fatigue, crankiness, or what have you.

You've seen it: The relative being denied the affection will shoot for a pity hug by pretending to cry, but the kid will not budge; he's already in his Batman pajamas and wants to get in the car to watch a movie before he knocks out eight minutes later. The parent becomes annoyed with the child's seemingly rude behavior and eventually drags the kid outside, looking defeated.

Hugging and kissing family members and close friends goodbye is a customary sign of warmth and appreciation, a common courtesy that adults practice without a second thought. But in light of child sexual harassment scandals that make headlines all too frequently, maybe we should think again.

Is it really a good idea to teach kids that they have to touch someone upon request? Family members are generally deemed trustworthy, but what if the person in question is a less familiar bus driver or coach, or even a complete stranger, and what if the touch is more than just an innocent hug or a kiss?

Children should be able to recognize that they do not have to do what an adult or authority figure says, just because he or she acts upset or helpless, or offers some sort of gift. Shouldn't we protect children from sexual predators and kidnappers who utilize those same tactics?

Maybe it's worth it for the parent to endure the temporary embarrassment so that the child understands that physical affection is a choice, not a requirement.

Whether your child is an unconditional kisser or a hesitant hugger, try to respect his thoughts and feelings with these positive parenting tips.

Image: Child kiss via Shutterstock