Parenting

Now There Are Calls for Consent Before Kids Receive Hugs and Kisses from Grandma

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Kids own their bodies, and must give consent before hugs and kisses from Grandma. That’s an argument from Scary Mommy:

Teaching children about consent is crucial, so why do some parents still insist their kids hug and kiss relatives even if they don’t want to? As consent and bodily autonomy become a bigger conversation, there are those speaking out about how we need to give children agency over their own bodies — even if it means turning down hugs from grandma and grandpa.

The piece shares this meme found on social media:

Author Valerie Williams expounds:

…how many of us grew up with our parents insisting we accept hugs and kisses from grandmas, grandpas, aunts and uncles with zero regard for our feelings on the subject? I remember being anxious at big family events as a kid knowing how many of our distant relatives would expect to touch me. I recall being nervous of how they smelled or how their beard stubble felt — and the persistent feeling that I simply didn’t want to be touched.

That’s why it’s so crucial that we recognize the validity of those instincts in even the youngest kids. They may not be able to articulate the reason for their discomfort with physical affection, but we need to honor it in order to make good on our lessons of consent. How can we tell our kids that their bodies are their own and then remove that very agency because Aunt Betty wants to give them a kiss? The lesson needs to be that it’s up to them every time — no exceptions.

Except it’s not up to them. From where does this notion of a child’s consent arise? A child’s entire life proceeds without his consent, and often in direct contradiction to his expressed will. That’s a defining aspect of childhood. Aside from physical characteristics, the ability to live by consent is the very thing which distinguishes adults from children. The whole point of parenting is to substitute the guardian’s judgment for the child’s, to override consent on a regular basis.

Think of the myriad ways in which parents override their children’s consent every single day. How many children want to attend school? How many children want to eat their vegetables?

What if the kid doesn’t want to go to Grandma’s in the first place? Should she be asked? Must affirmative consent be obtained before buckling a seat belt across a child’s lap?

This notion of consent proves absurd. It extends from the everything-is-rape culture perpetuated by radical leftists, as indicated when the author cites “consent and bodily autonomy” as an ongoing cultural debate. Precisely no one is debating whether anyone should be touched without consent. The real debate is over how radically “consent” ought to be defined. The same people who argue that sex in college must be prefaced with explicitly detailed verbal permission now want to foster a mindset in young children which questions Grandma’s motives.

Let’s entertain this notion that children own their bodies. That’s true, but also irrelevant. The issue isn’t whether kids own their bodies, but how that applies in practice. A child surely owns her body, but her parent manages it. That’s what custodianship means. That’s why parents hold authority over everything from what their child eats to when they go to bed. Like any ward, the child’s power to consent has been entrusted to their guardian. The parent gets to consent on the child’s behalf. In effect, the parent’s consent is the child’s consent.

Of course, this parental authority comes with limits, responsibilities, and obligations. The parents should base their judgment upon what proves best for the child, all things considered. Such parental judgment rarely if ever results in the same thing that the child wants. But that’s the whole point. When a child attains the ability to judge for herself, she ceases to be a child.

How does this apply to a kiss from Grandma? Presumably, as an adult, if your grandmother wanted a kiss, you would give it to her. Presumably, you love your grandmother. Presumably, you want her to be happy. Presumably, you delight in her affection. So give her the damn kiss. Right? As a child, such reasoning may not prevail. But that’s why parents exist, to substitute their reasoning for their children’s.

Our kids kiss Grandma because we say so, whether they want to or not. They can learn why we said so later. So it is with all things, from the cradle until they move out.