“Come Give Me a Kiss!”

It’s officially that time of the year known as  “The Holidays,” whether your particular holidays include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanuka, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, New Years, or some combination thereof. There’s shopping, decorating, cooking, and lots of rushing around. And there are parties with family and friends. Some folks, like your Aunt Susan, you haven’t seen in a year or more; others, like your sister and brother-in-law, you see often. But now everyone’s cleaned up and wearing their best sparkly clothes. Aunt Susan hugs you and tells you that you look great. Then, she turns to your kids and tell them how much they’ve grown–followed by, “Come and give me a big kiss!” But your darling little Ethan or Madison runs out of the room, screaming “Eww!” instead.

Do you let them go, offer Auntie an eggnog, and ask how long she’ll be in town? Or do you run after your child, drag him or her back into the room, and demand they plant one on your favorite relative’s cheek?

Having been a practitioner of the “Eww” technique for much of my early life, I can certainly empathize with those who choose this course of action. Then again, I believe it’s important to teach children manners and grace in social situations, and expressing disgust at the idea of showing affection to someone (followed by fleeing the scene) doesn’t necessarily fall into either of those categories.

But, what’s going on in this scenario may be more than it appears–more than a battle of wills with a seemingly-disobedient child. And your next move is very important.

Do you force your child to show affection for someone they don’t want to be affectionate with? What you may think of as simply giving a kiss–no big deal–may be much more to them. Overruling their decision not to smooch your elderly aunt teaches them that what they do with their own bodies is someone else’s call to make; not their own.

Of course, you would like them to consider the feelings of others before they act–especially when those actions may cause you to wince. But do you place greater value on encouraging them to recognize and honor their own feelings?

Is it necessary that you squelch their “rude” behavior? Or do you give them permission to say “No,” even to a grown-up, any way they know how?

At some point, ask little Ethan or Madison why they didn’t want to kiss Grandma Betty or Uncle Jack. The answer might be as simple as “She smells funny,” or “He looks scary.” Or it could reveal a situation you weren’t aware of. When asked why she didn’t want to give kindly, old Uncle Jimmy a kiss, a little girl I know replied, “He makes me sit on his lap, and he always has something hard in his pocket.”

It turned out that what Uncle Jimmy had in his “pocket” was a dangerous fondness for very young girls.

While this story is the exception rather than the rule, I still urge you to let your kids take the lead on who they shower with kisses, and who they don’t. At best, it’s empowering for them. At worst, it may help bring a dark secret to light.

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10 Responses to ““Come Give Me a Kiss!””

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