Girl Scouts: Your Daughter ‘Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug’ at Christmas

girl scouts
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

The Girl Scouts says parents could be giving their daughters the “wrong idea about consent and physical affection” during the holidays when they encourage hugging family members.

The organization is cautioning parents that suggesting to a child that she give a thank-you hug to a relative for a gift may plant the seed that she owes sexual favors later on in her life when someone takes her to dinner.

The group states:

Think of it this way, telling your child that she owes someone a hug either just because she hasn’t seen this person in a while or because they gave her a gift can set the stage for her questioning whether she “owes” another person any type of physical affection when they’ve bought her dinner or done something else seemingly nice for her later in life.

Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, the Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist, explains that lessons about physical boundaries learned while young will affect girls’ feelings about themselves later on in life.

“The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children,” Archibald says. “Plus, sadly, we know that some adults prey on children, and teaching your daughter about consent early on can help her understand her rights, know when lines are being crossed, and when to go to you for help.”

The Girl Scouts advises parents to allow their daughters to take the lead in deciding if they want to hug family members. While the organization says it is not encouraging rudeness toward relatives, ultimately Girl Scout leaders are counseling parents to allow their children to make the choice.

The organization gives similar advice on how parents can handle the “sexist” attitudes and comments of relatives during the holidays.

Archibald explains:

[W]hile it might be best for one family to use a cringeworthy moment as an opportunity to teach kids about choosing our battles—always an important one—it might be important to another that they set an example for the younger people at the table by standing up to sexism and saying something.

For example, the girls’ organization says a family “can leave its mark in damaging ways” when the topic of discussion is girls’ and women’s bodies.

Girl Scouts recommends parents ask family members ahead of time not to make comments about eating or appearance since their daughter is “struggling with body image and food issues at the moment.”

When young girls will be around family members who are known to make “sexist jokes or comments,” Girl Scouts recommends parents “consider talking to your kids about it ahead of time,” to help them come up with a strategy for how to handle the banter.

Archibald also suggests parents nicely let relatives know their sexist comments can be hurtful.

Girl Scouts similarly addresses the issue of gender stereotypes at holiday gatherings with family members.

“Last we checked, boys and men were equally as capable as girls and women at clearing the table, putting away leftovers, and doing the dishes,” the organization states. “Yet in many homes, these more domestic chores are still relegated to female family members while the guys are invited to kick back and relax in front of the TV.”

“It’s totally possible to stay calm and respectful even while disagreeing with the gender roles set up by your host,” advises Archibald, adding:

If you choose to address the imbalance, you can mention that this is a perfect chance for the boys and girls to practice the skills they’ll need when they’re fending for themselves in a few years—plus, the job will get done a lot quicker and leave more time for relaxation if everyone pitches in.

The organization notes that if a parent receives pushback for pressing the gender issue, the option is open “to give in and then discuss your decision with your kids later, especially if you’re the guest in someone else’s home,” or assert oneself in order to “let the girls in the family know you see them and support them.”


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