It's officially the holiday season, and the Girl Scouts have an important reminder: Girls don't owe anyone hugs, even on a special occasion. While parents might think it's polite to instruct their daughters to hug relatives they haven't seen recently or who gave them a gift, the group explained in a blog post that girls need to learn from an early age that they don't owe anyone physical contact.
"Give your girl the space to decide when and how she wants to show affection," the posts says.
Girl Scout developmental psychologist Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald explained that what children learn from a young age sticks with them, which is why it's so important to teach girls that they're in charge of their own bodies.
"The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children," Dr. Archibald said in the post, "but the lessons girls learn when they’re young about setting physical boundaries and expecting them to be respected last a lifetime, and can influence how she feels about herself and her body as she gets older." She added, "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."
Within the current national dialogue about sexual harassment and assault, it's worth also examining how society trains girls to think about their bodies in relation to others. Teaching young girls about consent — and that it applies to all types of physical contact — will help ensure that they know they don't owe anyone physical affection as an adult.
As the Girls Scouts pointed out, there are plenty of other ways to show you appreciate someone's nice gesture besides giving them a hug. Let girls decide for themselves.