Debate rages over suggestion grandparents should seek consent to kiss grandkids

Posted in Safety.

A discussion on UK television has spiralled into debate – and given the subject matter it’s not difficult to see why.

Teaching consent from an early age

Parenting expert Jane Evans popped up on This Morning to discuss children’s body autonomy and people were pretty upset.

“She took part in a debate with fellow mum and former Big Brother star Rebecca Jane to speak about Australia’s new initiative that allows children to give consent to touching their bodies,” the Manchester Evening News reports.

They’re referring to a local push to educate children about body autonomy from an early age. It’s happening across several educational frameworks and seeks to give children more control over who is kissing, hugging and touching them, the ABC reports.

But This Morning focused in on one example given by one of these programs – the unwanted sloppy kiss from grandma – and ran with the idea that these initiatives were suggesting permission-based grandparent snuggles across the board.

Jane Evans tried to provide some more context on This Morning.

“It’s not about adults, it’s about whether we want to keep children safe? Of course we do. We love our children. It’s always about safety,” Jane said. “We allow children to decide who can or can’t touch their body – when, how, what, where, which is just to keep them safe.”

Establishing boundaries 

These body autonomy programs for littlies aim to give kids a choice and get in the middle of unwanted touching or kissing from anyone a child comes into contact with.

They’re not designed to push for a ban on cherished hugs and kisses from loved-ones.

Instead, it encourages children to take ownership of their bodies and confirms they have the right to establish boundaries between themselves and others.

Twitter was up in arms about this push for consent. Many asserted the world had gone mad and thought this sort of initiative was policing innocent shows of affection – and could make children feel unloved.

“As a grandparent, I kiss my grandkids. I kiss my 3 daughters and I kiss my wife and also my dogs. What a load of mamby pamby bollocks,” one man wrote.

“Am I from another planet! Asking permission to show affection to your own child….. isn’t this something that just comes naturally?!?! Why would you ask?” someone else posted.

“We should not withdraw affection from young children due to other predators abusing children. It’s nonsense. Show your child love and teach them about setting boundaries as they develop,” one mum posted. (These programs actually are trying to teach kids to boundaries, we’d like to note.)

“This has got to be the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in a very long time, what is wrong with parents and grandparents showing affection to their kids? Asking permission indeed, the world is becoming insane,” another Twitter user commented.

But others thought the basic premise of this permission-based hugs and kisses – teaching littlies consent to protect them from unwanted touching – made sense.

“It’s more that if a kid is wriggling away from a hug don’t force it,” one Twitter user noted. 

“I think that’s the point they’re trying to make. When they say no, we accept it,” another tweet explained.

Putting up with it

And that’s a good point really.

While many grandparents are switched on to their grandchildren’s feeling and wouldn’t dream of being pushy (or sloppy) not every grandparent is that way.

If a grandparent is kissing and hugging a child and that child is finding it uncomfortable and trying to escape their clutches, should we expect the child to take it on the chin and put up with it?

What message does this sort of parent-sanctioned uncomfortable “affection enduring” send to kids?

And are these well-intentioned programs missing – and indeed overstepping –  the mark?


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