Girl Scouts spur talk with piece on children not 'owing' hugs, kisses to anyone

An article early this month on the Girl Scouts of the United States of America website reminds families that children shouldn't be made to feel they owe hugs or kisses to people.
An article early this month on the Girl Scouts of the United States of America website reminds families that children shouldn't be made to feel they owe hugs or kisses to people.

An article on the Girl Scouts of the USA website early this month, reminding families that children shouldn't be made to feel they "owe" hugs to anyone, is getting a lot of attention. Linked to from the organization's Facebook page, the post was shared more than 7,000 times and got nearly 300 comments.

The brief article, timed for the upcoming holiday season, reads in part: "Have you ever insisted, 'Uncle just got here — go give him a big hug!' or 'Auntie gave you that nice toy, go give her a kiss,' when you were worried your child might not offer affection on her own? If yes, you might want to reconsider the urge to do that in the future.

"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."

The national group's Facebook post has not been shared by the Girl Scouts Heart of Central California, which serves more than 18,000 girls in 18 counties including Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Tuolumne and Merced.

 "GSUSA informs us of any releases it puts out, and it's really up to us to determine what we might do with it locally," said Heart of Central California council CEO Linda Farley.

It's something the local council might include in its blog, she said, or encourage troop leaders and families to discuss. to "Generally, our thought is let's talk about some of these things and not hide them," she said.

Facebook comments on the GSUSA article were mixed.

One woman, Tammy Newbold, wrote, "How can you justify this post? You make it seem like a hug to a family member will force a girl to make bad decisions later if a boy buys her a steak. As a lifetime member of girl scouts, I don't approve this post. It is misleading."

Among several replies to her, another woman, Nicole Gomer BurrAlbertson, said, "It's about teaching a kid that her body is HERS, even from a young age. She doesn't have to hug someone just because they want her to, because her body is her own. I think you've misunderstood the post."

Suzi Colasinski Trzcinski commented, "Disagree. I was never made to hug my grandparents, so I never did. They are all gone now and I have zero memory of hugging them. I regret that. Now I hug all my family to pieces. My children are required to hug family goodbye. It's especially important for my autistic son, who has to learn what the mechanics of relationships are. ... That being said, my kids were not left alone with anyone when they were young. They are now in their late teens and the hugs come naturally, even for my son. I have no regrets."

And from Tracy McCall, "Ugh. I still remember my mom making me go on a date with a guy because he had done her so many favors while I was away at school — nothing wrong with the guy per say, but no one should ever tell you who you have to date. And another guy who my mom said it would be 'rude' to say no. ... RUDE? Thankfully, I figured things out."

The Girl Scouts of the USA told ABC News in a statement that it offered the advice partly because of the flood of recent news stories regarding sexual harassment, assault and/or misconduct by politicians, journalists, Hollywood actors and executives and others, including Charlie Rose, Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, Al Franken and Kevin Spacey.

"Girl Scouts of the USA offers advice to girls’ parents and families (including those of current Girl Scouts) on how to talk to their daughters about issues in the larger world that they hear about or that directly affect them," the statement read. "Given our expertise in healthy relationship development for girls, and in light of recent news stories about sexual harassment, we are proud to provide girls’ parents and caregivers with age-appropriate guidance to use when discussing this sensitive matter and other challenging topics, should they wish to do so."