The Girls Scouts have an article on their site for the holidays advising parents not to force their daughters to show physical affection if they don’t want to.
The article says that telling your kid to kiss their aunt or uncle could be sending the wrong message to a little girl: that her feelings about who she touches and who touches her don’t matter.
The Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist Andrea Bastiani Archibald said, “The notion of consent may seem very grown-up and like something that doesn’t pertain to children, 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.”
And it’s not just for the future, either. Most child abusers know their victims and are trusted by parents. “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.”
Particularly creepy is the idea that a parent would unknowingly force their child to kiss someone who has molested them.
While the article doesn’t mention any research on the link between forced childhood affection and sexual assault later in life, kids are people with their own preferences and boundaries.
Parents have the authority to make their kids do things they don’t want to do, and they have that power for a good reason. But using power to force physical affection? It doesn’t matter what message that sends, it’s wrong in and of itself.
(I’m assuming that the Girl Scouts are using the word “daughter” because of their girl-specific mission. There’s nothing in the article that implies that children of other genders should be forced to kiss anyone.)