(Continuing from Parts one, two, and three)

In summary of the points in the previous parts, I have some suggestions for how to proceed. Check it out.


  • Think about what comes up for you when consider this topic. Will YOU be embarrassed? Do YOU think it’s rude? Why? Were YOU forced to do this when you were little? How you feel is likely different than how your child feels because you are different people with different experiences.
  • Recognize this isn’t about being rude or impolite. Some other form of polite greeting can be taught in its place.
  • Offer alternatives to hugs and kisses. High fives, handshake, fist bump, curtsey/bow, polite verbal greeting. Be creative.
  • Watch your child’s body language. Support them if they don’t want to hug or kiss a relative.
  • Observe your child’s feelings. “I notice you’re clinging to my leg…”
  • then validate what the child could be feeling. “…are you scared?”
  • Realize that allowing your child to choose whom and when they want to touch or be touched is a transferable skill. If they learn it now at 3, it’ll be easier when they are 13 or 23.


  • Pout or try to make the child feel bad for refusing your affection. You’re the adult here. You can handle the rejection.
  • Force the child to go give hugs. If they’re clinging to a leg, tell the child that you will be here when they are ready for a hug.

I bet a child that gets to choose in their own time who they want to be affectionate with will go off to college a confident kid in part because they learned this lesson early and in a setting that was safe.

I hope this helps clear up why it is important to let kids learn how to make these choices. I’m open to hearing your thoughts on this topic as it relates to what I’ve written above. If you agree, please share this post with others you think might like this series. Thank you for reading.

The MamaSutra

If you enjoyed this post and wanted to support my writing, click here or here to contribute. Thank you for reading, sharing, and commenting!

New to my work and want to start at the beginning? My first post will give you some background.

If you want my book, please click here.  A bit of this 4-part series came from my chapter on Consent. There’s more on each of my 5 Building Blocks to a Healthy Sexuality as well. 

About the Author

The MamaSutra

Dr. Lanae St.John is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sexology and certified sex coach with a background in sexology and a passion for helping people improve their sexual health and relationships. She is the author of "Read Me: A Parental Primer for "The Talk"" and the upcoming "You Are the One: How stopping the search and looking inside will lead you to your romantic destiny," and is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest research and trends in the field. Dr. St.John aims to share her knowledge and expertise in a relatable and approachable way through her blog on themamasutra.com.

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