Forcing children to kiss and hug: a bad idea
It is very common for one of the steps to acculturate the smallest of the house (that is, to make them internalize the culture in which they live and deal with the people in their environment) go through a ritual: the one to give kisses to friends and relatives of their parents .
Thus, in casual encounters on the street or during the Christmas holidays, it often happens that Many parents and mothers force their young children to greet, kiss or hug people that the latter are unfamiliar or intimidating. However, from a psychological (and even ethical) perspective this is not correct.
Respecting the vital space of the little ones
Although we do not realize, all people have a living space around us that accompanies us and that acts as an intermediate point between our body and everything else. That is, these little invisible bubbles that surround us are almost an extension of us , in the sense that they offer us a space of security, something that belongs to us and that has a role in our well-being. This phenomenon is well documented and is studied by a discipline called proxemics .
Childhood may be one of the stages of life in which psychological functions are half done, but the truth is that from an early age we understand what this vital space means and act accordingly. Not wanting to get closer than it should to people who do not produce confidence at the moment is not a psychological deformation that it must be corrected, is a cultural expression as valid as the one that makes adults not embrace strangers.
So ... why force them to give kisses or hugs?
That some fathers and mothers force their sons and daughters to greet hugging or kissing is not in itself part of an indispensable teaching to create young people with autonomy: it is part of a ritual to look good, in which the comfort and dignity of the child is secondary . A ritual that generates discomfort and anxiety.
No one learns to socialize by being forced to do those things. In fact, it is possible that this kind of experiences give more reasons to get away from people who are not part of the immediate family circle. To socialize you learn by observing how others act and imitating them when and how they want, being oneself in control of the situation. This is called vicarious learning, and in this case it means that, over time, you end up seeing that everyone else greets strangers and that this does not pose a risk if the parents are present. The action comes later.
The best thing is to let them freedom
It is clear that in childhood parents and guardians must reserve the ability to have the last word in what the children do, but that does not mean that they have to be forced to perform the most insignificant and unimportant acts. The rules must be well justified so that they go in favor of the well-being of the boy or girl.
It is worth taking into account the preferences of young children and, if they do not cause problems, let them make their own decisions freely. Make them enter the world of the rigid social norms of adults through force it is not a good solution, and doing so implies giving the message that the only valid behavioral options are those dictated by fathers and mothers.
After all, children are much more than unfinished adults: they are human beings with rights and whose dignity deserves to be taken into account. Not doing it during the first stages of someone's life supposes setting a bad precedent.