It is very common that one of the steps in cultivating the little ones in the house (i.e. making them internalize the culture they live in and dealing with the people around them) is through a ritual: that of giving kisses to friends and relatives of their parents.
Thus, during informal meetings in the street or during Christmas celebrations, it often happens that many parents force their young children to greet, kiss or hug people which for the latter are unknown or intimidating. However, from a psychological (and even ethical) point of view, this is not correct.
Respect the living space of the little ones
Although we don’t realize it, everyone around us has a living space that accompanies us and acts as an intermediate point between our body and everything else. In other words, these invisible little bubbles that surround us are almost an extension of us, In the sense that they offer us a safe space, something that belongs to us and that plays a role in our well-being. This phenomenon is well documented and it is studied by a discipline called proxemics.
Childhood can be one of the stages of life where psychological functions are half completed, but the truth is, from an early age we understand what this living space means and act on it. Not wanting to get too close to the account to people who are not currently producing trust is not a psychological distortion that it needs to be corrected, is as valid a cultural expression as that which prevents adults from embracing strangers.
So … why force them to give kisses or hugs?
Forcing some parents to welcome their children by hugging or kissing them is not in itself an essential element of education to create young people capable of autonomy: it is part of a ritual to look good , in which the comfort and dignity of the little one is a secondary thing. A ritual that generates discomfort and anxiety.
No one learns to socialize by being forced to do these things. In fact, it is possible that this kind of experience gives more reasons to move away from people who are not part of the immediate family circle. Socializing is learned by observing how others behave and imitating them when and how you want, being yourself in control. This is called vicarious learning, and in this case it means that over time you end up seeing that everyone welcomes strangers and it is safe if the parents are present. The action comes later.
Better let them go
It is clear that in childhood, parents and guardians should reserve the ability to have the final say in what little ones do, but that does not mean that they should be forced to do the most important things. insignificant and unimportant. The rules must be well justified so that they are in favor of the well-being of the child.
It is worth taking into account the preferences of young children and, if they are not a problem, letting them make their own decisions freely. Bring them into the world of rigid adult social norms by force this is not a good solution, and to do so, it is to send the message that the only valid behavioral choices are those dictated by the parents.
After all, boys and girls are more than unfinished adults: they are human beings with rights and dignity worth considering. Failure to do this during the early stages of someone’s life means setting a bad precedent.