Have you ever considered a Christian perspective on why I don’t force my kids to give hugs?
Several years ago, I read an article called Why We Don’t Force Our Kids To Give Hugs. I’d seen discussions on this topic several times but had never given much thought to it. But for some reason, that article struck a cord with me and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
More recently, I’ve been thinking on what this concept should look like from a Christian perspective. After all, Christ loves deeply (John 3:16) and calls us to do the same (1 Peter 4:8, John 15:13). In many of Paul’s letters, he admonishes the readers to greet each other with a holy kiss. Obviously affection is welcomed and encouraged within the body of Christ.
Which brings us to this question: As Christians, should we make our kids hug/kiss people, even when they don’t want to?
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I’m a very affectionate person. I love to give hugs to people, to cuddle on the couch with my family, and to smother my little girl with more kisses than she probably ever wants.
My husband is the opposite. We worked at a camp together a few years before we started dating, and the one thing that everyone knew about him was that he hated physical touch. Other than a handshake, he’d rather you keep your distance. He’s warmed up to more affection over the years, but he’d still rather not hug most people.
Our toddler is a nice blend of the two of us. She hated physical touch as a baby, but is slowly coming around to it. Especially with her dad and I, and sometimes her grandparents, she loves giving hugs and kisses.
With more distant relatives that she doesn’t see as often or friends of ours that we see only at places like church, she’s more distant. Sometimes she’ll hug but she’s more likely to cling to me or my husband instead.
So here’s the question: should we make her hug? Should we encourage and push and prod until she finally gives a hug?
Please hear me out here. We will raise our daughter to be polite. We do encourage her to say hi and bye, and to give high fives or fist bumps when she doesn’t feel like giving hugs. We try to show her a good example of how to greet people and show proper affection.
But let me tell you a little story that explains WHY, as a Christian, I don’t force my kid to give hugs.
Being Attentive To The Holy Spirit
When my daughter was about 15 months old, we started leaving her in the nursery for the last few minutes of church, when she would get too restless to stay in the pew. Before this, I hadn’t been comfortable at all with leaving her in the nursery without one of us being in there with her (I’m a bit overprotective). But I began to come around to the idea, and I was becoming much more comfortable with leaving her.
There was one specific week that I suddenly felt very uncomfortable leaving my daughter in the nursery. I could feel the Holy Spirit nudging me in the week leading up to Sunday, and I began to tell my husband about it. He didn’t feel the same caution that I did, but he trusted me and believed me when I said we shouldn’t put her in the nursery that week.
This isn’t one of those nightmare stories where something terrible happened in the nursery, because by the grace of God we have wonderful nursery volunteers and an amazing church.
But we did find out that Sunday that one of the nursery volunteers scheduled to work that week was involved in something outside of church that made both of us very uncomfortable, and that’s why the Holy Spirit was telling me to keep our toddler with us. Thankfully, we listened, and we were able to keep our daughter out of that situation.
We Need To Trust Our Kids
Here’s the thing, y’all. God doesn’t give a junior version of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that nudged me to keep my daughter with me is the same Spirit that can nudge my kids to hold back affection at times.
I hope and pray that my children are never in a situation where a person with bad intentions is trying to coerce them to be affectionate. But aside from that, there may still be times that the Holy Spirit alerts them that they need to keep their distance from a certain person.
I need to trust my kids to be attentive to Holy Spirit. I need to trust that when they say they are uncomfortable, they are. I need to trust that God is revealing Himself to them and showing them when it’s unsafe.
When my kids get older and start choosing their own friends, I want them to be attentive to the Holy Spirit. I want them to trust that God will show them who will be a good and godly friend. That starts now. I want them to trust that God will show them when and when not to be affectionate. I want them to feel that check in their Spirit and be able to say, “No, this isn’t right.”
And I have to believe them when they say that they feel that way.
Because if the Holy Spirit says, “No” but Mama says ” You have to,” what am I teaching my kids? That they should listen to me over the Holy Spirit?
No thank you. I will train up my children in the way that they should go (Proverbs 22:6), and a big part of that is teaching them to listen to the Holy Spirit above all else.
Can I Really Trust My Kids To Hear The Holy Spirit?
This is where this becomes a bit of what you might call a “controversial” subject. Can I actually trust that my little ones are listening to the Holy Spirit and not just acting out of their feelings?
I feel like that has a two part answer.
- As parents, we can never actually know if our little ones are hearing the Holy Spirit or not, since most of them can’t fully understand or communicate that. However, if you are praying over your child and having them regularly be a part of Spirit-filled activities, such as church, worship, and Bible study, I believe that the Holy Spirit will begin to move in them and show them the way in which to walk (John 14:26). The world may call this their conscience, but we know that it’s the movings of the Spirit within them.
- In these types of scenarios, even if you can decipher that your child is acting out of feelings, that’s still okay. Their feelings and emotions matter, and it’s okay to trust them on this.
I know this is a hard subject. I know the holidays are a hard time to implement this. But I would encourage you to be sensitive to the Spirit and to listen to your kids. If they aren’t comfortable showing affection, trust them. Be sure to talk to them later to try to understand why they felt that way, but in the moment, just trust.
Like I said earlier, train up your kids in the way that they should go. Train them to listen to the Holy Spirit above all else, even when that makes other people unhappy. It will be worth it.
How do you feel about this topic? Do you encourage your kids to show affection at all times?
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