No Means No: Respecting Children’s Body Boundaries

Months before I got pregnant, I read an article about respecting children’s body boundaries. The concept had never occurred to me. What child refuses to give Grandma hugs? What parent doesn’t say, “Go give Auntie Anna a kiss. You don’t want to hurt her feelings, do you?” I was taught that greeting family members and friends with physical affection is a sign of love and respect.


Now that Baby Bird’s here, that policy is out the window.


My daughter doesn’t have to hug or kiss anyone because I tell her to — and that includes her father and me. Her body is hers, and the earlier she learns that she has control over it, the better.


She doesn’t owe anyone access into her space.


Admittedly, I haven’t been the best at enforcing my own rule. I’ll catch myself telling her, “Give Granddad a kiss,” instead of asking her whether she wants to. But I’ll have it together by the time she’s old enough to understand what I’m teaching her.


I know it’s hard not to love on cute kids, and I expect to get some push back from family members. After all, they’re accustomed to giving kisses when they want and getting hugs on demand. I’m expecting someone to tell me my child’s refusal is rude, and that I need to get her in line.


And intend to shut them down immediately.


I’ll teach my baby to be polite if she doesn’t want to give or get a hug or kiss. She’ll know to say “no, thank you” to unwanted affection, and to offer hellos and goodbyes. If she feels up to it, she might give high-fives (she’s gotten really good at them.) If that’s all she’s willing to do, Relative X and Friend Y will have to deal.


Heaven help the man, woman, or child who puts an uninvited hand (or kiss) on my Baby Bird. Hell hath no fury like a pissed-off mama.




Crystal Turner, also known as The Messy Mommy (, is a freelance writer/editor and stay-at-home mom who is bumbling through parenthood one moment at a time. She and her husband are raising their amazing daughter in Pittsburgh, Pa. Crystal can be reached at

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1 Comment
  • July 7, 2017

    I love you thoughts on this. I think we have to teach our children to be aware of the feelings they may be having if they are touching someone they don’t want to touch. Same with being touched by people they don’t want to be touched by. I was recently disturbed to see several books that try to teach about gender identity, sex, masturbation and things of that nature. I am a Christian and these things were not being taught from a biblical perspective. So what we have in those books is confusion and that spells trouble for our children. Those topics need to be taught by parents. Parents, we have to take up the task of being parents..

    Thank you for helping your child respect and defend his or her own body.

    What your doing, by the way, is not the same as teaching your child not to greet at all. Children should be taught to greet but they don’t necessarily have to hug. Thanks for your post.

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