We teach our kids a lot of things, usually inadvertently. Our children look up to not only us, as their parents, but other adults, too, in an attempt to learn how to navigate the world. It's important that we model appropriate behavior and pay attention to how we interact with one another (and with them), to ensure we're sending the right messages. It's especially important when it comes to matters of bodily autonomy and consent, which is why I have a few basic rules for hugging my kid.
Gone are the days of adults picking up squirmy and struggling toddlers and forcing children to accept their affection, even when the child obviously doesn't want it. If we are going to teach our kids about consent, which we definitely should be doing, then we need to start early and remain consistent in those lessons. There's no better way to start early than to model consent in our day-to-day interactions, even (and arguably, especially) when our children don't really understand what consent means.
I understand that, to most adults (thought not all, because plenty of people aren't "huggers") hugging can seem like a pretty innocent thing. Everyone loves getting hugs from squishy, cuddly toddlers, right? However, as adults we need to understand the messages our behavior sends to impressionable little ones. If we hug a kid who doesn't want to be hugged, we are teaching them that, a) it's OK to do whatever we want to someone else's body, even if they are actively saying they don't want us to, and, b) that it's OK for people to do things to us if they want to badly enough, and even if we don't want them to. All that from a simple hug? Yep.
Which is why I've comprised a list of pretty basic rules for hugging my kid, that I'm more than happy (and kind of hoping) other parents feel free to use, too. After all, when it comes to raising our children, consent is arguably one of the most important lessons we can teach them.