Why We Should We Stop Teaching Our Children and Grandchildren to Hug, Kiss, and Even Shake Hands Upon Greeting Others and What We Should Advocate Instead

Is the era of hugging overJust this past week, Grandpa and I went to see a new doctor whose office was located inside a local hospital.  The doctor’s nurse who greeted us reached out to shake hands.  We declined.  The doctor, when entering the examination room, reached out to shake hands.  We declined.  Did we wonder about our care to be received?  Absolutely!  It is February 2018 and all the headlines talk about the flu epidemic.  Shaking hands is spreading the flu.  We will not shake hands with anyone.  Having medical professionals reach to shake our hands rather than declining to partake in that accepted greeting by recognizing the flu epidemic was extremely surprising and concerning.

Why do I repeat this incident above?  Because the incident and current climate of fear of catching the flu makes it easy to say we all should forego shaking hands right now.  The flu epidemic makes it easy to forego the easy greeting of hugs and cheek kisses when we greet someone we know and are used to greeting these people with hugs and kisses.  The flu epidemic makes it easy to forego the expected handshake greeting with others.  If we have a cold or feel a cold coming on, we also forgo such niceties, saying we do not want to spread germs.   Everyone immediately understands.

This Grandma thinks we do not need a flu epidemic, or cold season, or a sexual harassment and #metoo movement to change what has become an American cultural phenomena in recent history.  We are now teaching our children and grandchildren to know good touching and bad touching and privacy and care for their bodies.  We are teaching our children and grandchildren to keep their hands to themselves and not touch others, whether they think the others want the touching or not.

This Grandma has a new mantra. When others reach to shake hands, kiss or hug us, we should decline.  If we have an inclination, because of the intimacy of the relationship or circumstance, to shake hands, kiss or hug others, we should treat others as we would want to be treated, and ask prior permission to do so.  We should now stop teaching our children and grandchildren to hug, kiss, and even shake hands upon greeting others.

Yes, this is a severe boundary in current American culture.  Yes, this is a controversial stance in current American culture, and others who have advocated it have received adverse response.  I had forgotten that the Girl Scouts of America advised parents not to force their children to hug relatives during the holidays and received adverse feedback. I was reminded of this and the importance of the issue of touching others in greeting, in the February 11, 2018 Washington Post article, “Is the Era of Hugging Over? Some People Sure Hope So,” by Lavanya Ramanathan.

In that February 11, 2018 opinion piece, there was a link to an October 9, 2014 Washington Post article, “The case Against Hugs: Don’t Touch Me,” by Veronica Toney.

In 2014, Veronica Toney was way ahead of the times, and her stance preceded the proliferation of sexual harassment charges.  She gives the very valid reasons why we should teach our children and grandchildren to no longer hug others in greeting.  It is worth reading both of these opinion pieces, but something written by Veronica Toney stands out:

“It’s time to take a step back and ask when—and why—it became common practice to bypass all the steps of getting to know someone and move straight to the hug. According to Amy L. Best, Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Anthropology and Sociology department at George Mason University, social norms have slowly been shifting the last few decades, and boundaries have fallen. “People are much less likely to have to abide by norms of separation and distance. Think of the Emily Post ‘Guide to Manners,’ where there would be rules about who extends their hand first or who gets introduced first,” Best says. “There are still some folks who live and die by those rules. But we’re much less likely to see that.”

“This is because social hierarchy has become less important in our daily lives. The boss no longer sits in the corner office; instead, she sits with her employees. Parents are more likely to negotiate with children rather than lay down the “because I said so” law. And when it comes to our best friends, they often serve double duty as our co-workers, making boundaries non-existent. These changes have blurred the lines that often kept people apart.”

Wow!  It is time for the social norms of separation and distance to be reinstituted.   The change in falling boundaries in the last few decades has also blurred the lines of appropriateness. . . .and safety.   Safety is paramount when we think of our precious children and grandchildren.  Yes, I know that after the horrific shootings in Parkland, Florida, it may be hard to think of giving and receiving of hugs, kisses, and handshakes as an important safety issue for today and tomorrow.  It may be a matter of degree of harm at this very moment, or not.  Think also of the hundreds of children harmed by Dr. Nassar.

The 2014 article references a July 28, 2014 study in the American Journal of Infection Control recommending fist bumping as the most hygienic greeting.

“The handshake is a commonplace greeting in many cultures, but it has the potential to transmit infectious organisms directly between individuals. We developed an experimental model to assay transfer of bacteria during greeting exchange, and show that transfer is dramatically reduced when engaging in alternative so-called dap greetings known as the high five and fist bump compared with a traditional handshake. Adoption of the fist bump as a greeting could substantially reduce the transmission of infectious disease between individuals.”

There was also a press release that summarizes the findings.

If there is only one link that you are inclined to look at, this is it, and you might consider reading the study in full.  It reiterates the safety concerns that should take priority over the so called “niceties” that have evolved in our American culture over the last few decades.

The ending of the release on the study is so telling:

This study expands on the recent call from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) to ban handshakes from the hospital environment.  Healthcare providers’ hands can spread potentially harmful germs to patients, leading to healthcare associated infections (HAIs). HAIs are among the leading causes of preventable harm and death in the United States. . . .“

Yes, we were right to be concerned about medical professionals reaching to shake hands last week.  And, yes, the time is NOW to restore the boundaries that provide social safety as well as health safety.  We should now stop teaching our children and grandchildren to hug, kiss, and even shake hands upon greeting others.

Fist bump!  That is the new normal we should advocate when our children and grandchildren greet others.  We should fist bump with everyone as a greeting.

Close family, especially grandparents, may still be the exception, we expect.  Maybe it is love versus like, or maybe it is our mutual love.  We grandparents would always decline to hug and kiss our grandchildren if we are ill or even think we are coming down with something.

Parents will have the responsibility to explain, determine, and control boundaries.  This is a difficult time in our American culture, and a time that this Grandma is glad I am not raising children nor have the responsibility to raise grandchildren.

We grandparents can, however, be role models of  spreading this safe and healthy greeting trend.  Please send this post to at least five parents and five grandparents close to your heart.  We grandparents can be the start of a movement to use the fist bump as the preferred greeting for everyone with











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