Parenting Styles

Give Me Some Sugar, Sugar!

I found an interesting article about subjecting children to unwanted affection, mainly kisses from strangers, but also kisses from relatives as well. This is something I’m sure we have all experienced, if not as parents, then certainly as children.

The title of this post is taken from something my granny used to say to me all the time.  She was a tough ol’ Texas woman who had the looks of granny from the Bugs Bunny cartoons paired with the personality of Yosemite Sam (who she smoked, drank, and swore like).  She was a granny who insisted on “sugar” from all her grandkids.  (“Sugar” is Texan for kiss, in case you didn’t already figure that out.)  There was no saying no to granny’s “sugar” demands, so I would quickly give her a peck on the cheek, and with scrunched up face, would tolerate her kiss in return.

While I was never thrilled with these shows of affection, I never did feel like it was something bad or wrong.  I loved my granny and I always knew she loved me.  I loved talking to her on the phone and was always excited to either go to Texas to visit her and my papa, or have them come and visit us “Yankees” in Massachusetts.

I don’t remember ever being forced to kiss a stranger or even someone I didn’t know really well.  As a parent, I never let that happen to my children.  Shows of affection were for family only.  If someone outside family or very close friends wanted a kiss or hug from one of my kids, they would be offered a hand shake or high five instead..

I would encourage my children to kiss or hug their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, I thought it was important that they be exposed to giving and receiving affection to others who they knew, loved, and trusted, even if they weren’t thrilled about it.  Still, I never insisted on it if it was obvious that they really didn’t want to.

Social conventions, including shows of affection, are learned. I believe that the ability to physically express affection and love are important to our emotional well being and our relationships with those we love.  That being said, every child is different and will respond to physical affection in different ways. Affection should never be forced, only encouraged, and then only as far as the child is willing to comfortably accept.

Featured image by Toeknee Raye


Jay is a dad, husband, and pet lover. He has a degree in Theater Arts and works as a Unix systems administrator, mainly because he has a degree in Theater Arts. He used to be a single dad, but now he is married to the perfect woman. He has two teenagers, a daughter, and a step-son. He also has an adult son. He shares his home with his wife, kids, an Australian Shepherd, and a bevy of adorable chihuahuas. He is a skeptic and humanist and tries to contribute to spreading rationality by writing about skeptical topics. You can find samples of his writing on his personal blog at Freethinking For Dummies, the JREF blog, and in Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

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One Comment

  1. I support this 110%.

    While you’re right in that being compelled to kiss relatives and adults you don’t like is (mostly) harmless, it does teach children that access to their bodies is something that isn’t and shouldn’t be under their control. I don’t think that’s ever something we want to teach kids.

    That’s one.

    Second, I can attest from personal experience that sometimes relatives and other adults *do* use this custom to force inappropriate attention on children. So telling kids they have to let Uncle Bob or Grandpa (or Auntie June) touch and kiss them even when they don’t want to is *not* a good idea.

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