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No, you don't have to hug her (and what are parents thinking!!!!) rant

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16 hours ago, Homeschool Mom in AZ said:

The problem is behavior like that could happen for a wide range of reasons, including very dangerous ones.  No one here or in that situation is capable of getting to the bottom of what's going on, that requires a medically trained specialist evaluating her.  So law enforcement needs to be called so they can contact who ever it is that handles that kind of thing and if it turns out it's because of some dangerous mental illness or grooming behavior they're already aware of a potential problem.

Whether the woman is a direct threat to the children or not, teaching children it's OK to hug a demanding stranger at all, especially in exchange for gifts/money erodes boundaries, which is psychologically bad for children.

 

Yeah, I'm not seeing how this is a dangerous situation for anyone.  It might be that she needs to be evaluated for her own good, though it's entirely possible that she has been and that's why she's allowed to be out and about.  Because what are you going to do, take a harmless person and now tell them they can't go out because they seem nutty?  That would be cruel.

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13 hours ago, gardenmom5 said:

except - it's not "harmless". . . even if that particular person isn't going to take it further, the children are sent the message that that type of behavior is no big deal. . . . next time, it could be someone who isn't "harmless", but the child thinks it's the same.

                                  

I don't think teaching kids that non-dangerous situations are dangerous protects them.  I think it just makes them scared.  Interacting with a person while your parent is right there isn't dangerous.  

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24 minutes ago, Bluegoat said:

                                  

I don't think teaching kids that non-dangerous situations are dangerous protects them.  I think it just makes them scared.  Interacting with a person while your parent is right there isn't dangerous.  

 

Yeah.  When my kids were younger and we were out and about during "school hours" people would ask those typical questions ("what, no school today?") I just taught my kids that if I was right there and someone addressed them politely, they should respond, also politely. Of course we went into details about not answering personal questions, not giving personal information, etc.  But saying "oh, we homeschool" to a stranger in the store when I'm standing there with them isn't going to harm them.  We used to do some homeschooling in cafes and occasionally someone would ask what they were reading or doing, they answered for themselves.  Certainly they were never going to be taking anything from anyone and not exchanging hugs for money - that's completely different.

I have been surprised at how many parents, say at the grocery store, frown on any adult interaction with their kids, even smiling and saying hello to a child as we pass in the aisle.  Not sure what it teachers toddlers when mom gives the stink-eye to someone just for saying hello.  (I know this is not the same as the situation in the OP.)

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8 minutes ago, Bluegoat said:

                                  

I don't think teaching kids that non-dangerous situations are dangerous protects them.  I think it just makes them scared.  Interacting with a person while your parent is right there isn't dangerous.  

This isn't fully true. I don't think this situation was grooming, but a lot of grooming behavior takes place in the parents' presence to put the child at ease to be groomed and to groom the parents themselves.

I also wouldn't play down the psychological issues of a child being pressured to exchange physical affection for money, gifts, or approval. It doesn't mean the parent has to or should tell them they were in danger. But it's still very important. 

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6 minutes ago, NormaElle said:

This isn't fully true. I don't think this situation was grooming, but a lot of grooming behavior takes place in the parents' presence to put the child at ease to be groomed and to groom the parents themselves.

I also wouldn't play down the psychological issues of a child being pressured to exchange physical affection for money, gifts, or approval. It doesn't mean the parent has to or should tell them they were in danger. But it's still very important. 

 

Not to mention teaching kids to honor their feeling that something was awkward or weird, rather than stifle it for the sake of being "nice" is an important thing to practice even when it's only uncomfortable and may not be dangerous.

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40 minutes ago, NormaElle said:

This isn't fully true. I don't think this situation was grooming, but a lot of grooming behavior takes place in the parents' presence to put the child at ease to be groomed and to groom the parents themselves.

I also wouldn't play down the psychological issues of a child being pressured to exchange physical affection for money, gifts, or approval. It doesn't mean the parent has to or should tell them they were in danger. But it's still very important. 

 

But look, the thing about being groomed is that largely, it is perfectly normal behaviour.  If you teach kids to be suspicious of everything that could be grooming, you are teaching  them to be suspicious of healthy human interactions that lead to good relationships. 

And I think likening this situation to grooming is not very accurate anyway - it's pretty much the kind of thing that will make the person seem odd and bring them to the notice of the parents.

 

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10 minutes ago, Bluegoat said:

 

But look, the thing about being groomed is that largely, it is perfectly normal behaviour.  If you teach kids to be suspicious of everything that could be grooming, you are teaching  them to be suspicious of healthy human interactions that lead to good relationships. 

And I think likening this situation to grooming is not very accurate anyway - it's pretty much the kind of thing that will make the person seem odd and bring them to the notice of the parents.

 

 

Eh, grooming behavior typically starts with someone who is trying too hard to seem nice. There is a difference between someone who is nice and someone who's trying too hard to seem nice, and if you point it out most kids can tell the difference without getting suspicious about everyday polite behaviors.

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It's not the fact that she asked for a hug that bothered me. People do that a lot these days for many different reasons, some are benign and others are more nefarious. But just asking for a hug isn't the part I take issue with.

The OP's child was obviously uncomfortable from the beginning of this woman's exchange with him, the reason why he was uncomfortable is neither here nor there. He was uncomfortable and declined this woman's request (if you could call it that, I know people don't usually mean it this way but "Where's my hug?" particularly from someone I don't know or know well feels belligerent to me). It should have ended there.

She should have respected his boundary and asked someone else for a hug but instead she kept on trying to find a way to cross his boundary. She has no idea why this child is uncomfortable. He could have been a victim of bullying or abuse, he could have been autistic, he could have been a child with generalized anxiety for any number of reasons, he could have been out to get a treat and spend some time with mom after a bad day. This woman had no way of knowing why this child was uncomfortable with her request or whether or not she was causing him emotional distress beyond what most people would feel it that situation.

I find it disturbing that the other parents taught their children that their child's feelings and boundaries were less important than the adult's request in this situation. It is a scenario that I saw/see played out again and again in many different ways in southern culture and I have never cared for it. It is not impolite or disrespectful for a child to have boundaries. Even if the adult doesn't understand the child's reasoning, they need to respect the child's boundaries the same way they would another adult.

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5 hours ago, Bluegoat said:

                                  

I don't think teaching kids that non-dangerous situations are dangerous protects them.  I think it just makes them scared.  Interacting with a person while your parent is right there isn't dangerous.  

someone being manipulative and pushing boundaries about physical contact - is not harmless.   forcing it sends the message the child doens't have control of their own body.

5 hours ago, marbel said:

 

Yeah.  When my kids were younger and we were out and about during "school hours" people would ask those typical questions ("what, no school today?") I just taught my kids that if I was right there and someone addressed them politely, they should respond, also politely. Of course we went into details about not answering personal questions, not giving personal information, etc.  But saying "oh, we homeschool" to a stranger in the store when I'm standing there with them isn't going to harm them.  We used to do some homeschooling in cafes and occasionally someone would ask what they were reading or doing, they answered for themselves.  Certainly they were never going to be taking anything from anyone and not exchanging hugs for money - that's completely different.

I have been surprised at how many parents, say at the grocery store, frown on any adult interaction with their kids, even smiling and saying hello to a child as we pass in the aisle.  Not sure what it teachers toddlers when mom gives the stink-eye to someone just for saying hello.  (I know this is not the same as the situation in the OP.)

 

conversation and manipulated physical contact are two entirely different things.   conversation is generally good  (personal information, is still personal - but most people are general), as children learn how to talk to people.  having a stranger attempt to manipulate and guilt-trip a child into physical contact is very different.

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2 minutes ago, gardenmom5 said:

someone being manipulative and pushing boundaries about physical contact - is not harmless.   forcing it sends the message the child doens't have control of their own body.

 

conversation and manipulated physical contact are two entirely different things.   conversation is generally good  (personal information, is still personal - but most people are general), as children learn how to talk to people.  having a stranger attempt to manipulate and guilt-trip a child into physical contact is very different.

And again.  Would Moms here be saying this if it was a middle aged man aggressively trying to get a hug or bribe the kids into it?

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46 minutes ago, gardenmom5 said:

someone being manipulative and pushing boundaries about physical contact - is not harmless.   forcing it sends the message the child doens't have control of their own body.

 

conversation and manipulated physical contact are two entirely different things.   conversation is generally good  (personal information, is still personal - but most people are general), as children learn how to talk to people.  having a stranger attempt to manipulate and guilt-trip a child into physical contact is very different.

Right.  I was responding to a post about normal, harmless interactions, which are clearly different from what was described in the OP. Sorry for being unclear.

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5 hours ago, Katy said:

 

Eh, grooming behavior typically starts with someone who is trying too hard to seem nice. There is a difference between someone who is nice and someone who's trying too hard to seem nice, and if you point it out most kids can tell the difference without getting suspicious about everyday polite behaviors.

 

Maybe it does if they aren't very good at it.  If you want to get close to people and abuse their trust generally it's better to seem normal.

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1 hour ago, Arctic Mama said:

And again.  Would Moms here be saying this if it was a middle aged man aggressively trying to get a hug or bribe the kids into it?

 

If a middle aged man appeared to be suffering from some sort of dementia, I hope people would also be kind and understanding.  That doesn't necessarily mean making the kid do it, but if they are not worried about it?  No, I am not assuming he is evil.  And honestly, what if he is - chances are we will never see him again.

And there is no actual evidence that showing kids how to navigate these situations with discernment increases their risk.  This idea that being tolerant of those whose behaviour is strange, or looking at real risk in a situation, or even teaching that conventional touching (which this isn't) is something people generally ought to do - there is zero evidence that it leads to kids without boundaries.

I've never seen any reason to think that telling kids they should always just trust their feelings helps either - they often seem to be wary of perfectly safe situations and unwary of those that are more ambiguous.  

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11 minutes ago, Bluegoat said:

 

If a middle aged man appeared to be suffering from some sort of dementia, I hope people would also be kind and understanding.  That doesn't necessarily mean making the kid do it, but if they are not worried about it?  No, I am not assuming he is evil.  And honestly, what if he is - chances are we will never see him again.

And there is no actual evidence that showing kids how to navigate these situations with discernment increases their risk.  This idea that being tolerant of those whose behaviour is strange, or looking at real risk in a situation, or even teaching that conventional touching (which this isn't) is something people generally ought to do - there is zero evidence that it leads to kids without boundaries.

I've never seen any reason to think that telling kids they should always just trust their feelings helps either - they often seem to be wary of perfectly safe situations and unwary of those that are more ambiguous.  

Nope.  I’m not letting them anywhere near someone with dementia or otherwise if they don’t want to be - that includes people in our actual family.  Being firm and involving the store or authorities if someone is persistent is the right thing to do, whether they’re knowingly malicious or not.

 

I have zero tolerance for someone violating personal physical boundaries of me or my children.  If they don’t want it or I don’t want it I’m not allowing it.  They have no right to our bodies or even personal space if we say no.

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Just to emphasize, I don't think it was that this woman desired a hug that took us aback.  I have compassion for mentally disabled people and those with issues.  She loudly, aggressively demanded a hug with the idea that if the kid jumped to her command she would pay him a quarter.  The other odd thing is that every kid she approached was a boy around the same age as DS. Her initial tone from the start was angry/aggressive,as if she was reprimanding someone who had made her very angry.  I think that was what threw us all the most.   

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6 minutes ago, Arctic Mama said:

Nope.  I’m not letting them anywhere near someone with dementia or otherwise if they don’t want to be - that includes people in our actual family.  Being firm and involving the store or authorities if someone is persistent is the right thing to do, whether they’re knowingly malicious or not.

 

I have zero tolerance for someone violating personal physical boundaries of me or my children.  If they don’t want it or I don’t want it I’m not allowing it.  They have no right to our bodies or even personal space if we say no.

 

I'm wondering if we are all talking about the same thing, or at least you and Bluegoat (with whom I have agreed).

When you talk about your kids not getting near anyone with dementia if they don't want to be, even family members, are you including, say, a great-grandma who is no threat to the child but maybe talks funny, or is boring, or is messy, or whatever?  And the kids says, no, I don't want to be around this person... so it's OK to keep them away from the person? 

There is a huge difference between that and a woman (or a man, no difference) aggressively demanding hugs from a child she does not know - I am pretty sure everyone on this thread has agreed on that.

At what point should kids start learning to have compassion for people and interact with them - safely, appropriately, of course - even when it is not exactly what they want?  How do they learn it?  

 

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27 minutes ago, Bluegoat said:

I've never seen any reason to think that telling kids they should always just trust their feelings helps either - they often seem to be wary of perfectly safe situations and unwary of those that are more ambiguous.  

 

I don't think you were aiming this at me or anything but I just wanted to say that I wasn't saying children should trust every fearful instinct they have or that they shouldn't be taught the difference between casual social interaction and stranger danger. Some people just have less need for human touch. My youngest son is one of those people. From the time he was an infant it was obvious he had a clear limit for being touched and cuddled. He is 5yo and still has a clear limit for how much touch he can handle. He may very well be on the spectrum, I don't know for sure at this time but I never want him to feel as though he is in the wrong for not wanting to be touched by anyone, including me. I even had to learn to ask him if he wants a hug when he is upset. If he is just wanting to be listened to, giving him a hug without asking him first can cause him to lose it and escalate a situation that didn't need to be. Sometimes he does want a hug, sometimes he doesn't but I respect his boundary and whether or not he feels like giving or receiving a hug. 

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5 minutes ago, Attolia said:

Just to emphasize, I don't think it was that this woman desired a hug that took us aback.  I have compassion for mentally disabled people and those with issues.  She loudly, aggressively demanded a hug with the idea that if the kid jumped to her command she would pay him a quarter.  The other odd thing is that every kid she approached was a boy around the same age as DS. Her initial tone from the start was angry/aggressive,as if she was reprimanding someone who had made her very angry.  I think that was what threw us all the most.   

 

I wonder if she was thinking about a particular person in her past?  People can become a lot more demanding and aggressive too, when their minds start to go.

It sounds very off-putting for sure. I do think from the POV of the store, if I was a manager I might look into who he is and talk to her family if there was a way to do so.  Both to make sure they know what was going on, and to ask them to keep her from doing it. 

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8 minutes ago, sweet2ndchance said:

 

I don't think you were aiming this at me or anything but I just wanted to say that I wasn't saying children should trust every fearful instinct they have or that they shouldn't be taught the difference between casual social interaction and stranger danger. Some people just have less need for human touch. My youngest son is one of those people. From the time he was an infant it was obvious he had a clear limit for being touched and cuddled. He is 5yo and still has a clear limit for how much touch he can handle. He may very well be on the spectrum, I don't know for sure at this time but I never want him to feel as though he is in the wrong for not wanting to be touched by anyone, including me. I even had to learn to ask him if he wants a hug when he is upset. If he is just wanting to be listened to, giving him a hug without asking him first can cause him to lose it and escalate a situation that didn't need to be. Sometimes he does want a hug, sometimes he doesn't but I respect his boundary and whether or not he feels like giving or receiving a hug. 

 

Yeah, some people do like it less for sure, and I think largely you follow the child's development in terms of what they can understand and their ability to control their response.  Once they start to understand social interactions you can help them understand what to expect, and maybe also how to modify the situation while being polite.  And also that differing expectations can result in a little social awkwardness at times, but that's ok.

ETA - I tend to think of 5 as when most kids start to be able to handle some more social conventions, which is wh things like school tend to start then. But it's very much a beginning and some kids are earlier or later.

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I don't think you need to be polite to a stranger asking for a hug.  I'd be fine with my kids weren't.   Respect is earned, and asking for a hug of a stranger is not respectful.

There's also a difference between telling your kid how dangerous a situation is or overplaying the danger of a situation.  And telling them someone's behavior is not normal or socially acceptable and that they are 100% in control of their own bodies and they can always say no.    I'm pretty appalled some parents were downplaying the behavior in favor of being polite.  

I think kids can differenate between visiting an aging and ailing relative that you have the medical history and background with.  And a stranger asking for physical contact in the store.  Pervs come in all shapes and sizes and even if I thought it was someone mentally off, I still want my kid to always understand and be able to verbalize ownership of his body.   I have never forced my kids to hug any relatives.  

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I am not from the South, so maybe I'm missing something cultural/regional, but this would set off my alarm bells, too. And no, I would not have my child hug that person. In fact, if I witnessed this person doing the same thing to other customers, I would have reported her to management. Seriously. Perhaps nothing would be done about it, but I would still report her. Too weird, IMO.

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My kid wouldn't hug that person because a stranger.  No biggie.      

However, maybe I've got nutty family, or been to too many nursing homes.  This type of behavior isn't abnormal in the elderly, who for reasons of loneliness or nostalgia, become overly eager to engage with children.    

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4 hours ago, marbel said:

 

I'm wondering if we are all talking about the same thing, or at least you and Bluegoat (with whom I have agreed).

When you talk about your kids not getting near anyone with dementia if they don't want to be, even family members, are you including, say, a great-grandma who is no threat to the child but maybe talks funny, or is boring, or is messy, or whatever?  And the kids says, no, I don't want to be around this person... so it's OK to keep them away from the person? 

There is a huge difference between that and a woman (or a man, no difference) aggressively demanding hugs from a child she does not know - I am pretty sure everyone on this thread has agreed on that.

At what point should kids start learning to have compassion for people and interact with them - safely, appropriately, of course - even when it is not exactly what they want?  How do they learn it?  

 

 

There is a HUGE difference between having compassion for someone and letting them just violate your boundaries in order to be nice. Being afraid to not be nice is how MANY MANY MANY victims of sexual abuse end up being victims. If something is making your child feel uncomfortable they have the right to say no, and if the person has some sort of mental or psychological disturbance and is offended by a child saying no to a stranger, then they can go to hell. Seriously, I'm never going to be okay with a stranger forcing affection of any child. And if you do you might seriously want to look at why "being polite" to completely unacceptable requests is more important to you than your child. Or why you have more compassion for the person making your child uncomfortable on purpose than you do for your uncomfortable child. And why exactly you think that it is in any way compassionate to teach your child to let someone violate their boundaries. It is neither loving nor compassionate to let someone abuse you. There are completely appropriate ways to say, "I don't hug strangers and you are making me uncomfortable" without malice or judgment.  But given the malice present from the abuser in this particular situation, I wouldn't ask my child to behave with any degree of politeness. Acting angry and making demands of a child she didn't know WAS abusive.

And there is a huge difference between a messy grandmother with dementia and an angry abusive stranger demanding anything from your child. Any healthy child over the age of 3 can understand that.

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4 hours ago, marbel said:

 

At what point should kids start learning to have compassion for people and interact with them - safely, appropriately, of course - even when it is not exactly what they want?  How do they learn it?  

 

 

 

I think that this is a great question. Our world has gotten so complicated and so messy, right?  I think we can be compassionate without allowing strangers to force themselves on us physically. If we had longer with this lady we may have talked to her, but this happened so fast.  When DS didn't immediately hug her but just stared at her/hesitated, she very quickly responded by opening her hand out to show the quarter, then pulled back, snatched it closed, expressed her anger, and walked away.  The whole thing happened faster than I can type it.  I think that compassion is an important thing to teach.  I think they learn that through our example.  How do we talk to people?  Do we say mean things to or about people like this?  If given the opportunity to speak to them, do we treat them with respect or belittle them?

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I live in the south, too, and I'd suspect dementia or mental illness. There's one woman I know who does weird, boundary crossing things like this and uses the "southern lady"excuse, so I was glad you included that this woman is black because otherwise I would have suspected my friend's mom, who certainly has a slew of untreated mental issues going on. The woman I know would do things like go up to families visiting my parent's church, tell them she was the official church grandma, and try to get them to give her their children. Visitors tended to just not return after scary interactions like that. It's hard to deal with people like that when you want to be kind and understanding and also not have them ever, ever near your kids or anyone else's.

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1 hour ago, Katy said:

 

There is a HUGE difference between having compassion for someone and letting them just violate your boundaries in order to be nice. Being afraid to not be nice is how MANY MANY MANY victims of sexual abuse end up being victims. If something is making your child feel uncomfortable they have the right to say no, and if the person has some sort of mental or psychological disturbance and is offended by a child saying no to a stranger, then they can go to hell. Seriously, I'm never going to be okay with a stranger forcing affection of any child. And if you do you might seriously want to look at why "being polite" to completely unacceptable requests is more important to you than your child. Or why you have more compassion for the person making your child uncomfortable on purpose than you do for your uncomfortable child. And why exactly you think that it is in any way compassionate to teach your child to let someone violate their boundaries. It is neither loving nor compassionate to let someone abuse you. There are completely appropriate ways to say, "I don't hug strangers and you are making me uncomfortable" without malice or judgment.  But given the malice present from the abuser in this particular situation, I wouldn't ask my child to behave with any degree of politeness. Acting angry and making demands of a child she didn't know WAS abusive.

And there is a huge difference between a messy grandmother with dementia and an angry abusive stranger demanding anything from your child. Any healthy child over the age of 3 can understand that.

 

I have no idea what you're going off on me about.  I was responding to a specific post in which the poster said she would keep her kids away from anyone, even family, who made them uncomfortable. I gave specific examples and asked that poster to clarify what she meant because it seemed like people were talking past each other.  Pretty sure I have said more than once in this thread that the behavior of the woman described in the OP was not acceptable. 

I don't need to do any soul-searching about my care of my own kids, either; thanks anyway though.

ETA: by the way, re: your last sentence - yeah, I get that there is a difference between an angry-sounding stranger and a great-grandma. I said that in my post that you quoted.  

 

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10 minutes ago, Attolia said:

 

 

I think that this is a great question. Our world has gotten so complicated and so messy, right?  I think we can be compassionate without allowing strangers to force themselves on us physically. If we had longer with this lady we may have talked to her, but this happened so fast.  When DS didn't immediately hug her but just stared at her/hesitated, she very quickly responded by opening her hand out to show the quarter, then pulled back, snatched it closed, expressed her anger, and walked away.  The whole thing happened faster than I can type it.  I think that compassion is an important thing to teach.  I think they learn that through our example.  How do we talk to people?  Do we say mean things to or about people like this?  If given the opportunity to speak to them, do we treat them with respect or belittle them?

I certainly did not mean to imply that I thought you should have interacted with the woman any differently than you did. I'm sure it was all quite shocking and happened quickly. I have no idea how I would have responded.

Apparently I wasn't clear; I was responding to a specific post which was in response to someone else, and made it seem as if people are talking past each other on this topic, because there is a vast difference between strangers acting inappropriately (whether they mean to or not, or realized they are or not) and other people we encounter who may not be easy to be around.

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11 hours ago, Katy said:

 

Eh, grooming behavior typically starts with someone who is trying too hard to seem nice. There is a difference between someone who is nice and someone who's trying too hard to seem nice, and if you point it out most kids can tell the difference without getting suspicious about everyday polite behaviors.

One of my resolutions for keeping my kids safe has been to actually reject the premise (which I now believe to be hubris) that I actually *would* be able to tell the difference between a person who is actually nice and a skilled / successful child predator ‘trying to seem nice’.

Every story, every report, every actual event that has come across my radar says that this is a lie. Normal people *can’t* tell the difference. Normal people *don’t* notice a difference.

Unless I think I am abnormally gifted, I can’t expect myself or my kids to be able to do something that the rest of the population largely, evidently, can’t do. My safety plans need to depend on something else.

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8 minutes ago, bolt. said:

One of my resolutions for keeping my kids safe has been to actually reject the premise (which I now believe to be hubris) that I actually *would* be able to tell the difference between a person who is actually nice and a skilled / successful child predator.

Every story, every report, every actual event that has come across my radar says that this is a lie. Normal people *can’t* tell the difference. Normal people *don’t* notice a difference.

Unless I think I am abnormally gifted, I can’t expect myself or my kids to be able to do something that the rest of the population largely, evidently, can’t do. My safety plans need to depend on something else.

 

Except the people who are victimized are often abused by multiple people, multiple times in their lives. Most victims have alarm bells go off in their heads, which they can retrospectively identify. They oftentimes ignored that alarm bell because they were either trying to be nice or because the flattering attention from the eventual abuser felt good. The first time I heard about this I was a child and Oprah did a series of shows about this sort of thing, grooming behaviors and fear and intuition. It was the same series that Gavin De Becker & The Gift of Fear were featured on. As a foster parent I've heard the same thing more times than I can count, not just from kids, but from therapists and social workers. Intuition and alarm bells are important, which isn't to say they are the only thing that matters. It's difficult to identify sociopaths and they are unfortunately common. But most people, even if they can't figure out why, will recognize when someone makes them uncomfortable. And there usually is grooming first.  Getting snatched like Elizabeth Smart is rare.

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1 hour ago, Katy said:

 

Except the people who are victimized are often abused by multiple people, multiple times in their lives. Most victims have alarm bells go off in their heads, which they can retrospectively identify. They oftentimes ignored that alarm bell because they were either trying to be nice or because the flattering attention from the eventual abuser felt good. The first time I heard about this I was a child and Oprah did a series of shows about this sort of thing, grooming behaviors and fear and intuition. It was the same series that Gavin De Becker & The Gift of Fear were featured on. As a foster parent I've heard the same thing more times than I can count, not just from kids, but from therapists and social workers. Intuition and alarm bells are important, which isn't to say they are the only thing that matters. It's difficult to identify sociopaths and they are unfortunately common. But most people, even if they can't figure out why, will recognize when someone makes them uncomfortable. And there usually is grooming first.  Getting snatched like Elizabeth Smart is rare.


The problem with telling people to always, always trust their instincts is that it leads to things like people calling the police because someone is having a BBQ while black. Or walking with their child while black. Or sleeping while black.

Too many people can't tell the difference between intuition and prejudice.

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I don't think you have to worry that this was in any way related to child trafficking. I'd imagine someone trying to kidnap your kid would have been a bit more, er, subtle.

I agree that it sounds like the person was mentally ill or suffering from dementia. I certainly wouldn't force my child to hug her, but I don't think the immediate situation was likely to be dangerous. 

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3 hours ago, Katy said:

 

There is a HUGE difference between having compassion for someone and letting them just violate your boundaries in order to be nice. Being afraid to not be nice is how MANY MANY MANY victims of sexual abuse end up being victims. If something is making your child feel uncomfortable they have the right to say no, and if the person has some sort of mental or psychological disturbance and is offended by a child saying no to a stranger, then they can go to hell. Seriously, I'm never going to be okay with a stranger forcing affection of any child. And if you do you might seriously want to look at why "being polite" to completely unacceptable requests is more important to you than your child. Or why you have more compassion for the person making your child uncomfortable on purpose than you do for your uncomfortable child. And why exactly you think that it is in any way compassionate to teach your child to let someone violate their boundaries. It is neither loving nor compassionate to let someone abuse you. There are completely appropriate ways to say, "I don't hug strangers and you are making me uncomfortable" without malice or judgment.  But given the malice present from the abuser in this particular situation, I wouldn't ask my child to behave with any degree of politeness. Acting angry and making demands of a child she didn't know WAS abusive.

And there is a huge difference between a messy grandmother with dementia and an angry abusive stranger demanding anything from your child. Any healthy child over the age of 3 can understand that.

any sort of abuse.  including bullying by other adults/peers.  just one story: I  had an uncle who was just mean- always teasing, mean. complaints to every other adult - from my mother to my grandparents to my great-aunt - was - "he's just teasing"  - iow: the message sent by adults was: get over it.  the message is the child has no right to complain becasue the adult "is just teasing".  well, the next time that child encounters someone  (*especially* an adult) who makes them feel uncomfortable, not only are they less likely to back away, they're less likely to talk to "mom" about what happened - because mom is also one of those sending a message of "get over it".  the child has been sent the message that *their feelings* are the problem - not the adult/other person's behavior.

while I doubt this woman would have done anything horrendous - the *message* of forcing a child to ignore their own comfort/feelings to please an adult - is teaching them they don't have the right to speak up for themselves.    whether the person has dementia or is mentally ill is irrelevant.   (if so, they need help so they can be stopped.  if not - they need to be stopped.)

2 hours ago, Katy said:

 

Except the people who are victimized are often abused by multiple people, multiple times in their lives.   THIS

Most victims have alarm bells go off in their heads, which they can retrospectively identify.  They oftentimes ignored that alarm bell because they were either trying to be nice or because the flattering attention from the eventual abuser felt good.  or were afraid of being censured by a family member whose opinion "mattered",  and continue to get messages from "trusted" adults that their alarm bells/discomfort is the problem and they need to ignore it.

 

The first time I heard about this I was a child and Oprah did a series of shows about this sort of thing, grooming behaviors and fear and intuition. It was the same series that Gavin De Becker & The Gift of Fear were featured on. As a foster parent I've heard the same thing more times than I can count, not just from kids, but from therapists and social workers. Intuition and alarm bells are important, which isn't to say they are the only thing that matters. It's difficult to identify sociopaths and they are unfortunately common. But most people, even if they can't figure out why, will recognize when someone makes them uncomfortable. And there usually is grooming first.  Getting snatched like Elizabeth Smart is rare.

 

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6 hours ago, Mergath said:


The problem with telling people to always, always trust their instincts is that it leads to things like people calling the police because someone is having a BBQ while black. Or walking with their child while black. Or sleeping while black.

Too many people can't tell the difference between intuition and prejudice.

 

Well I can't argue with the bolded.  I guess where I would draw the line is in individual circumstances.  In the Colorado case they didn't do anything that merited calling the police, and there was no reason to believe that they had any ill intentions at all except she didn't like that they were late and their appearance. There is a huge difference between calling the police or shooting someone because you're afraid they might have ill intentions and letting someone abuse or coerce you or your kids because you're afraid to be impolite.  Most people can tell the difference between dislike and threat. 

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I really don't think most people do know when something is a real threat - if that were true you wouldn't have people afraid their children would be kidnapped at the gas station.

But in any case, this is kids.  They don't have enough experience to tell what might be a problem or what might not.  Some kids think the guy who offers to shake their hand being introduced is a threat.  If you teach them that no, he isn't, they now know more.  You have helped refined their perceptions.  

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1 hour ago, Bluegoat said:

I really don't think most people do know when something is a real threat - if that were true you wouldn't have people afraid their children would be kidnapped at the gas station.

But in any case, this is kids.  They don't have enough experience to tell what might be a problem or what might not.  Some kids think the guy who offers to shake their hand being introduced is a threat.  If you teach them that no, he isn't, they now know more.  You have helped refined their perceptions.  

Modern humans are spectacularly bad at assessing risk. 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200801/10-ways-we-get-the-odds-wrong

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I'm fantasizing being in the OP's situation and handing my child a dollar while saying loudly "here is a dollar for remembering our rules about NOT hugging strangers."

Not that we have any rule about that. And I probably wouldn't do it. But it is what I'm thinking. 

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On 5/30/2018 at 10:26 AM, Attolia said:

   And she can't be doing it to make kids happy because not one of the three kids I saw her approach (including my DS) seemed happy at all about the situation.  

 

 

Of course they weren't happy.  What the hell are they supposed to do with a quarter? ?

On 5/30/2018 at 6:01 PM, TechWife said:

 

I don’t think this is an appropriate thing to ask or expect a store manager to address. This is a police matter, they will be able to make any appropriate referrals and they have the authority and the responsibility to keep the public safe. 

 

The store manager can contact the police. That is more meaningful than someone who doesn't work there, can't testify to the woman doing this all the time, and so on. They have overall responsibility for their store, and I'd be amazed if Target doesn't have a standard operating policy that addresses this. Well, not this exactly, but weird, annoying, and/or creepy customers. 

I'm a native of the deep south. This is not a southern thing, it is a weird or mentally ill thing. People will talk to your kids in line, they may even offer  to hold the baby while you get your credit card out, but they don't demand hugs. Or anything else. Demanding is frowned upon. 

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Escalating something that can be handled by ignoring it (what the OP's child did) or by simply stepping in and telling her "No", is how we end up with situations where the police use way too much force.  The mentally ill and otherwise "different" people are often hurt or worse in these situations.  The children are not in danger.  It is socially uncomfortable.  The police are not there to ease your social discomfort.  (Which is how we get into the whole calling the police on people of color thing as well.) 

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26 minutes ago, katilac said:

 

Of course they weren't happy.  What the hell are they supposed to do with a quarter? ?

 

The store manager can contact the police. That is more meaningful than someone who doesn't work there, can't testify to the woman doing this all the time, and so on. They have overall responsibility for their store, and I'd be amazed if Target doesn't have a standard operating policy that addresses this. Well, not this exactly, but weird, annoying, and/or creepy customers. 

I'm a native of the deep south. This is not a southern thing, it is a weird or mentally ill thing. People will talk to your kids in line, they may even offer  to hold the baby while you get your credit card out, but they don't demand hugs. Or anything else. Demanding is frowned upon. 

 

Because relying on academic institutions and churches to report problem behavior has worked so well (sarcasm) I'm not willing to trust or expect a store manager to do this. Police are perfectly capable of questioning others (including the store management) to find out that this is a pattern of behavior.  A store manager could decide, on his/her own, that the lady is harmless and not report her or even tell the other store managers about her, when, as other posters have established, she really isn't harmless because she is normalizing grooming behavior. The store manager has no resources to help this potentially ill woman, the police do. Without police involvement, she may take her  behavior to another location. With police involvement, there is a written report in existence, should she pop up elsewhere, which can be used as evidence of grooming behavior and/or abnormal behavior, which would support a court case and/or access to mental health resources. 

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Grooming behavior requires a relationship with the person being groomed.  To label this woman's odd and socially inappropriate behavior as "grooming" is a vast overreaction. 

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8 minutes ago, TechWife said:

 

Because relying on academic institutions and churches to report problem behavior has worked so well (sarcasm) I'm not willing to trust or expect a store manager to do this. Police are perfectly capable of questioning others (including the store management) to find out that this is a pattern of behavior.  A store manager could decide, on his/her own, that the lady is harmless and not report her or even tell the other store managers about her, when, as other posters have established, she really isn't harmless because she is normalizing grooming behavior. The store manager has no resources to help this potentially ill woman, the police do. Without police involvement, she may take her  behavior to another location. With police involvement, there is a written report in existence, should she pop up elsewhere, which can be used as evidence of grooming behavior and/or abnormal behavior, which would support a court case and/or access to mental health resources. 

1

 

I think we live in areas where what the police are able and willing to do is waaaaayyy different. If I went to the police with this story, I'm pretty sure they'd brush it off, possibly tell me they'd look into it. They would be much more likely to take the manager seriously, both because they are going to have more knowledge of patterns in behavior, and because the store manager is going to know some of the local police - all managers of big stores do, and Target in particular makes a point of requiring stores to communicate and partner with local law enforcement. 

Of course the manager might blow it off. The police might blow it off, too. In either case, the only way to know is to follow up, which you can do with managers or police officers alike. But again, Target is going to have a protocol for dealing with this, and that's more appropriate imo.  

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1 hour ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

Grooming behavior requires a relationship with the person being groomed.  To label this woman's odd and socially inappropriate behavior as "grooming" is a vast overreaction. 

What I think COULD be dangerous is not this situation exactly, but telling your child repeatedly that this is no big deal and it's fine to hug the stranger.  Which would instill in the child to override their instincts and boundaries and that someone else's feelings are more important than their own.  I actually think situations like this are great opportunities to talk to your kids about mental illness and dementia and that strangers shouldn't be touching them and that they own their own bodies and space.  It's not about being insensitive or not compassionate.  I actually don't think you're doing people any favors by normalizing  or being polite and dismissive about deviant behavior.  A person who is reported for crossing boundaries in a public space repeatedly may eventually be followed by social services.   It's also about being compassionate to your own child.    I am really sensitive to this because I was raised in a house where I was taught to stuff my feelings over and over and I was always less important than any adult and it blew up in my 20's.   I was anxious and sensitive.   I was not abused, but I was an easy target for bullies and luckily I didn't have more issues than that.   I go out of my way to let my kids know when adults around us are behaving badly.  I was definitely raised to think some abnormal behavior was normal.   

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Just now, FuzzyCatz said:

What I think COULD be dangerous is not this situation exactly, but telling your child repeatedly that this is no big deal and it's fine to hug the stranger.  Which would instill in the child to override their instincts and boundaries and that someone else's feelings are more important than their own.  I actually think situations like this are great opportunities to talk to your kids about mental illness and dementia and that strangers shouldn't be touching them and that they own their own bodies and space.  It's not about being insensitive or not compassionate.  I actually don't think you're doing people any favors by normalizing  or being positive and dismissive deviant behavior.  A person who is reported for crossing boundaries in a public space repeatedly may eventually be followed by social services.   It's also about being compassionate to your own child.    I am really sensitive to this because I was raised in a house where I was taught to stuff my feelings over and over and I was always less important than any adult and it blew up in my 20's.   I was anxious and sensitive.   I was not abused, but I was an easy target for bullies and luckily I didn't have more issues than that.   I go out of my way to let my kids know when adults around us are behaving badly.  I was definitely raised to think some abnormal behavior was normal.   

If you read any of my other posts on this very thread you would see that I said to step in and tell the woman "no" on the hugs.  I don't understand this black and white thinking that doesn't seem to understand that not everything has to be addressed with a "scorched earth policy". 

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2 minutes ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

If you read any of my other posts on this very thread you would see that I said to step in and tell the woman "no" on the hugs.  I don't understand this black and white thinking that doesn't seem to understand that not everything has to be addressed with a "scorched earth policy". 

Well, I don't see anyone calling for anything I would call scorched earth policy.  I think parents of children with anxiety might have a different angle on situations like this.  

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1 hour ago, katilac said:

 

Of course they weren't happy.  What the hell are they supposed to do with a quarter? ?

The store manager can contact the police. That is more meaningful than someone who doesn't work there, can't testify to the woman doing this all the time, and so on. They have overall responsibility for their store, and I'd be amazed if Target doesn't have a standard operating policy that addresses this. Well, not this exactly, but weird, annoying, and/or creepy customers. 

I'm a native of the deep south. This is not a southern thing, it is a weird or mentally ill thing. People will talk to your kids in line, they may even offer  to hold the baby while you get your credit card out, but they don't demand hugs. Or anything else. Demanding is frowned upon. 

sort of off topic . . . my sil was standing next to a woman at the airline counter.  the agent was . . terse?   the woman was from the south, and rather upset to have encountered someone so rude.  my sil told her she wouldn't find people as polite as the south outside of japan.

1 hour ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

Escalating something that can be handled by ignoring it (what the OP's child did) or by simply stepping in and telling her "No", is how we end up with situations where the police use way too much force.  The mentally ill and otherwise "different" people are often hurt or worse in these situations.  The children are not in danger.  It is socially uncomfortable.  The police are not there to ease your social discomfort.  (Which is how we get into the whole calling the police on people of color thing as well.) 

my bil was schiziophrenic. (he's deceased)   when I said "no" to his inappropriate/aggressive interactions with my daughters, his aggression was turned on me.  THAT is very common among aggressive mentally ill. many of whom insist there is nothing wrong with them, and are uncooperative about getting care.   anyone trying to stop them, becomes the target for their aggression.   and while some members of dh's family insisted he "wasn't violent" - ripping a phone out of the wall while someone was calling 911 (that's an automatic police siren response -he spent a few days in jail), and pulling a kitchen knife on another - IS *violent*!

and I'm not the only family member who was afraid to go to bed when he was in the house.

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4 hours ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

Escalating something that can be handled by ignoring it (what the OP's child did) or by simply stepping in and telling her "No", is how we end up with situations where the police use way too much force.  The mentally ill and otherwise "different" people are often hurt or worse in these situations.  The children are not in danger.  It is socially uncomfortable.  The police are not there to ease your social discomfort.  (Which is how we get into the whole calling the police on people of color thing as well.) 

 

Thank you so much for this. People have no idea how terrifying it is to have  a vulnerable  family member at risk for assault or arrest because they act like a weirdo.

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My younger son would have screamed bloody murder.  The police would have come over not because I called them but because everyone who heard the scream would assume that a child was being stabbed to death somewhere in the store and flipped out.  Everyone's ears would still be ringing, days later.  Target would be hiring a trauma counselor for their employees.  

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DON’T QUOTE

Poppy - No.  We have one, though they are institutionalized now for their own safety, and have been varying degrees of mentally unstable and aggressive their entire lives.  That is exactly why I am so firm that nobody owes another person compliance or access to their person if alarm bells are going off.

 

LO being literally crazy, though generally physically harmless, doesn’t give her a pass to terrorize whoever she wants.  If a gentle but firm rebuff doesn’t solve the issue and they follow as I walk away?  You better believe management is being involved.  Plenty of people are weird or slightly off, but aggression or touching (especially minors) is another thing entirely.

 

I’d make an exception in a situation like a nursing home or other guided interaction, and might ask the kids to stretch a bit if they were being reticent to converse or play games or whatever. But in public you just don’t know whether someone is harmless or not, knowing how quickly a harmless interaction with someone of unsound mind can turn violent is exactly why I am so cautious.  That was hard won overcoming of the ‘being nice means giving them what they want’ programming.

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7 hours ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

Escalating something that can be handled by ignoring it (what the OP's child did) or by simply stepping in and telling her "No", is how we end up with situations where the police use way too much force.  The mentally ill and otherwise "different" people are often hurt or worse in these situations.  The children are not in danger.  It is socially uncomfortable.  The police are not there to ease your social discomfort.  (Which is how we get into the whole calling the police on people of color thing as well.) 

 

 

Of course I'm going to step in, and you're going to step in, and most of the people reading this are going to step in and tell her "No" on behalf of the child, but not all parents are (as stated in the OP). And not all parents are attentive enough to notice, or even in the vicinity to notice. 

I strongly disagree that you can just state that children in general are not in danger. This is not just socially uncomfortable behavior, it is aggressive behavior. You call it socially uncomfortable because you are assuming it always ends in the same way, with a parent present to make sure nothing further happens and a child who doesn't want to engage anyway. But there are going to be kids without parents nearby, and there are going to be kids who do want a hug and a quarter. These are the kids who might be in danger. I'd have no problem reporting this to management or police (in my area, I'd say management would be the quickest and most effective way, as per my other post). Even if I could know for a fact that it would never escalate, I'd still have no problem reporting someone aggressively making me uncomfortable again and again. 

I am quite familiar with "different" people and mentally ill people. Like Arctic Mama, this probably makes me more cautious rather than less. 

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