The Girl Scouts of America may have a point: you probably shouldn’t insist that your kids hug relatives or friends if they don’t want to. It’s not really fair to force them into the arms of an aunt or an uncle just because that person has fed them dinner or given them a present. But it’s a bit of a leap to say there’s a direct link between that and long-term confusion about gratitude and consent.
Is someone who was forced into a simple embrace at five years old really going to feel obligated to offer physical affection to everyone who is kind to her as an adult? We need to be careful about the messages we send children, especially girls. But avoiding future misunderstandings about physical boundaries has a lot more to do with the kind of dialogue parents have with their children during their teenaged years, including constructive and proactive conversations about physical affection and consent.
Ultimately, there are good reasons not to force your kids into unwanted hugs, but they don’t have very much to do with what happens when they are adults.