Consent is a huge issue in today’s climate. As we’ve started to realize, kids are never to young to start learning about what consent is, and how to receive and give it. That means you should already be teaching toddlers about consent. As parents, we are the front line in facilitating these discussions and teaching consent to kids. Perhaps more importantly, it’s also our jobs to model this behavior in our own lives. Here are 5 ways to model consent in your everyday lives.
Don’t Require Hugs or Kisses
One of the easiest ways to teach your children consent is to say “Goodbye” to the old expectation that kids hug and kiss friends and relatives. Many an adult can think back to their childhood and feel that cringe in their stomach remembering forced goodbyes. So why in the world would we pass this on to our next generation?
You can still give your children the option of hugs and kisses, but have alternatives if they don’t want to. For instance, when we leave my parents house, my kids are generally more than happy to smother them in hugs and kisses. But sometimes they don’t feel like it. Maybe they don’t want the kisses, maybe they’re just being little jerks. The kisses they can reject, but the jerk part isn’t okay either. So they’re still required to go and politely say goodbye and can follow up with a wave, high five or handshake.
Hugs and kisses aren’t required to have good manners.
Don’t Give Hugs if You Don’t Want To
My church is full of huggers. Midway through the service, we “Pass the Peace.” When I grew up, this was traditionally done by turning to the people around you and shaking hands as you said, “Peace be with you.” Today, my church takes this as an opportunity to roam the aisles, often embracing each other as we offer these words.
Personally? I’m not a hugger. For a while, I went with the program and handed out hugs as an obligation as opposed to something I truly wanted to do. I’d complain on the way home from church sometimes that I hated that I felt obligated to hug people. Then one day I realized my kids were in the car listening as I basically bemoaned the fact that I felt like my consent wasn’t required. So I knew it was going to change.
Now, as we pass the peace, I happily extend my hand to anyone in my area. A few individuals that I’m close with get a hug. But I give out my physical touch and affection as I deem necessary, and not based on anyone else’s expectations. Understanding your own preferences, voicing them, and then acting on them can show your children who is in charge.
Listen to “No” During Playtime
Our three year old LOVES to be tickled. She will hop on our bed, lift up her shirt and beg to be tickled. Of course, we are happy to oblige and be rewarded with a million giggles. But somewhere during the play, Evie will squeal, “STOP IT!” And generally, we won’t. Because she doesn’t mean stop, and I’m her Mother, of course I’d know if she really didn’t like it. And she’s giggling! So all signs point to her enjoying it.
But those are a lot of the things men say when they don’t listen to “No.” And the truth is, I want my daughter to learn to MEAN the word when she says the word. So when she says “No” to me, I need to take it as no. If she wants me to keep tickling her, she’ll tell me. And eventually she’ll learn not to say “No,” when she really means, “Keep going.”
And when it’s important – like really important – she’ll know which words to use.
As women, we say “yes” a lot. And we may not always want to. “Will you bake cookies for the bake sale?” “Can you volunteer in class next Thursday?” “Want to be in charge of next year’s fundraiser?” We may feel like we should say “yes” to these things. But if you hate baking cookies, have to rearrange your whole schedule to volunteer in class, or hate fundraisers, then say “NO!”
Teach your kids how to be polite – but firm – about saying, “no.” “You know, that’s not really something I’m interested in, but thank you for asking.” You should never get guilted into doing something you really don’t want to do, just because of pressure. Taking that stand in your own life will teach your children a powerful lesson. And if you want to say, “yes” then do that! The point is, that it’s up to you.
Related Post: Say NO
Don’t Make Your Kids Share
Recently we had an experience at a park where my child brought their own toy to play with. As she played by herself, another child eyed the toy and started playing closer to my daughter. Soon, the Mother intervened to announce that it was almost her child’s turn.
Except, this was a toy my child brought. While I can teach her the value of sharing and encourage her to share with her friends, I’m not going to require it – especially in this scenario. My daughter didn’t know this child. My daughter didn’t trust this child. And it’s not my kid’s responsibility to give up her toy just to make someone else happy.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this one. Someday it won’t be a toy. But just as we taught her to do with her toys, she can stand up for herself and share when it’s on her terms, not because someone else is due anything.
Talking about consent isn’t something that we do once and then check off the list. It’s something we have to teach and model to our children every day. We hope these five tips are a great first start to assist you in teaching toddlers about consent!