It’s just as vital to teach consent to your toddler as it is to teach it to your teen. Read why parents shouldn’t force their kids to express physical affection.
Many of us are spending time with family and friends our children haven’t seen in a long or who they don’t know very well. Parental responsibility includes guiding our children through social situations in a way that makes them feel safe and secure.
Even at the tender age of 3, a child should be taught about the importance of permission. A child’s development of bodily autonomy should begin as early as possible. It is essential that love be freely given, but equally important, love must be freely withheld.
When a child’s physical autonomy isn’t taken into consideration when being coerced into giving a kiss to elderly Grandma Betty, many lessons are being taught. ‘Your body is more important than yourself’ is one of the messages that gets ingrained. In other words, it doesn’t matter how you feel about delivering affection or comfort; it matters more than your body does so.
This may need some effort on the part of parents. It’s possible that Aunt Ida won’t see her great-niece for a year. When your youngster refuses to give you a hug at the end of a school day, a cousin may humorously cry into his hands. When an adult is wounded, it isn’t appropriate to trample on another person’s rights, no matter how young they are. In rape culture, there is a strong belief that one should avoid being rejected by all means.
When it comes to saying goodbye, let the child select what feels good to them. If your child refuses to give you a hug when you ask, consider some other options. As we say our goodbyes, we like to extend a handshake, high-five, or a wave. It was a popular sign-off for our daughter at first.
Throughout our daughter’s life, we’ve spoken the mantra “everyone is in command of their own bodies” over and over. When she’s chasing down a playmate for a hug, or when an adult asks her to sit in their lap, this is a good reminder. When she grows up, it’s a value we hope she’ll hold on to, no matter how much she’s being pressed, to say no when it comes to unwelcome attention.
When it comes to social situations, children should emulate adults by using proper etiquette. As a courtesy, they should assist guests in getting out of the house or, if they’re at a friend’s house, thank the host for hosting. There is nothing rude about preventing unwanted touching, no matter how well-intentioned the giver.
In the short term, this may disappoint a couple of grandparents, but adults should be able to deal with rejection. To make an adult feel better, the burden does not need to be placed on a youngster. Additionally, if the parent normalizes bodily autonomy, it’s likely that others will follow suit. For both adults and children, consent should be normal, which is exactly what it is.