Why It's Important to Teach Your Kids About Consent
Critics are outraged at the lenient penalty (a six-month sentence reduced to three months) handed down in the recent sexual assault case against former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner. Many are even more outraged by the outright defiance of Turner's father in defense of his son's attack. In response, pastor John Pavlovitz wrote a blog post titled, “To Brock Turner’s Father, From Another Father,” which asserted that loving a child is to "love him enough to teach him to own the terrible decisions he’s made."
While parenting is probably one of the hardest jobs to have, this controversy has reminded us of the responsibility parents bear as educators and as human beings to teach our children about consent—and that education can and should begin at a young age. The unfortunate reality is, we still live in a world in which sexual assault cases regularly headline our newspapers, scroll across our TV screens, and populate our Twitter feeds. We learn of new instances of domestic violence, date rape, and campus assault nearly every day. It is our responsibility to raise a new generation that can not only recognize consent and the importance of personal space, but can grow up to understand the severity of violating someone else's.
And, this learning process can begin as young as ages one to five. Here are three simple tips to teach your little ones about consent, according to the Huffington Post's Joanna Schroeder, Julie Gillis, Jamie Utt, and Alyssa Royse.
1. Teach Your Children About Personal Space
By instructing your young ones to ask for permission before touching someone else, you can communicate an innate sense of personal space at the crux of understanding consent. Conversely, giving your child the option to refuse someone else's touch—and respecting that decision—is equally important. The Huff Post authors suggest using language such as, "Sarah, let's ask Joe if he would like to hug bye-bye," or, "Would you like to give Grandma a kiss goodbye?" If the child refuses, assure them that this is perfectly okay, and offer an alternative suggestion, like a high-five or a wave.
2. Make Your Home a Body-Positive Environment
Making your home a safe space for your children to talk about their bodies is essential to raising responsible, well-equipped kids. Not only will they develop a healthy body image well before their tumultuous teen years, they'll also be more keen on discussing these sensitive subjects with you in the future. The Huffington Post recommends teaching young children the correct names for their body parts and expressing kindness and understanding if and when the subject arises.
3. Emphasize the Importance of the Words "No" and "Stop"
In addition to teaching children about the importance of personal space, the authors suggest imparting the seriousness of the words "no" and "stop" to your kids at a young age—especially as they relate to physical contact. Use language like, "Sarah said 'no,' and when we hear 'no' we always stop what we're doing immediately." Just as you respect your child's "no's," teach them that others should do the same; explain that if a friend or classmate doesn't do so, then it's okay for them to choose other friends to play with.
For more tips on how to teach your kids about respect and consent, read more on Huffington Post, and shop the book below:
How have you taught your young children about consent?