It’s All About Consent: How to Teach Your Child to Say No

News after news, we are being told that many people who only appear to be normal are criminals in disguise. The #MeToo movement, accusations of famous people, assaults happening to ordinary citizens – the world seems to have gone mad. In such an environment, it is evident that we should prepare our children for living in this world. Teaching about consent is tricky, and here are the tips for you to consider.

Image Credit:Flickr / Richard Potts

From Kavanaugh to Ronaldo, more famous people now have a not-that-pleasant page in their life record. However, it’s not just the wealthy and powerful that abuse others: students and other young people often become victims of those who do not understand – or do not want to understand – the concept of consent.

Teaching about consent is difficult because it revolves around sex – something that is not considered a staple of family chat. Still, it appears that in this day and age, when at least some part of society poses a threat to your mind and body, teaching how to say no is utterly important.

To each its own

In an attempt to make the not-for-children topic less serious, parents often use euphemisms to refer to genitals, as if they were shameful body parts that cannot be called by name. This is not to say that exposing them is normal – of course it’s not, and shame is something every person should be capable of – but such practice may prove to be detrimental, especially if something unwanted happens.

Teach your child the real names of body parts. Should an attempt to abuse your child occur, he or she will be able to describe what happened using the right terms and thus provide accurate information during the forensic interview process. Besides, it makes your child aware of what their body is like – a kind of knowledge which may help prevent assaults.

No hugs owed

As far as teaching about consent is concerned, if there is practice which is more dangerous than replacing names with euphemisms, it is forcing your child to hug others. Even if the granny comes to see you only once in a year, it is not a reason to make your child hug her – unless he or she wants to.

Doing the opposite means showing your child their body is not theirs. Having got used to the thought that their body can be touched by others against their will, how are they supposed to confront an abuser? Doing something together as a family may be beneficial, but it does not necessarily imply physical contact.

Really, what are the reasons for forced hugging? You want to please your relative by giving them your child to touch him or her – and the cost of it is your kid’s reaction. First, they won’t love this person whom they are made to hug simply due to hugging – conversely, your child is likely to feel aversion (‘Oh no, she’s coming again and I’ll have to hug her and endure hours of being patted!’). Second, your kid will remember from the very childhood that their body can be touched whenever someone else wants it.

There are other ways to greet people, like waving your hand or a high-five. It’s a much better option for those children who do not like hugging.

Teach about rejection

This applies not only to girls, but to boys too. Just as you should teach your daughter that saying a no when you do not want something offered is ok, you should ensure your son has really understood what rejection is like and how it should be tolerated.

Today, many parents are obsessed with doing everything their kid wants. Rejection is a notion that is not present in the mind of those who have always got what they wanted. Tell your child about the feelings of others, about consent and that their – and your, and someone else’s – wishes are not the most important ones.

You can use visuals and other materials to explain it to your child, and their type may vary depending on child age. Take the tea example, for instance. It’s a video which shows what consent is like. (There’s some strong language at the beginning, but then it gets normal.)

It is only after we learn how to raise children to help them become good people that we can improve our society and reduce crime rates. Practice what you preach – some of your teaching may fall on deaf ears because you are not that much of a good example. Be one.

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