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Teaching Consent To Children: How To Teach It In A Positive Way

Teaching Consent To Children: How To Teach It In A Positive Way

Teaching consent to children starts at home. Parents are at the forefront of teaching their children about what consent is and how consent for touching applies to others.

But at what age do you begin to teach consent and how do you tackle this complex topic?

If you’re worried about approaching this difficult topic, don’t be! There are easy ways to discuss the topic of consent starting at a young age to teach boundaries and respect others’ personal space as well as their own.

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Teaching Consent To Children

Everyone’s taught the saying “No means NO.” While this saying makes sense, there is a better saying to help children understand. Instead of saying “No means No,” say…

Teach No Means Stop

Teaching consent to children is never easy, but teaching this statement to them makes it a little more understandable to children because even younger children know what the word “stop” means. 

“Stop” to children means “stop now” whatever you are doing.

The statement “No means stop” can be applied in teaching consent to children in two different situations:

  1. With respect for their bodies
  2. Respecting other’s personal space

If your child is being tickled by an adult, instead of repeating no to stop being tickled, teach them to say “stop.”

Your Body Is Yours

Since babies, children need help with everything. Diaper changes, dressing, eating, and more. While this is a necessary fact of life, children slowly learn independence and a sense of autonomy over time. This is a crucial step to childhood development!

With this newfound autonomy, children also need to learn that their body belongs to them and them alone. Although parents may still help with self-care tasks, children need to understand that if they don’t like someone touching or helping them, it’s important to speak up.

When you teach a child that their body is their own you will teach them that they have the right to speak up when someone does something in their space they do not like. This will in turn lead to greater autonomy of their own body.

Teach your child it’s ok to speak up and say “no” or “stop” if someone is invading their space and/or body in a way they do not like.

Don’t Push Or Force Hugs

Who doesn’t love a warm hug from your kids?! But hugs should never be forced onto a child. This is especially true when around relatives.

Of course, every visiting relative wants a goodbye hug! It’s completely understandable. However, hugs from relatives should never be forced.  

It is a pet peeve of mine when relatives who hardly visit just grab my child and hug them. It makes it extremely uncomfortable for any child.  

Children need to feel safe and feel autonomy with their bodies. By forcing hugs we teach children to ignore their uncomfortable feelings and give a hug anyway because it’s the “proper” or “nice” thing to do.

I’ve had many instances where this has happened with my own children. And I’ve (possibly rude) conversations with relatives expressing my feelings about this.

I have said before: “I know you want a hug, but he just doesn’t feel like giving one right now. Maybe next time!”

Yes, it probably does come across as rude to other adults. But I think it’s ruder to force or push hugs onto children that clearly do not want a hug.

If we encourage children to hug another when they don’t want to, we are teaching them to ignore their true feelings and to consent to a hug anyway.  

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Teach Your Child To Say No Politely 

It is hard for relatives or friends of the family to understand and accept the fact that a child does not want to hug or kiss them. While it is acceptable for children to say no to unwanted affection, it can be hard for others to accept.

One way to soften the blow for friends and family is to just teach your child to turn them down politely. Instead of running away and screaming “no,” teach your child to say “No thank you.”

If an adult still is hurt by this, it’s not your child’s fault. That is something the relative or friend needs to accept when it comes to physical boundaries with children.  

Also instead of a hug, you can help both relatives and your children understand they can replace a hug with a…

  • High five
  • Handshake
  • Fist bump

This works great for my son who has sensory issues and autism. He doesn’t like to be touched sometimes. (Which is perfectly understandable). However, we discovered he loves high fives!

So instead of close body contact like hugs, we’ve replaced high fives with hugs!

Typically we always ask, “Can I have a hug?” Then, if he starts walking away, ignoring, or says no then we ask for a high five instead. High fives typically work 9 times out of 10.  

Plus, it’s a subtle, yet effective way for teaching consent to children, while respecting their space!

teaching consent to children

Read A Book About Consent

Why not combine some reading, bonding, and a lifelong lesson into one?! Reading a book about consent is the perfect way to teach what consent is along with demonstrating scenarios for when to use it.

Not only do children learn how to use their voice with consenting, but books are a perfect way to teach children about getting consent from another.

Books about teaching consent to children are also an excellent resource if you feel confused or a little embarrassed about approaching the topic of consent.

Here are some amazing books to teach consent:

Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect: Teach children about body ownership, respect, feelings, choices, and recognizing bullying behaviors

This book is appropriate for children ages 4 to 10. It not only teaches children about boundaries with their body, but feelings about consent and even recognizing bullying (another very important aspect of talking about consent, especially with older children).

Yes! No!: A First Conversation About Consent (First Conversations)

This book is perfect for younger children between the age of one to four. It’s a board book that teaches children different ways to say “no” while showing different scenarios in which they may want to say “no.”

My Body! What I Say Goes!: A book to empower and teach children about personal body safety, feelings, safe and unsafe touch, private parts, secrets and surprises, consent, and respectful relationships

This book about teaching consent to children is suitable for ages 3 to 10. It teaches them to be empowered with their voice to say “no.”

Teach Assertiveness

Over generations, we’ve taught children to be polite and use manners especially with adults or those in authoritative positions. While respect should always be given to everyone children need to understand that in certain situations in which they feel uncomfortable it’s necessary to display assertiveness.

Children need to know that remaining silent in regards to body space, bullying, and more is not enough. For some children teaching them to have an assertive voice is difficult. Some children are naturally shy.  

One way to conquer this and teach assertiveness is to rehearse with your child different scenarios that require consent like hugging or bullying. Then, have them practice their “big voice” when saying no or stop.

Final Thoughts

Teaching consent to children should be on every parent’s mind. Consent should never be assumed and it should always require a yes, no, or stop answer for any scenario.  

If you’re wondering when to teach consent to your children- There’s no better time than now! Don’t assume they know how to handle every situation and simply tell an adult. They also need to be assertive!

Every child has a voice and every child deserves to have independence in regards to who can touch their body or not. Help your child understand what consent is, different ways to use it, and how to find their own assertive voice.

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