Consent can be a difficult topic to broach with kids – but it’s one of the most important topics out there, and parents really should broach it. Even if one wants to be the fun parent, or it's hard to sit down and be serious with a kid, this is one topic that will benefit them in the long run. In a world where people are finally becoming more aware of the importance of consent, it’s important that children get a lesson from someone that they love and trust – and from someone who knows what they’re talking about. Sadly, not everyone does.
Still, it totally is a difficult topic to broach, but it’s easy enough to start from as young as when a kid is a toddler. It doesn’t have to be a massive, heavy topic about all the terrible things that can go wrong when it comes to consent. Parents can teach them that theirs is important – and so is the consent of other people. Teaching kids about consent will help them grow to become kind, caring adults who understand the importance of individual choice and freedom. In a world where even adults have trouble understanding this important concept, it's more important than ever to make sure children grow up knowing what it is.
20 Educate Them
Education is the most important thing. When a kid gets old enough to understand issues, just sit them down and have a conversation about it! Chances are kids probably know more than most adults think about certain subjects – most parents are often amazed by what kids can pick up and understand – so sometimes sitting them down and having an open, honest talk with them can actually really help them in the long-run. Make sure as the adult, one is educated about the subject as well before broaching the subject with children.
19 Keep The Language Open
When broaching a heavier topic with kids, it’s kind of easy to get a little embarrassed or uncomfortable and start using euphemisms for things – straight up lying, or dulling something down definitely seems easy at times as well. It’s like when the dog passes and parents tell kids it went to live on a farm because they don’t want to say anything too upsetting.
While that’s understandable, it can actually do more harm than good. Research at Psychology Today has proven that a child can sense when one is lying, and it might make them mistrust their parents. Maintain an open, honest relationship!
18 Encourage And Answer Any Questions They Have
Let them know that it’s always fine to ask you questions. If they ask you questions and you brush them off with “when you’re older” or something else that means you just don’t want to answer it, they’re going to go elsewhere for those answers – and that means their friends, who may be misinformed, or the internet, which has a lot of really questionable information.
It might be uncomfortable to answer questions sometimes, but at least you know they’re getting the best possible answers. It’s also fine to say “I don’t know”, research it yourself, and come back to them later!
17 Let Them Know You Trust Them, And Will Always Believe Them
Your child needs to know that you trust them. Sure, most kids lie, and it’s often easy to catch your kid in white lies – but never, ever give them the impression that you will always assume they are lying by default. In fact, the opposite is much better – assume they’re telling the truth until proven otherwise.
This is because, according to The Telegraph, when breaches of consent do happen, victims often don’t come forward because they think no one will believe them. Your kid needs to know you’re always in their corner.
16 Encourage Them To Draw Boundaries
Encourage your kid to draw boundaries! Obviously, some of these are ridiculous – they can’t say they don’t like vegetables and then you officially aren’t allowed to ever feed them vegetables again – but do encourage them to speak up about things they don’t like because you might find some of them are completely reasonable. Don’t make them afraid to tell you about situations in their life that make them uncomfortable. As a child, the adult always has the final say, yes – but they’re going to need the boundary-drawing skill in later life.
15 Within Reason, Don't Force Them To Do Anything They're Against
You know when you meet up with that family friend and they ask your kid for a hug? And they’re a stranger to the kid, so the kid says no, but you insist and force them to deliver an awkward, uncomfortable embrace?
Yeah… don’t do that.
When you encourage your child to draw boundaries, you and everyone else should be adhering to the reasonable ones. I’m an adult and I don’t really like hugging strangers either, so that seems like a fine one to me.
14 Tell Them That Sometimes, "No." Is A Complete Sentence
People, when they’re older, often feel the need to justify situations. Like if someone asks us to do something and we’re not feeling it – like a date with someone we’re not attracted to – we feel the need to make up excuses.
“Oh sorry, I’m busy!”
“Oh sorry, I’m in a relationship!”
“Oh sorry, I’m working!”
The truth is, this opens us up to the person finding a way around the excuse. Sometimes it’s best to just say “no,” and leave it at that. Your child should know this.
13 Explain Situations In Which It Might Be Okay To Appear Rude
In some of these situations too, people worry about appearing read. I know I do the same thing – if someone is pestering me who I don’t want to be pestering me, I’m more concerned about coming off as rude than anything else.
But sometimes the person isn’t pestering, they’re harassing. You know the guy at the bar who keeps asking you for your number even you said no a million times? Your kid is going to meet people just like them, and they should know it’s sometimes fine to be a bit blunt.
12 Show They Can Trust You With Secrets
If your child tells you a secret, don’t tell other relatives about it, or friends, or anyone for that matter.
They’ve trusted you with that secret. They’ve asked you to keep it private. You shouldn’t be going around telling people, because your child might find out later and they’re going to think they can no longer trust you. If it’s normal for their parent to break their trust, you’re teaching them that what they ask doesn’t matter. And that’s not okay.
11 Explain What Consent Sounds Like Coming From Someone Else
With consent being such a heated topic lately and the rightful amount of education coming from it, it’s become easy to realize we need to teach children what consent is about, how to give it or withhold it – but we should also be teaching them what it sounds and looks like coming from someone else. Make sure your child doesn’t grow into a person who doesn’t realize the importance of everyone else’s consent in situations as well as their own.
10 Teach Them To Be Empathetic And Aware Of Body Language
Teach your child not to be selfish and pay attention to other people. They don’t just need to hear other people, they need to listen. If someone says “no”, they need to hear it the first time. If they approach someone and the person is uncomfortable, they need to be able to read that body language and back off. In the same way they need to know how to accept someone’s consent or lack of consent, they need to know how to read situations too.
9 Show Them That If Someone Says "No", It Shouldn't Be Pushed Further
Just as “no,” is a complete sentence for your child, it is for everyone else too.
Teach them that if someone denies their request, it’s not okay to keep pushing. Sometimes we teach that people need to push to get what they want and while it’s sometimes true in the sense of hard work, it’s not okay to keep pushing a person for something who has specifically already said no.
It doesn’t matter if that person has given a reason or not.
8 Give Them Confidence
Empower your kid! Drawing boundaries and pretty much everything else mentioned above requires confidence, and they should go into the world pretty sure of themselves and able to be firm with people when they have to be! Be sure not to snap at your child when it’s unnecessary and anything else that may lead them to become an anxious person. They need to feel like they have a good support system behind them to feel like a truly confident person. It's important they don't feel too shy to draw their boundaries.
7 Ask For Their Consent Where You Reasonably Can
Many parents don’t think of this but what about asking for your child’s consent? It’s surprisingly easy to fit into daily life. Instead of hugging them without saying anything, ask if you can have a hug. Run dinner options by them. Ask if you can hold their hand instead of grabbing it. If this behavior is normalized at an early age, it’s going to stick in their head as how things should be done and they’ll repeat the pattern. It teaches them consent is important.
6 Set An Example
Set an example by not doing things that you wouldn’t want them to do. Don’t forget that consent is important in the parents’ lives too, both of themselves and for other people. Make sure you’re bearing this in mind in your every day life and the examples you set are exactly how you would want your child to behave and how you would want other people to behave towards your child. Don’t behave towards people in a way that you wouldn’t want them to behave towards your kid.
5 Tell Them It's Okay To Change Their Mind
Sometimes consent is withdrawn, and that’s okay!
Remind your child that it’s okay to speak up when they’ve changed their mind. It’s not always possible to accommodate, I get that – for example, if dinner has been cooking for an hour and is nearly done, they can’t just change their mind about what they want. That’s understandable. You’re still a parent. But make sure they at least feel comfortable telling you, and you have a good reason about why it can’t be done, or they’ll stop speaking up altogether.
4 Do Not Blame Them For Things That Aren't Their Fault
If you’re having a stressful day, it’s easy to snap at your kid about something that wasn’t really their fault – it happens. We all have bad days and we all say things we regret. But if you do this repeatedly, you’re teaching your child that you’re not truly in their corner, and may blame them for something that actually wasn’t their fault at all. Instead, demonstrate a supportive attitude and try to differentiate between a bad mistake and something that your child was intentionally malicious about. There's a difference, and it needs to be recognized.
3 Avoid Falling Into Comforting Traps
When we want to comfort our child, we sometimes say the wrong thing without realizing it. One example of this is telling our upset child that someone is being mean to them because they actually have a crush on them.
This may make your kid feel better in the moment, but you’re setting them up to think that abuse = love, and that’s not okay. Remember the wider lessons when it comes to the things you say – sometimes it’s not worth a second of comfort.
2 Don't Victim Blame – Ever
Victim-blaming is far too common. According to The Guardian, we’re actually psychologically hardwired to blame the victim because of many reasons, including looking for “fairness”. But sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes people just are the victims.
Don’t do this to your kids. Don’t look for fairness where there isn’t any and try to lay blame on both sides. It’s damaging, and will counteract everything else you’ve ever taught them about consent being important. If someone ignores their consent, it’s on that person.
1 But Also, Don't Be Afraid To Hold Them Responsible
Having said that, if your kid is the one guilty…
Vogue recently pointed out the new trend sweeping the internet – getting rid of the phrase “boys will be boys” and pointing out that boys should be held responsible for their actions like everyone else. And it’s true! They should! Too long this phrase has been used to excuse their actions.
I’m not saying you have to demonize their kid if they do something wrong. But you do need to teach them about accountability as well as their own consent.