As parents, it's important that we advocate for our children. But what we've come to learn is that it's even more important for us to be teaching them how to advocate for themselves. That means, when they are put in a situation that makes them uncomfortable, whether it be physical or otherwise, they will feel confident to speak up and express that discomfort. We all know how hard it is to get kids to speak up, especially in situation where they may feel obligated to go through with something that makes them uncomfortable. That's why this dad's story about his eight-year-old daughter saying no to getting her ears pierced is going viral.
Adam Baker shared a post recently with a picture of his daughter Adelaide sitting in a chair about to get her ears pierced. You can even see the dot marking the spot the person was going to be using. But in Baker's post, he shares that even though she was excited about getting her ears pierced, and had been for a month, she didn't go through with it. Even after picking out earrings and getting her spot marked, she changed her mind. When she made it clear that she didn't feel comfortable going through with it, her dad made sure that it didn't happen.
Some parents may have encouraged their child to do it even if they were as visibly nervous and reluctant as Adelaide was. But Baker and his wife understood that if their daughter wasn't 100 percent okay with the idea they wouldn't be forcing her to go through with it. When it comes to ear piercing, many people have very strong opinions about it. Some will argue that it's a rite of passage for young girls (and in some cultures it is, and done at a very young age) while others see it as a decision the child must make. In those moments, Baker's eyes were really opened to the concept of consent and all the talking points of the #MeToo movement and conversations happening about sexual assault. It has been a hard concept for men to grapple with, but seeing his daughter's fear of getting her ears pierced and then hearing her apologize for not wanting to go through with it was a turning point.
“I found myself loudly, clearly saying, ‘If she doesn’t want to do this, she doesn’t have to do it — it’s her body, and it’s her decision. We can always come back later if she decides that she wants this, but it’s her choice.’ I sensed the importance of this statement and this moment with my daughter, and she almost flew off the chair, coming over to me and hugging me for a long time. My wife came over afterward, a bit teary herself, telling me that she loved me," he told Babble in an interview.
Consent is such a crucial concept to teach our children, regardless of gender. It is important that they understand they have the right to say no to something happening to their bodies within reason (they still have to do things like bathe!) When our children express those fears and concerns, taking the time to listen to them is also extremely important. We are our children's first line of defense; if we're not on their sides, then who will be?