We, moms, have a huge power to influence the next generation of human beings. It is up to us to make consent cool and so common that our kiddos don’t know a life without it. Consent comes down to touch – wanted or unwanted – and the permission granted to receive that touch. With a little thoughtfulness and communication, we can help our kiddos navigate the topic of consent comfortably. To do this, we need to talk about it, model it, and respect it!
Talk about it.
Start by identifying when touch is wanted and unwanted. For example, my youngest son said to his big brother in a playful tone, “Tickle me! Tickle me!” Later that afternoon, my boys were fighting in the backseat. Little brother was shouting, “Stop touching me!” While big brother was saying, “I just want to tickle you, so you will laugh.”
These two occasions demonstrate the challenges our kids face when navigating appropriate touch. Sometimes the boundaries change based on any number of circumstances. The good news is they were talking about it. Little brother clearly communicated what he wanted in both situations. Talking of course requires two things; talking and listening.
I don’t know about yours, but my kiddos struggle with the listening part. Part of the conversations we have are about listening to what other people say and showing them you heard them through changing the actions.
Remember, these conversations and topics will evolve as our children grow and mature. And the more we talk about it, the more cool and commonplace consent becomes! However, if you are struggling with where to start, books are the way to go! Read them to your children and ask how they feel about it. Then, stop and listen without judgment!
- Consent (for Kids!): Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of YOU by Rachel Brian
- Don’t Hug Doug (He Doesn’t Like It) by Carrie Finison
- Rissy No Kissies by Katey Howes
For Tweens & Teens
- Respect: Everything a Guy Needs to Know About Sex, Love and Consent by Inti Chavez Perez
- No More Excuses by Amber J. Keyser
- You Do You by Sarah Mirk
- Real Talk About Sex and Consent by Cherly M. Bradshaw
- Ask: Building Consent Culture An Anthology Edited by Kitty Stryker
- Yes Means Yes Edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti
- The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
There are times when mom does NOT want to be touched! (Weird, right?!) Explaining to my boys that I need a little space on the couch, in the bathroom, or anywhere else, helps them practice abiding by others’ boundaries. There are definitely times when I want to cuddle, but I ask and invite that type of touch.
Asking for what you want for yourself and from your kiddos is another way to model consent. I ask for hugs and kisses. I ask to wash or rub lotion on their bodies. I ask them if it feels okay and if I should keep going? I ask questions and abide by the answers.
This is where listening and following through makes the difference. If the answer to any of those questions comes back with a “no,” I stop. I have to respect their words if I want them to respect mine and others. And if the answer changes, respect that too.
Why does this matter?
According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. “This violence starts early: 1 in 4 young women (aged 15-24 years) who have been in a relationship will have already experienced violence by an intimate partner by the time they reach their mid-twenties.” (“Devastatingly Pervasive…”)
These statistics are alarming and have not changed for the past decade. This means that the conversations with our children have not changed either. For these numbers to drop, we have to radically change the narrative. We must teach our children how to treat others because living in a consent culture is way cooler than the alternative.
Will you join me and use your power of influence? Will you lean into awkward conversations for the future health of our boys and girls? Will you help me make consent cool for our kids?