Why is it important to teach kids about consent? Because consent, fundamentally, is about respect. It is a concept that can be taught to kids as young as toddlers. By teaching your kids about consent they learn how to respect the boundaries of others, and the significance of saying “no.” You’re also laying the foundation for healthy relationships they will get to make in the future. When you teach consent, your kids will be empowered, because their choices and feelings are heard. At the same time, they will also learn how to respect others’ choices.
Start them young! Here are simple ways you can teach your kids about consent.
We know that hugs and kisses are our ways of showing affection to relatives and friends, but there are times when kids just aren’t comfortable with it. If they don’t want to give their Titos and Titas a hug, don’t force them. By doing so, you are respecting your child’s level of comfort when it comes to physical contact. You are also planting the seed of awareness that physical contact can be a sensitive action. Letting people touch them is a choice. In the same way, you can also teach your child that they can’t randomly hug or kiss their friends and playmates either. Before going for a hug, tell them to ask if the other person is comfortable with hugs first.
Following up our first point, it is very important to teach your kids to ask and give permission because that is also what consent is about. It won’t be that hard for kids to understand the concept of permission because they know how to ask permission from you before playing games or going outside. Likewise, you can also teach them to ask permission before borrowing a toy from a friend or holding someone’s hand. Permission also goes both ways. You can ask your kids if it’s okay for you to brush their hair, get tickled, or hold hands. As long as you aren’t in a situation where safety is a concern, you can give your kids an option to say Yes or No.
The most effective ways to instill the concept of consent in your kids is through your own example. When they don’t want to be hugged or touched, show them that you’re okay with that and you respect their choice. You can also teach them that there are other ways of showing affection such as words of affirmation or helping out with chores. It doesn’t always have to be a hug or a kiss.
If you have a toddler, according to an article published on the Harvard Graduate School of Education, you can teach them easier words such as “body,” “touch,” or “ask.” So that if they don’t want to be touched, they can express themselves verbally.
Moms and Dads, it’s okay to allow your kids to cry. We know that the reason you ask them to stop crying is because you don’t want them to be sad anymore. However, letting them express their anger and sadness is important for emotional development. It would be better to check in with your kids and ask how they’re feeling. When they learn to identify their emotions, they can develop empathy and become attuned to when others are feeling similar emotions. Why is this important for teaching consent? Emotional cues will help them realize if their own actions are making others uncomfortable or if other situations are causing discomfort.
It’s never too early to teach kids the importance of consent. This will protect them as well as others as they get older!
Gordon, Sherry. How to Talk to Kids About Consent. 07 July 2020.
Tatter, Grace. Consent at Every Age. 19 December 2018.
Aswell, Sarah. The Complete Guide to Teaching Kids Consent at Every Age. 01 October 2018.
Defend Innocence. The Importance of Consent and How to Teach it to Your Child.