Bodily Autonomy or the right to govern your own body is an essential human right and Consent or seeking permission is the basis of being able to exercise this right. Here are 7 things Parents can do to Teach & Practise Consent with Children:
Teach your child about the realities and diversity of the body
Our culture of silence and shame helps nobody. Bodies are a physical reality, not a secret only adults are allowed knowledge of, and your child, like all individuals, has one. Allow children a healthy knowledge and awareness of the body — their own and the natural diversity of bodies that surround us!
Build the practise of seeking consent into everyday interactions
Consent can only be built into a culture by integrating it into our everyday routines. Teach children the practise of seeking consent (and having their consent sought and respected) by building it into the everyday interactions.
Don’t force children into any form of physical expression
Forms of physical expression are built into a culture and ours has several: hugs to show affection and feet-touching for respect, among others. What we do with the intention of integrating children into the ways of society, or as a way to escape backlash from friends and family for having a spoilt and/ un-sanskari child, communicates to children that they’re bodily comfort doesn’t matter/is unimportant and ultimately teaches them to ignore it.
Don’t blackmail or cajole your child once they’ve refused consent
It’s a common sight to find someone squishing and/ stealing a peck from a squirming child as they cite the adorableness of the child and their deep love as the excuse. But children are autonomous beings capable of giving and withholding consent, so unless one has received
explicit permission, such expressions are a violation of their bodily autonomy: being a caregiver doesn’t warrant unrestricted access to the child.
Instill, by example, an ability to accept rejection
Normalise rejection. Part of seeking consent involves respecting when it is, as it shall often be, withheld. Teach children how to accept rejection by way of example: respect it when they withhold theirs and show them it’s important that they respect it when you withhold yours.
Avoid documenting and sharing embarrassing pictures/videos of your child on social media
We love showing our children off, and documenting some of their more hilarious moments is sometimes the only way of coping with the exhaustion they can cause, but documenting your child’s life without their knowledge or control is taking away from them the ability to have a say over what information about them gets shared and put out into the world.
Find teaching tools that aren’t physical or emotional violence
Unfortunately, we’ve been culturally handed a rather colourful array of dangerous and abusive practises disguised as disciplining tools. This is a ripe time to find healthy teaching tools that work best for your family and develop those. There is no excuse for physical violence, don’t confuse abuse as a “teaching tool”.