Teaching our kids about consent.

This mornings coffee after the drop off was a lively debate. Covering all the important bases, mother in-laws (mines a treasure) how much Halloween candy you can snaffle from the kids stash before they notice and how our kids learn about consent.

I have to admit to perhaps being a little over the top on this topic. Or is that me just trying not to offend anyone? Why am I concerned that being explicit about “you must stop touching another person when they have clearly stated they want you too” may be offensive. The lines can easily get blurred.

I don’t think anyone of us would disagree that as an adult we have the right to tell people if it is okay to touch us, or not. None of us would suggest to our teenagers that they should continue in a pashing session that no longer feels good for them. Or accept those boundaries being crossed by our older kids. No means no! Right?

But, does is it? Is it the same when a Dad is innocently tickling his daughter, as she peels with laughter and wriggles with joy and shouts “stop it Daddy, stop” do we? Or does it not apply when were tickling? Or because we don’t mean any harm? Or sounding more sinister “because were an adult?

“I will kiss your ears” Is a mutual torment my young daughter and I share. We both hate it happening to us, it makes us shriek and curl up, makes us sensitive to further invasion of our face, neck and head. Usually ending with us wrapping our arms or whatever is to hand to cover up and protect ourselves. All whilst laughing and gasping for breath. We both do it, to each other. It doesn’t last long and its meant in fun. Does that make it ok?

When her Daddy says, give me a cuddle, after missing her all day and she refuses, is it okay for him to gather her up in his arms and give her a gentle squeeze? Or should he respect her right to say no? Should he respect her self-governance of her own body and mind; even if it is because she prefers to make this into a game, where he can chase her around the house before they fall into a pile of the floor together laughing. She hasn’t sensed that Daddy really needs a cuddle as he has just witnessed a similar aged child pass away at work. That’s not her responsibility.

I know that all of this also applies to our boys, both in the telling and receiving of “my body, my terms” messages. Dads have a huge responsibility in being the “safe male role model for their kids”. By carrying on tickling are we having fun or teaching her that her “stop” stands for less than the other persons “fun”.

Years ago we instigated “stop! I don’t like it” into our kids vocabulary to help them make it clear when something wasn’t fun for them: Its’ useful at playgrounds as well as for taming teasing aunties. I need to make sure at home we are also teaching, “is this okay with you?” and respect for the answers they give.

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