Consent is a frequent topic of conversation in our current day and age. From cute cartoons using tea to explain what consent means, to our President Elect Donald Trump sparking outraged conversations about consent throughout America, the topic has been at the forefront of many of our minds this year.
There was an article published a few years ago about childhood consent that has been going viral recently.
The author, Katia Hetter, explains how she will never force her young daughter to show physical affection to anyone that she doesn't want to.
"She doesn't have to hug or kiss anyone just because I say so, not even me. I will not override my own child's currently strong instincts to back off from touching someone who she chooses not to touch. I figure her body is actually hers, not mine. It doesn't belong to her parents, uncles and aunts, school teachers or soccer coach. While she must treat people with respect, she doesn't have to offer physical affection to please them. And the earlier she learns ownership of herself and responsibility for her body, the better for her."
Recently, we were talking about this idea of consent in our office. Naturally, being holiday season, we had earlier been sharing stories about how afraid we all were of Santa as a kid.
Think about it... your parents take you to sit on the lap of this random, scary looking man. Naturally, most kids aren't very happy about it.
Yet it's a holiday tradition, so we all make our kids do it.
Protection against predators
As Katia Hetter said in her CNN article, "Forcing children to touch people when they don't want to leaves them vulnerable to sexual abusers, most of whom are people known to the children they abuse, according to Ursula Wagner, a mental health clinician with the FamilyWorks program at Heartland Alliance in Chicago. None of the child victims of sexual abuse or assault she's counseled was attacked by strangers."
No hugs for grandma or Santa? Readers have reacted strongly.
Having sex to please someone else
Hetter goes on to say, "Would you want your daughter to have sex with her boyfriend simply to make him happy? Parents who justify ordering their children to kiss grandma may say, "It's different." No, it's not." According to author Jennifer Lehr, who blogs about her parenting style. Ordering children to kiss or hug or sit on an adult they don't want to touch teaches them to use their body to please you or someone else in authority or, really, anyone.
"The message a child gets is that not only is another person's emotional state their responsibility but that they must also sacrifice their own bodies to buoy another's ego or satisfy their desire for love or affection," Lehr said. "Certainly no parent would wish for their teenager or adult child to feel pressure to reciprocate unwanted sexual advances, yet many teach their children at a young age that it's their job to use their bodies to make others happy."
But why? WHY do we force them to?
We've all seen the funny images circulating the internet of kids crying while sitting on Santa's lap.
But let's think about this critically. If your child truly does not want to sit on Santa's lap, maybe that is an opportunity for you to remember that your child's body is their own. Encourage them to trust their personal feelings. If they don't want to be near Santa, don't make them.
Think about it: would you really want you 15-year-old daughter sitting on a random man's lap, regardless of how 'expected' it is of her?
No. So why do we force our 5-year-olds to do it?
Let your children trust their instincts. If they don't want to hug grandma goodbye, don't make them. If they don't want to sit on Santa's lap, who are you to force them?
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