Teaching Kids About Consent

Happy Wednesday! My goal for this week was initially to dress like an adult human every day, but then winter decided to make an unwelcome return and I've been living in my leisure-wear (read: pajamas) all week. I go through phases where I'm like, "Being a nanny is respectable profession, I should dress accordingly!" And then a week later I'm like, "I'm straight going to get peed on and spend the day crawling through NYC playground sand, who am I playin?" I need this weather to straighten itself right the fuck out because I am ready to be hanging outside all the time.  I had to bust out my blanket-scarf yesterday! Unacceptable.

Speaking about playgrounds, last week I was out with my little Lamb when I noticed a little boy, under 2 years old, grabbing and trying to hug a little girl who was continually trying to squirm away from him, crying out, and clearly not wanting to be touched. Both kids' parents were laughing and saying that he just wanted a hug, and otherwise ignoring the situation. It got me thinking about how early on we start to internalize the idea that, "boys will be boys" and stop taking girls' boundaries seriously. We wonder why we have such a problem with rape culture in this country and then don't bother to teach children about healthy boundaries and consent until they're already in college and these roles have been ingrained in their psyches their whole lives.

I'm pretty tired of the notion that just because kids are small that they can't be taught to respect each others bodies and personal space. Let's get one thing straight -- it isn't "just playing" and it isn't cute; it's highly damaging. We all know how important the first two years of a child's life are in terms of development. So why don't we acknowledge that it's just as important to instill boundaries at the same time as love, kindness, patience, and safety? When a little kid tries to force another kid to hug him and no one tells him to stop, what is he learning? And, yes I know it's not just boys. My brother used to be chased around the playground by a little girl on a daily basis and no one tried to stop her either.

Here's how easy it is to teach kids about consent: Talk often about respecting people's boundaries. Even when they're really little. Point out when their little friends or siblings need personal space, teach them to ask permission before touching someone, and to recognize when someone else doesn't want to be touched. Equally as important, don't force them to hug and kiss people when they don't want to. I remember when I was little being disgusted by having to kiss people hello and goodbye that I barely knew, but it didn't matter what I wanted. It was "cultural" and I had to do it even if I didn't want to. That's fucked up, you guys! Kids should have agency over their bodies and the ability to say no when they don't want to hug and kiss anybody, even if it's grandparents or aunts and uncles. Offer them a high-five or fist bump instead. Show kids that their feelings and boundaries matter, and they'll be more likely to respect other kids' feelings and boundaries as well.