UNDERSTANDING CONSENT- 2 LESSONS FOR CHILDREN & 2 TAKEAWAYS FOR PARENTS
Picture credit: @GarbageBin
I am sure this meme is funny and relatable to all Indian children. We have surely laughed and come to the conclusion that our parents love us. There is a tendency for us to assume that children are naïve and therefore cannot decide what is right and wrong for them. And therefore, we expect that children must obey what elders say just because they are elder to you. As seen in the picture, the kid has a poker face and doesn’t want to wear more clothes. And this is where the need to teach consent is important.
Yes, you heard that right.
Though it is good that conversations and discussions are emerging on the same, the only association with consent that is being discussed is concerning sexual intercourse. According to Oxford Dictionary, consent is “permission to do something, especially given by somebody in authority.”
Small steps and consistent effort to teach consent in children can ensure the learning of the following two lessons as they enter into the adulthood stage:
The conventional forms of expressing love through hugging and kissing are something that not all children would love because everyone is different. This is where the concept of ‘body autonomy’ or ‘body integrity’ pops up which implies that each individual is entitled to their own body and can decide what actions are acceptable or not acceptable to them. Now, nobody is saying that expressing love is bad; it only means that seeking the child’s permission by asking them questions like “Is it okay with you?” is important to respect their boundaries and avoid the instances of them feeling uncomfortable. In short, one should seek consent before doing any action and should also stop if the individual is not feeling comfortable in the middle of the particular action. This practice helps to ensure that nobody is trying to violate anyone’s personal space and undesirable feelings for each other are avoided too.
Picture Credit: Tenor
Learning to Accept No
It is equally important to teach kids how to accept ‘No’ from a person. This leads to the development of empathetic skills where the child puts themselves in another person’s shoes and can realize that just because we have certain opinions about something, doesn’t mean that others can have the same opinion too. It helps them to accept differences respectfully.
At the same time, parents must understand two things while teaching kids about consent:
One Conversation cannot be a Magic Pill
A single conversation about consent isn’t enough. Just like it takes 21 days to develop a habit, things should be taught consistently so that the children will take your words seriously which would, in turn, benefit them in the future. As Paula Deen rightly quotes, “change doesn’t happen overnight, it starts with the desire, then one small step in the right direction”- we need to realize that the concept of consent didn’t even exist for a really long time. So it is obvious that before one teaches their kids about consent, one should be mentally prepared that it is going to take time and effort to enlighten them about the topic.
It is natural for any individual to communicate when things have been discussed and talked about- even the uncomfortable ones! Teaching kids about consent also means that there is a greater possibility of children approaching their parents regarding issues that though may seem uncomfortable at first, are also important and must be addressed. With the growing number of cases of sexual assault all over the world, it is imperative that children feel safe enough to talk to their families.
Picture Credit: Youth Empowerment
Conversations happening around consent are important because it is the need of the hour. With ever-increasing cases of sexual assaults and the lack of respect for someone’s personal space, these discussions can help children make their own choices as well as respect someone else’s choices.
Author: Madhura Bilimogga
Limelighitng Life Collective
Fatherly. (2018, March 22). Teaching Consent to Kids [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCc9H2zgRbk
Up We Grow. (2020, August 3). CONSENT FOR KIDS: How to teach children about boundaries and body integrity [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRcCDqxwCQc
TEDx Talks. (2015, July 10). Consent Culture Starts with Talking to Kids about Sex | Lisa Osherow | TEDxTarrytownWomen [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5hspA18IU0