Mom Shares the Smart Way She Is Teaching Her Kids About Consent & Boundaries
June 5, 2019
Some of parenthood's greatest wins stem from finding everyday opportunities to teach kids about big picture life lessons. That's exactly what a Redditor who goes by punchyouinthewiener (which she explained is a reference to a line in the movie Juno) did recently when her two of her kids were butting heads over their bedtime routine. She took to the Parenting subreddit on June 4 to explain how she turned the disagreement into an important lesson on consent and boundaries, and the thread quickly went viral.
The mom of three shared, "We have always had open conversations with our kids about sex, bodies, puberty, etc and consider those conversations ongoing. We don’t believe 'the talk' is a one and done deal, so we try to inject it wherever we can. Recently we’ve had an issue where my daughter (11) has asked her younger brother (10) to stop going in her room at night. They have always been very close since they are only 17 months apart and at night sometimes laugh and watch videos or read books, etc. But she’s just started puberty and doesn’t feel comfortable anymore. However, my youngest son will still show up in her room sometimes when he can’t sleep or wants to use her iPad/charger, etc."
She explained that this week, her daughter was upset that her younger son "yet again, went into her room after she was asleep, and took the phone off the charger to charge his iPad." So, she and her husband "gave him an ultimatum that if it happened again he would lose device time for a week." She explained that her oldest son, who is 14, "overheard and came to his brother’s defense and said, 'That’s not fair, she’s always telling him to come to her room so they can watch videos and I hear them talking and laughing in there and now she’s gonna suddenly say he can’t and he’s gonna get in trouble?'"
Her response: "It IS fair and he will get in trouble, because this is an issue of consent! Just because somebody invites you over one time, doesn’t mean you’re invited over forever. They are allowed to tell you when it is and isn’t ok for you to come over, and you have to respect that. Anybody has the right to say they aren’t enjoying something anymore, at any time, even if they were previously enjoying it, and you have to listen and respect that and stop. And most importantly, before doing something with someone, you need to get consent, every time, and sleeping/passed out people can’t give consent."
She concluded that though the situation "wasn’t about sex because it’s not a sexual issue, conversations about boundaries and respect and privacy are ultimately conversations about consent and we have to keep having them over and over so the lines never get blurred."
Redditors in the community weighed in, offering the original poster props. One writing under the handle KeeksMarie0987 noted, "Fantastic learning opportunity. We talk often in our house about revoking consent, and checking in with nonverbal cues to see if we need to get consent again. Our kids are five and two. This comes up often with tickling… 'She said she wanted to be tickled, and first she was laughing, but then she stopped. What do you need to do if you think she is no longer enjoying it? Stop, and ask her if she wants you to do it more. If she doesn’t say yes, it doesn’t count.' I also purposefully put my kids in this situation, where I ask them to jump on me, and then I tell them to stop. It’s very serious if someone says stop and you don’t do it."
Mannings4head agreed with the mom of three's decision to "emphasize that even if someone consented and is in the middle of" participating, they can say "no" or "stop" at any time, sharing, "My son had one friend when he was younger who would come over a lot. They would agree to have a Nerf war, but anytime the other boy got cornered and was about to get shot, he would declare that he doesn't want to play anymore. This annoyed my son because the kid agreed to play and would usually say, 'Just kidding' after my son put down the gun, but we wanted him to know that consent isn't a one time thing. Just because he consented doesn't mean he can't back out in the middle of the game. The initial 'yes' is permission to start. It's not permission to continue when the other person wants to stop."
Other parents applauded the idea of teaching kids about practicing consent outside of sexual activity. As Kayemgi put it, "It really helps to hammer the message home. We practice consent as a society all the time (or we should, anyway) and people don't even realize they are doing it. Not scrolling to the next photo when someone hands you their phone is a form of practicing consent. Asking everyone their opinion when you plan a group activity. Asking permission before you post a friend's photo online, saying, 'Hey, do you have a minute to talk right now?' at work, asking a kid if it's ok to give them a hug. It's all practicing consent! Awesome job on making this a little lesson in consent for your kids."
One parent noted that they were struggling to teach their kids the same lesson in a way that truly resonates. "I have this conversation all the time with my 7-year-old son," wrote Redditor BatFace. "My 3-year-old daughter isn't really touchy feely and he is. He often, like multiple times a day, will just randomly surprise hug her and she hates it. I have to try to tell him that I understand he is trying to show love but she doesn't feel it as love and does not consent to being touched like that. I'm struggling trying to come up with a way to explain so he understands, because it doesn't feel like what I'm saying is sinking in." BatFace chatted about the issue with another Redditor and landed on the idea of creating a "no tolerance" rule, in which her son would be sent to his room after the first offense as opposed to the second.
No matter how these Redditors ultimately decide to tackle issues of consent and boundaries with their kids, the original poster's experience is clearly inspiring parents across the internet. Cheers to that. After all, simple but effective lessons inspired by everyday situations may very well be the ones that stick with kids for years to come, helping to mold them into respectful, empowered adults.