Through her approach to everyday tasks, the Chicago-based mom and educator is laying the foundation for her 2- and 4-year-old boys to understand bodily autonomy.

By Maressa Brown
April 27, 2021
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An image of a mom talking with her toddler.
Credit: Getty Images.

Over the past few years, more and more parents have been getting in on the conversation around how to teach even young children about consent and lay a healthy foundation for understanding bodily autonomy. Now, a 32-year-old mom and elementary school teacher from Chicago named Alissa is inspiring fellow parents with a series of TikTok videos on the subject.

The proud mom of two, whose sons are 2 and 4, demonstrates how she talks to her boys throughout certain everyday to-dos like getting dressed or brushing their hair. "OK, bud, time to pick out your clothes, you want to do it yourself?" she'll ask. "Do you need help getting dressed?"

And when it comes time for a diaper change, Alissa talks her son through the process, explaining exactly what she's doing, whether that's saying, "I'm taking off your diaper—dirty diaper!" or "I'm going to lift up your legs and put your pants back on." She explains in a caption, "The goal is to make him feel involved and not like a passive observer having his body manipulated."

The Chicago mom is conscious of consent while bonding with her children as well. For instance, she asks permission before hugging them and will immediately stop tickling if her son says "stop."

She told BuzzFeed that she also splits tasks into two categories: "must-do" and "may-do." The former have to be done, but she'll give her boys "controlled choices," like brushing their teeth now or in five minutes. That way, they feel like they have options and "are in control of their body in SOME way."

On the other hand, "may-do" tasks could be something like putting a bow in your daughter's hair. "I would ask first before doing [those] because they aren't completely necessary!" she advised. "Does your daughter REALLY need to have a bow in her hair if she doesn't want it, just because it looks cute?"

But the one area where getting consent from a child is touch, she said. "I think consent during the physical touch like hugs or tickling is imperative for all ages (except hugging babies, of course, since they need that nurturing)," explained the mom of two. "Ask children first if you can hug them, if you can tickle them, etc. And if they say stop, STOP! We want to have them understand boundaries of their own bodies and others."

Alissa's parenting techniques has led to over 7 million views of her TikToks and lots of lively commentary praising the mom for demonstrating her approach.

The educator told BuzzFeed that her knowledge of consensual care tasks in caregiving stem from studying early childhood education at Illinois State University. "Throughout my years of working with children, I had time to practice these skills and activities to see what worked and what didn't work," she noted. "It made sense to me to carry over the same methods to my own children. I believe teaching children consent and body boundaries should be one of the very first things they learn in the world."

Experts agree with this approach. Jeanette Raymond, PhD, a clinical psychologist and family therapist, previously told Parents.com that the way parents communicate with their children—and even with a non-verbal infant—has a downstream effect. "Have a dialogue about the process, giving the child the sense that they are participating and therefore consenting," she recommends. "They learn that they have their own minds and can think separately from their parent."