Almost daily – at least several times in a week – my husband & I tell our son AND our daughter these things:
+ When someone tells you to stop or says no, you must stop what you’re doing immediately.
+ When someone is crying, they are not having fun. Stop what you’re doing immediately. And then see if they’re okay.
+ Don’t touch people’s privates or let other people touch your privates.
+ When a person tells you to stop touching them, you must stop touching them immediately. That is their body & if they don’t want you touching them, then you can not & must not.
+ Don’t invade people’s personal space. If you want to hug them or give them a kiss, always ask first if you can give them a hug or a kiss.
+ If you don’t want a hug or a kiss from anyone – even Mom & Dad – tell the person you don’t want to hug or kiss. It’s always okay to tell anyone no & they must respect that.
Our children are 8 years old & almost 5 years old. We have been using this clear language with them for several years. Teaching consent & boundaries is extremely important & should be taught when your children are learning how to relate to others in society. We also have taught them the anatomically correct names for all of their body parts from a very young age.
There have been times when our daughter hasn’t wanted a goodnight kiss for several months at a time & we have respected that. Our son loves to wrestle & loves physical contact as a form of expressing that he likes someone very much. We still make him follow these guidelines. He may need to be reminded frequently at times, but we always tell him how to be aware of the other person’s words & reactions. If someone is upset or saying no or stop, that’s the end. This takes into account that a lot of young children haven’t learned how to tell someone to stop doing something.
Developing awareness of your own comfort level & of someone else’s comfort level is a skill that must be talked about openly, discussed frequently & practiced in various situations & settings. We make sure to model this behavior & let other adults in on this discussion. We’ve found that it’s very important that these personal comfort & boundary guidelines adhere to everyone – meaning, there are no exceptions. There have been times when our family doctor has explained – with my husband or myself present – why she needs them to take their shirt or pants off & is happy to give them an explanation. She, of course, knows my situation as a survivor, but she thinks that this is a very healthy & wise thing to teach. Talking about something directly is always better than not talking about something.