I’ve been working on teaching my daughter (age 6) about consent for a long time, pretty much ever since I thought she could grasp the idea of being in charge of her own body. This includes, but is not limited to, never pushing her to hug someone if she doesn’t want to and teaching her that there are parts of her body that are just for her, that other people shouldn’t be touching.
At some point I must have taught her the phrase my body, my choice and I am so glad she has those four words in her vocabulary. She uses those words if I’m being too forceful with wanting to snuggle, which I’ll admit, in the beginning I’d really have to step back and listen to what she was saying. Snuggling is basically the best thing ever but I had to learn that I shouldn’t push it on her. If she doesn’t want to snuggle, or if she doesn’t want to be tickled, I set the example as her parent and I want to respect how she feels. So now, as soon as I hear those four words come out, I back off immediately.
On the flip side, she has also come to learn that she needs to respect other people’s feelings about their bodies too. I have occasionally used the my body, my choice phrase with her when I’ve had too much togetherness and need a little bit of space. I can’t even say this is our code phrase because it’s not a code, it’s a direct way of letting each other know that we’ve had too much.
I think it’s important for kids to grow up knowing that their bodies belong to them and even though the process of teaching my daughter about consent has meant I’ve had to change some of my own behavior, I am so glad she can express when things are too much or she’s just not in the mood for snuggling. My hope is that those four words stay with her as she grows up and that they give her a sense of empowerment about her body and her life.