I’ve been reading a lot lately about teaching consent and how to get the point across to students in college and high school and as young as middle school. But you can very easily start with toddlers and preschoolers about consent.
You have to be the model.
It is super duper important that dads and other adult male figures wrestle and rough-play with their boys. There have been lots of studies on why this is important. But probably the most important part of the play is communication.
As soon as your child says “stop” or “no” or shows sign of no longer wanting to continue (whining, frowning, etc) then you stop and say, “You’re done, I’ll stop.”
Then the hard part is actually stopping. Your child will turn around and want to wrestle some more and here’s where the teaching and the learning begins. “No, I could tell a minute ago that you had enough. We’ll stop for now and if you want to play again later. Let me know.” And your child is going to say, “I wanna wrestle more!” and again, you are the model. “That’s good, but you just said, “No” and I’m going to respect that. Let’s toss a ball or read a book for a bit and then we can see how you are feeling later.”
This is hard. It is SO hard because you were both having fun and even though your little one showed a sign of not wanting to continue, they are saying that they do. And you have to teach them that no means no, that we communicate in many ways and that we are respectful of each other.
If you are the dad, then you need to do this. Do this for all our sons and daughters. If you are the mom, talk about it with the dad and be the voice that says, “He said no, you need to stop.”
It’s funny because I’m always reminding my husband to stop when either child fusses, says no, or shows that they don’t want to continue playing. But a couple of weeks ago, I was playing with my boys and we were both laughing and though the laughter, one of them yelled, “No!” and I didn’t stop. Then from across the room, I heard my husband say, “He just said ‘stop!’ You need to stop!” and I stopped and thanked my husband because sometimes we all need reminders.
There’s a lot of great articles about teaching children about their private parts and being comfortable with saying no or about children and adults asking for permission to hug or touch. All of these things together are how we build a new culture of respect and consent.