In all this talk about consent with teenagers and young adults, it is important to look at how we teach our young boys. We should also be teaching our girls about consent, but the two lessons are different. Here’s what you can do with your little boys:
Boys like to play physically and that is a good thing. Boys like to push boundaries physically and that is also a good thing. Boys need to know that “stop” means “stop” even when (and especially when) they are toddlers and preschoolers.
I just read this comic strip about consent and I think it is brilliant, but I truly believe that the teaching starts when children are very young. It starts when they are playing around with their father, brothers, neighbors, friends.
In my household, tickling is a very common thing. The boys love to tickle and their papa loves to tickle. When they were answering questions for their Father’s Day presents, the most common response was, “I love it when my papa tickles me.” “My favorite thing about my papa is tickling”.
However, in the midst of a tickling fest, there will often be a “no!” or a “stop!”. No matter who is saying the no or the stop, the action has to stop. This is important for my boys to know and it is also important for my husband to know. Because this is where it gets tough. They are having fun, there is momentum to continue, but they also want to stop. But as soon as anyone says “no” or “stop”, they have to stop.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Everyone is having fun, everyone is laughing and no one really wants it to end, it just got to be too much. But this is where little boys learn about physical limits, respecting the other person, and being able to stop something that has a lot of momentum.
It isn’t easy for my husband either. He knows that another tickle will get another laugh and he doesn’t want to fun to end. But “no” means “no” and “stop” means “stop”.
It may sound like I might be stretching; relating fun wrestling and tickling with little boys to consensual sex with teenagers and adults, but it isn’t a stretch. If you wait until your son is a teenager to teach about consent, respect and “no” means “no” then you are waiting too long.