Empower your children to set boundaries

Who’s worthy of affection? Let your child decide - Consent and respect and bodily autonomy

Empowering children, especially girls, to set their own physical boundaries from a young age is usually an overlooked life-lesson, but can be a very important one. 

 

It’s never too early to teach your kids about the value of setting physical boundaries, consent, and the importance of not tailoring their feelings to suit others – the impacts of these lessons can last a lifetime.  

 

By allowing children to decide whether they want to greet someone with a hug, a kiss, a handshake, or just verbally, we can teach them about consent and bodily autonomy from a very young age. 

 

Making your child submit to unwanted affection to avoid offending a relative or hurting someone’s feelings enforces the idea that their bodies don’t really belong to them, and makes them ignore their own feelings. 

 

This doesn’t mean giving your child the green light to be rude or dismissive to relatives and friends – simply that if they feel uncomfortable or uncertain being physically affectionate, they should not feel obliged to do so.

Of course, your child feeling uncomfortable or uncertain in a situation doesn’t imply the relative or friend is predatory – but this isn’t the point. Your child should still have the final say on who they show affection, and how they do it.   

 

Psychologists have found that teaching children about bodily autonomy from a young age could protect them from sexual abuse, by helping them understand boundaries. 

 

You may be required to explain your child’s choice to friends and family in certain situations, but it’s a small price to pay for your child’s empowerment. 

 

If you allow your child to lead the way with regard to physical affection, they will reap the benefits in the long-term. 

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