Saturday, June 23, 2012

Teaching children they can make choices

Katia Hetter of CNN wrote a good article called "I don't own my child's body."  She says that she does not force her child to hug and kiss the grandparents.  She does not want to teach her child that she should undergo physical contact she is not comfortable with just to please others.  She doesn't want her daughter to be a victim of sexual abuse -- she wants her daughter to know she can say no to physical contact she is not comfortable with.  When her daughter is a teenager, she doesn't want her to say yes to sex she doesn't want because she thinks she is supposed to make her boyfriend happy.

Several weeks ago, I was present when a mother asked her 3 year old daughter if she wanted her photo taken.  The daughter said no.  The mother said that was okay.  I was so glad to hear a mother treating her child with respect.

It doesn't matter if the photo is harmless.  It doesn't matter if the daughter didn't really understand what she was saying no to.  It doesn't matter if the daughter was just saying no on a whim, and didn't really care about the photo.  What matters is that the daughter learns that she can make her own choices, and that other people respect her choices.  

Yes, there are times when we have to go against the will of our kids.  We have to say no if they wish to run into the street.  We have to teach them not to be bullies.  But it's also important to teach them that they have the right to choose when to be touched and when to be photographed.  It's important to teach them that when they say no, other people are supposed to respect that no.  As women, we have a hard time saying no.  I am glad that there are mothers who are teaching their daughters that there are things they can say no to.

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