Can consent really be taught? As the mother of a newly minted teenage boy, I often think about this. How can we teach our children abut consent when so many adult don’t even truly grasp the importance of it? Why is it such a challenge for people to understand consent? Are we so preoccupied with our own emotions, desires, wants, that we neglect the other people around us? In a world where you can get just about anything you want, and usually almost instantaneously, is it any surprise that consent is never really discussed?
Teaching consent to children is a challenge. We are constantly forcing them into situation in which they have little or no control. There are exceptions and I am making a huge generalisation but I stand by my perspective. From an early age when make them feel that their opinions don’t matter. This starts at infancy. Infants are passed around from family member to family member, friend to friend, mother to stranger. Children cry and we laugh about how much of a mama’s child they have already become. A child that age cannot voice consent and not everyone can read their children or give a moment’s thought to whether or noth the child consents to being passed around. It continues throughout children, “give aunty June a kiss” “Don’t touch that” “you HAVE to share your toys” simple run of the mill statements to our children, pave the way to their lack of understanding of consent and what it means. I know these statements are meant to teach children to share or show affection, but we forget to have an informed talk with our kids before barking orders at them. Could these violations of their consent pave the way to not understanding consent and its importance? I think so but that does not mean we should let our children do whatever they want. It is a hard balance between teaching and training, understanding and obedience. I am not going to preach about how to raise children, I am merely using this as an example to demonstrate that from an early age children are in situations where informed consent could be present but isn’t.
At a certain maturity niveau, children can understand consent at lot more than we give them credit for. We forget that as parents we can offer them more than direction and orders. We can talk with them about why we do certain things and explain the need for them to do them. Ask them how they feel about situations. Find a compromise. I don’t want to preach about parenting but rather show how parenting is an excellent opportunity to truly change how the future generation understands and implements informed consent.
Something to think about when dealing with children and consent, and the teaching of it. Consent cannot be taught in a do as I say and not as I do model. Look for future posts on understanding consent as an adult and within a sexual context.