Motherhood

5 Ways to Teach Kids About Consent

5 Ways to Teach Kids About Consent

My boys — now aged 3 and 6 — are constantly asking questions about bodies and growing up and how babies get into mommies’ bellies. I don’t think it’s ever too early to answer questions about sex; and likewise, it’s never too early to teach kids about consent. Here are five ways I’ve tried to show them how to respect themselves and others…

YOU’RE THE BOSS.
We often tell our boys that they’re the boss of their bodies — I love that it’s a clear, age-appropriate phrase (every kid understands the concept of boss!). If Toby wants privacy while getting dressed, I’ll say, “For sure, you’re the boss of your body.” If Anton doesn’t want to kiss grandma, I’ll say, “You’re the boss of your body; it’s up to you.” If they’re playing with another child who doesn’t want a hug, I’ll remind them, “He’s the boss of his body, you need to stop.” You can see how empowered each child feels — especially three-year-old Anton, who, as the little brother, is quite literally not the boss of anything else. :)

DON’T POUT.
The feminist writer Jessica Valenti, author of Sex Object, recently told me this eye-opening tip: “It’s important to normalize a healthy reaction to the rejection of affection. So, if I ask my daughter for a kiss on the cheek and she says not right now, I smile and say, ‘Okay!’ I want her to know that the appropriate reaction to saying ‘no’ to physical affection is saying fine and moving on. Not a guilt trip, not anger, not sulking.” It was a lightbulb moment. Before, when Anton didn’t want to cuddle, I’d playfully pout and beg for kisses — now I respect his decision and move on.

THERE ARE DIFFERENT WAYS TO SAY NO THAN JUST SAYING NO.
We have a great, straightforward children’s book called No Means No. But people don’t always have to say no in order to mean no. I encourage the boys to notice social cues and watch people’s body language — does it seem like the baby likes it when you squeeze her? Her face looks upset. That means you need to stop right away.

ASK FIRST.
My friend in San Francisco regularly tells her children, “It’s time to go. Do you want to ask Jenna if she’d like a hug or high five?” By phrasing it as a question, she lets both children decide if they want to embrace — or not. Those small linguistic changes can seem inconsequential, but think how much they might shift your perspective as you grow up into a pre-teen, teenager and adult — and when it comes to hooking up and sex. Now I’ve adopted her approach, too.

TALK OPENLY AND STRAIGHTFORWARDLY ABOUT BODIES, GROWTH, SEX, ETC.
I try to never seem grossed out or shy about anything to do with the boys’ bodies or mine. (For example, they’ve asked about my tampons on the bathroom counter, and I tell them matter-of-factly what they’re for.) By learning the correct words for their body parts, they’re empowered and able to speak directly about them, and they know they can come to me with questions and get an honest answer. My mom had the same approach when we were growing up, and I always felt so comfortable talking to her about anything that was on my mind.

Joanna and Toby

How do you teach your kids about consent, sex and bodies? Do they ask questions? I’d love to hear. This article — 8 sex-positive things you can say to your kids that have nothing to do with sex — was also fantastic.

P.S. A children’s book about where babies come from, and who gets the best kisses?

  1. Maeve says...

    I am a Crown Attorney in Canada who often prosecutes sexual assaults. Your approach to teaching your boys about consent is SPOT ON. It’s empowering and scary to think what a profound influence parents have on their children’s behaviour as adults. You are doing such a fantastic job, Joanna!

  2. cath says...

    Not sure if this has been mentioned but there is a great video comparing a cup of the with consent. It is a really simple graphic cartoon that puts consent in very simple terms. Google “tea consent”.
    It is great for young teens and a good simple talking points without having to mention S.E.X.

    Enjoy x

  3. Emilie says...

    Love this post. I think it is essential to speak about consent with kids.

    I was sexually abused by my father when I was really young. Now pregnant for the first time, I am wondering how I will explain to my daughter that I don’t see my father and that she won’t have any relationship with her grandfather either (and why). If she is anything like me, she won’t accept a vague explanation and I’m concerned her questions will never end. If anyone has advice on this delicate matter, I’ll gladly take it.

    • Kay says...

      I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I just listened to a Dear Sugar podcast episode called “Dad, It’s over” that doesn’t specifically address explaining estrangement to a loved one, but it may help.

    • Emilie says...

      Thank you, Kay. I will listen to the episode carefully.

    • Sara a. says...

      We have estranged relatives. My daughter, 5, hardly ever asks about them. The important thing is to keep answers age appropriate and short. You might also want to not give him the title of “grandpa” and opt instead for “the man that raised me” or “sperm donor.” So you might say, “we don’t talk to the man that raised me because he isn’t nice and hurt me a lot when I was a kid and isn’t a safe person.” Then, you might need to say something like this as they get to school-aged, “if a man talks to you and says he’s your grandpa at the park or school, get me, a teacher, or another trusted adult, immediately. He is a tricky person and you should not talk to him or trust him.”

      For support and advice on dealing with it all, check out the justnomil subreddit or “all in the family” on baby center. They’re experts in messed up family dynamics.

  4. Becky says...

    Hi Joanna,

    Thanks for the great article! I’ve been asked what panty liners/tampons are from my 6 year old son and I have NO idea what to say! What do you mean matter of factly? Seems silly but I honestly don’t know how much detail? Help! I want to be open and honest too!

    • Fiona says...

      I would love to hear more about this too! I got caught in two separate convos with my niece (6) and nephew (9) on the same topic ON THE SAME DAY! Both convos ended up going along the lines of “from time to time ladies bleed…” in the middle of two separate stores… would love to hear other appropriate ways of having that convo, especially when you’re not the parent….

    • Georgia says...

      Yes, I would also love a post or more specifics on this. My 3 year old son asked me what they were the other day and kept insisting I answer. I honestly wasn’t sure what to say. I was worried talking about blood might worry him. I have been very direct about body parts, babies, etc, but this one stumped me.

    • Tessa says...

      Georgia, I think you can start with a little info, “they are something ladies use to keep clean” or something similar. That may satisfy him and you can expand as he gets older. Kids frequently just want a simple answer.

    • Anya says...

      I say that they are just like bandaids or bandages but for woman’s vaginas. When I am not growing a baby my body needs to clean away the egg with some blood every month. I actually wrote down this answer after the first time my little one asked because I was stumped too and wanted to be prepared!

  5. What a great topic. It is something I hadn’t even consciously thought of. I have pointed out social cues and often tell my almost 7 year old that he is the boss of his body but I hadn’t been thinking from the perspective of teaching them about consent.
    Thanks for sharing.
    http://www.henatayeb.blogspot.com

  6. Joanna you are amazing! And all the comments are so interesting too (I love this blog so much). Everything you wrote was insightful but I especially appreciate your point about not pouting. I have 4 kids, the oldest 16, and I feel bad that I’ve always done this…

  7. Mish says...

    This probably seems obvious to most people… but when you say ‘ learning the correct words for their body parts’… do you mean penis, vagina, anus, breasts, etc ?
    I ask because often someone will say that they use the correct word with someone/their child, but rarely say the actual word out loud… which seems… conflicting..?

  8. Jennifer says...

    I’m wondering if there could be a future post about how to deal with situations when you feel there has been something inappropriate happen with your child. We recently went through a situation in our family where we felt an extended family member had crossed some boundaries. I feel we dealt with it in a good way but experienced a lot of backlash from the wider family as a whole. I feel that the second part of the consent conversation is what to do or how to respond to boundaries not being respected.

  9. Jenny says...

    Such an important post, and the comments are interesting as well. Such a good discussion point with friends, too

    I love your thoughtful posts like this!

  10. Martina says...

    I’m a sexual health educator, working with kids from 5th grade through college, and I am so glad to see this kind of conversation in this space. Thank you for bringing the discussion of consent into this forum — it should and can (as you show here!) be part of our culture starting with our very youngest.

    • I completely agree. I am not an educator, but I have had very narrow-minded family members literally shush me for mentioning my period in front of their 10 and 8 year olds. Like I was being shamed for having biological differences that her sheltered boys weren’t ready to hear about. I shrugged it off at the time but it bothered me. I certainly want my future children to feel they are getting the whole truth from me and early on. I’ve talked to psychologists who will say young kids absorb everything and know a lot more than we give them credit for. Better to be straightforward early on.

  11. wb says...

    Intriguing post. Regarding “it’s time to go. Do you want to ask Jenna if she’d like a hug or high five?” I think the answer could be neither or both. Or something else altogether like a wave or a thank you.

  12. Alyssa says...

    I am not a mother yet but hope to be someday and I have saved this for future reference- though it impacted me I bet I’ll remember it for years to come! I love “you’re the boss” and don’t pout when they don’t _____ with you (kiss hug snuggle). Who even thought to realize that this subtle change could do amazing things in teaching consent!

  13. When my now 17 year old son was smell, I was a straight-forward mom who answered questions about bodies and was clear about consent. Now I have a son with whom I can have open conversations about the grown-up matters at hand. I’m always grateful for the frankness that began when he was tony. And I love the “you’re the boss of your body” approach. Good advice!

  14. Eliza says...

    Terrific post!

  15. My mother always answered my questions about these things in very appropriate ways. I will not focus on that, but rather on the fact that because I knew, and had a grown-up approach about these things, I never thought that sex was something that shoes how cool you are. Instead I felt more mature and responsible and proud. I was in no rush to do anything I was feeling unsure of, and to this day (I am 30 now), I encourage everyone to adopt a mater-of-factly approach to these things when asked by their children.

  16. Heather says...

    This was an excellent and thought provoking post. Thank you so much.

  17. yes!!! My friend was a sexual-assault counselor at the local Y, so I asked her for some tips when my oldest was a baby. I do most of these things – love the tips with the body language NO, although I have usually tried to help my children communicate directly and simply with words. But still. Humans rely a lot on nonverbal cues. Thank you for this excellent post!

    We also remind our children that adults who think children are sexy have a problem in their mind – that children are not sexy, that sex is for adults. Our church has also been using the Circle of Grace curriculum which was developed by the Catholic church in response to all the child abuse from priests, to help children with boundaries and help the adults understand the issues. The first tip I think of with that curriculum is teaching children the difference between a good secret (makes your family/your friend happy when it’s revealed! like a birthday surprise) and a bad secret (abusers want their victims to keep everything secret).

    • I read a great tip re: secrets with kiddos. Just refer to all “secrets” as surprises. So, you have a birthday surprise, etc…so if you hear the word secret from your child it’s sort of a red-flag to investigate further.

    • Liza says...

      I find the sex is for adults mindset problematic. Kids and teens have sexual thoughts and they have sex. Not distinguishing between sex that is inappropriate and sex that that is normal doesn’t do enough to emphasize the difference between the sex your parents wish you weren’t having and the sex your partner doesn’t want to have.

    • Adrien says...

      I agree with Liza but I will say that the one big delineator here is that children know they are kids and can respond to that. When pre-teens and teens start having an interest in sex and sexual thoughts another thing that comes along with that is they start to feel like they are more adult than child (anyone who has argued about curfew with their parents because of a newfound belief in their own ability to be “responsible” might identify with this). In this way I think the “sex is for adults” mentality can help little kids, since when you are little and a kid your the idea of being an adult is like a foreign language.

  18. Molly says...

    Love this post! My friend is a speaker about this topic and has greatly empowered me to talk to my kids about sex and their bodies. You would love her website: http://www.birds-bees.com/.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, molly!

    • Becky says...

      Second this! The http://www.birds-bees.com stuff has been a HUGE game changer for keeping a conversation open with my kids starting extra early! Very empowering!!!

  19. Cora says...

    My 6 year old daughter has the tendency to be extremely argumentative and try to persuade people to her ways. This can be anything from asking for a treat, to rough-housing with someone after they have asked you to stop. I have started saying to her, “you need to respect someone’s no”. As in, “Your sister’s body is showing you that she doesn’t want you touching her, you need to respect her no.” This statement has really helped her learn that if someone is saying they don’t want you to do something, you need to be respectful of their choice, even if you don’t agree with it.

  20. AB says...

    What a great post! I don’t even have kids but how interesting. Love it.

  21. Maya says...

    Thanks so much for talking about this Joanna.
    I am struck by some of the negative comments here, what happened to diversity? Everyone should be able to decide how much physicality they feel comfortable with just as every culture has different ideas about how to greet people. I grew up in Germany but have a lot of Japanese family as well. Both cultures aren’t much into hugging but that shouldn’t be viewed as a failure or as the pendulum swinging too far. People can be warm and courteous without physical contact when greeting each other.

    • CATHERINE says...

      Yes! I grew up and live in France, where the “faire la bise” is the rule and taught to children, and expected. I’m almost 50 now, and I don’t do the kissing on the cheeks thing, because it’s long and I can’t do that to all my colleagues in the morning; I find it strenuous and I can tell most people think I’m an introvert and a cold person, which I’m not but what can you do? I stick to my guns! I remember hating having to kiss relatives (some more than others) as a kid and being judged impolite and getting scolded if I didn’t want to do it.

      Also, since we’re talking about cultural differences, I think “you’re the boss of your body” doesn’t translate into French at all, “tu es le patron de ton corps” sounds crazy, but we can keep the main idea behind that sentence, which is “you decide, or it’s up to you”, which I say a lot to my kids.
      Also I find that a spontaneous kiss or hug is worth a thousand forced ones!

  22. Lori! says...

    Wow! This is great! I didn’t realize I was doing the opposite of most of these. Thanks for this great post.

  23. Karen says...

    Have you ever watched Ruby Studio on Netflix? (it’s so awesome OMG!)
    They have a “Safety” themed show – all about strangers, getting lost, weird touching, etc. My daughter is obsessed with the cheerleaders chanting “Who’s the Boss? I’m the Boss!”

    Here’s the trailer:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZ8b18jNLxA

    • annemarie says...

      We love Ruby’s Studio! And we sing that song CONSTANTLY.

  24. Rachel says...

    I’m not a mother, but one thing that drives me crazy is when parents force their kids to kiss or hug someone. I see it ALL the time. They tell them to kiss their friends or hug grown ups goodbye. If they don’t feel comfortable, then it shouldn’t be pushed. I hate when little girls and little boys are told to kiss. That is dangerous, and they shouldn’t think it’s normal to be forced to kiss.

    • Molly K says...

      I can use advice here. I believe so strongly in teaching a child that he is the boss of his own body, but when my in-laws come to town, I literally DO NOT have the will power to say in front of them that my little boys don’t have to hug them if they don’t want to. (Sometimes the boys seem to fight it, but the grandparents just really want hugs from the boys they’ve missed so much, so they’ll force it. By the way, they’re nice people, but old fashioned.) I feel like crap afterwards every time that I wimped out once again. I’ve even talked to my husband about it, and he agrees with me that the boys should have a choice, but he never speaks up either!!

    • Molly K says...

      It is helping me to read through all the comments here. And I know I need to be strong and speak up for my kids when we are in that situation, (but I knew that last time, and I still couldn’t) but I think talking to them BEFORE we see the grandparents might help. Then they will know they can refuse, and hopefully they won’t be too shy to refuse, so I won’t even have to say something to the grandparents that I KNOW will offend them no matter how I say it.

    • Molly K – the first time is the hardest! Once you’ve done it a couple of times, it seems weird that it ever felt weird. You’re so right to prep your kids ahead of time. I always tell mine that they have to say hello, thank-you, goodbye, but if they prefer to shake hands or high five or wave (instead of a hug), that is perfectly fine. And they’ve learned to say “I’m all out of hugs for today” if they need to articulate it.

      Also – my in-laws are also SUPER traditional about this kind of stuff. But I’m often happily surprised at how quick they are to adapt when I actually explain my thinking. They just don’t think about these things the way we do now, but when we explain, they either understand and adapt – or just adapt without understanding (but at least they understand there is a reason for it).

      Good luck!

  25. B says...

    I love this and try to incorporate many of these already. But I have one major concern… Am I the only one with a stubborn head strong toddler with a will of his own? If I told him that he was the boss of his body, how would I handle a situation where he refused to leave the park and I must carry him to the car? What about when he doesn’t want me to help him wipe himself in the bathroom (even though he definitely still needs help)? Potential power struggles over “being the boss of my body” seem endless at this age. I want him to be able to make choices and understand that he can say “no” in any uncomfortable situations, but honestly in order to keep him safe and healthy I think I have a responsibity to “be the boss” until he is older enough to understand how to take care of himself. If I gave him the power to declare “I’m the boss of my body!” I’m worried that there would be so many times I’d have to have exceptions to the rule that I’d undermine the entire lesson. Instead of teaching him “no means no” I’m worried I’d teach him “no means no, most of the time.” Which is NOT what I want him to think. Maybe I should just wait until he’s older?

    • Elise says...

      Try “you don’t have to hug/kiss/whatever if you don’t want to” for those strong-willed toddlers who would take “you’re the boss of…” and run with it. Making it about a specific incident (allowing him to have a voice and say in hugging old Aunt Edith) rather than a broad topic (boss of body) works better for a younger age, at least in my experience, and it paves the way to talk about it more in depth when he/she gets older. <3

    • Dani says...

      I tell my kids that they’re in charge of their body but when it comes to safety (running into the street, getting left in the car by themselves, not wearing a coat when it’s -10 out), mom or dad may need to overrule. It’s something they’ve understood and I always explain it the same way every time so it sticks. That may be a good place to start! My son now says back to me “oh that’s a safety thing so mom might say no”. Haha. He’s well trained!

    • Amy says...

      I would be facing the same with my very strong willed toddler boy. I think we have to adapt to our children’s personality as well. So, I would take some of the tips and then work in others as he grows!

  26. I love this! I don’t have kids yet, but it’s never to early to think about how you’re going to raise them. I definitely didn’t experience anything like this when I was growing up, and I really wish I had. Whenever I do have kids, I don’t want them to feel like the questions about their bodies or others’ are yucky, or that sex is taboo. I want them to feel empowered, and comfortable talking to me about anything. Great post and food for thought, even if kids are still off in the distance!

  27. Thank you for posting this, I agree with all of it! Toby and Anton are so lucky to have you guys as parents.
    I have always been a big proponent of asking kids for hugs, actually asking them for/about anything now that I think about it. I used to babysit an 8 year-old boy almost every day after school and one day his mom asked me if I could come stay with him all day on a school holiday. The day before, I let him know that I would be coming over in the early morning instead of the late afternoon so we could play all day and I ended it with “If that’s okay with you?” I could see in his eyes how pleased he was to have a say in this! Of course he tried to be nonchalant first but then he said yes (and we had such a fun day riding bikes to the park!) but I wanted him to feel involved in the decision and not as blasé about it as his mom was. I’m super perceptive to kids’ feelings and emotions and so I always want to let them know what is going on/where we are going/what’s going to happen etc. I dislike when people talk over their kids as if they aren’t sitting right there, you know?
    Thanks for the great insightful post as always!

  28. chand says...

    Dear Joanna,
    This is a very important post and I applaud you! I heard a similar segment at just the right time in my life on Oprah. God bless Oprah! I started telling my little boy to “take care of himself” in the bathroom as well. It saved him from a possible horrible situation before he turned 4! I never expect any children to give kisses and hugs and always encourage their parents not to push them. They need to make up their own minds when it comes to their bodies. Good post!

  29. Leslie says...

    I have so much anxiety about this…thank you for sharing! xoxo

  30. DON’T POUT. Oh wow. I am good with the rest of these, but I absolutely beg and pout if the boys don’t give me hugs. I am changing this TODAY. Thank you for these important reminders.

    • I really resonated with this one too.

  31. Tiffany says...

    You’re the boss and hug/high five. Are both keepers.

  32. Lia says...

    Late to the party! But hopefully on the same topic or discussion for future motherhood Monday ;) How do you approach children and nakedness? I have ultraconservative parents and we never talked about bodies or nakedness. I’ve never covered up for breastfeeding or pumping, but I’ve been told I’m too immodest. I’d be super thankful for pointers on this topic as I feel hiding, covering and treating it so taboo makes for more curiosity. But I also want to teach them to be respectful of people’s bodies, even if/when they chose to not cover up much. I hope it makes sense!! Love the discussion and ideas! Thanks!!

  33. I love this so much. I think it’s something that hasn’t been in focus in previous generations, so we’re really parenting without a handbook more than ever with this, and it’s so important to get right.

    We have two boys and a girl and are constantly working on the things you mentioned – although not pouting when I don’t get a cuddle was definitely a lightbulb realisation for me!

    I’ve also recently realised that instead of trying to push the tricky conversations (where two babies come from, how do they get into your tummy etc) into the future a little, it’s actually so much easier to introduce the concepts when the kids are younger. Mine are 6, 4.5 and 3 years old. It is SO much easier to have matter-of-fact, un-charged conversations about vaginas and penises and all of that with a four year old than with a six or seven year old.

    Thanks for another great post!

    • Yes! So much easier to answer the questions when they are asking (which is usually sooner than you think!) Check out http://www.birds-bees.com for more training for parents!

  34. Jane says...

    I love this. I don’t have kids myself, but I agree with all of what you said, especially teaching them the correct terminology for body parts. Thank you for this post!

  35. krissy @oftheeveryday says...

    ps. i haven’t commented before, but have been reading your most wonderful blog for years now. i adore it.

    • I know it’s horrific to think about, but this post made me wonder how we can educate our kids (from an early age) to protect them from sexual predators. The statistics on the number of children who suffer sexual abuse are so shocking.

      How young is too young to start this sort of education? How do you begin the conversation with a toddler without scaring them?

      http://www.thislifeisbelle.com

    • Jen says...

      Thanks for sharing this! This exact topic has been an issue with our 4 year old & his classmates lately. I think the song & video will resonate with him! :)

  36. Trisha says...

    WOW- great post. I am so so guilty of “playfully pouting” when I ask my 18 month old for a kiss or hug and she refuses. This really made me think and now I feel so badly for behaving that way! I will never do this again.

  37. Lo says...

    I never considered how hugging as a toddler, which seems so innocent and cute, could be misconstrued as they grow up. I love the suggestion of a high five instead, and will be looking to adopt this with my impending family.

    Lo
    http://www.themixtures.com

  38. Em says...

    I love this! My 3 year old keeps asking about the baby in my tummy, and we try to answer directly. Now we get “was I an egg in your tummy in that photo? Where did you make the baby? Why was it at night time? Did you make him in the kitchen?” And her independence grows every day. “No mummy, I don’t need your help on the toilet. I want privacy. That means you in the next room”. Teaching her she is boss and how to handle unwanted affection is key, thank you for these articles.

  39. Kate says...

    So important! Thank you for writing this.

  40. These are excellent tips. I love the Boss of your own body one. The way you describe it as not only the kids are the boss of their own bodies but other people are the boss of their own bodies. That’s so good. I’m going to put that one in regular rotation.
    The one we’ve been doing regularly is when we’re playing with the kids, tickling, snuggling, etc. if they say stop or I don’t like it, we stop immediately. In the moment, while everyone is giggling and having fun we think they’re laughing and enjoying it, but when they say say stop, even if it sounds playful, we stop. I distinctly remember being tickled as a child and saying stop and my parents or sister would not stop because they thought we were playing, but I really wanted them to stop. I would go quickly from joy to anger. It was terrible, but I thought it was normal. I don’t want to do that to my kids.
    So glad you wrote about this topic.

    • So true! We keep telling them that you have to stop immediately and see if everyone is ok if anybody says “stop”, “no”, “ow” or starts crying. I hope it will become a second-nature, automatic response as they grow up and find themselves in more adult situations, especially for my boys.

    • Robin says...

      Yes! This has been awkward w grandparents but I just go for it and say, when he says stop, please stop. We are trying to make sure he respects his brother’s ‘no’s. I’ve had to say it a few times but they’re generally understanding.

  41. Abesha1 says...

    As long as we’re talking about consent and body parts, can we openly discuss genital cutting?
    Why is it allowed to cut off part of a child’s genitals without their consent, with no medical necessity?
    This is something I truly do not understand.

  42. Jill says...

    I am 47, married with a 12 year old daughter and I have always subscribed to the belief that she is the boss of her body. But it just occurred to me that we have a family friend of my husband who has teased me about my “side hugs” to him, rather than full on hugs. I just don’t feel comfortable giving men full hugs I guess, besides my husband. Even at Passover he made a joke about it. It never occurred to me that I don’t need to feel weird because I give side hugs! Even though he’s not being inappropriate, it’s my body!!! I would never make my daughter give someone a hug, why me?

  43. Lucy H says...

    I read somewhere about a lady who was sexually abused by her uncle as a young girl. Every time her mom picked her up from her grandparents she’d ask, “where you a good girl and did you do what you were told?”
    Now as a mother, she asks her own daughter when she picks her up from play dates, “Did you feel safe?” It’s such a simple question, easy to not be confused by kids.

    • I read something that really struck a chord with me once. Basically – when you pick your child up (from a birthday party or wherever), the advice was not to ask the questions right away, in front of the host/hostess. If you ask the child right then and there “did you have fun?” they feel pressured to say yes, and then it’s hard for them to change their answer later – they don’t want to feel like they lied with their first answer, and the question might not even be asked again. Similarly, not to ask the hosts if the child behaved well in front of the child.

  44. Suzy says...

    Wow, such a fantastic post Joanna. And all the comments are super helpful and enlightening. I personally really hate tickling and when people try to tickle my two year old son it infuriates me. I’ve one friend who comes over and always tries to tickle him, I know she’s trying to break the ice with him but he clearly doesn’t like it and once when we were at the shops a complete stranger tried to tickle my son while he was sitting in the supermarket trolley. I usually divert the situation or just take him away from their reach as I felt it would hurt their feelings to ask them not to do that, but from now on I will be much more clear, as it is less about hurting their feelings but about protecting my son from unwanted and uninvited physical contact and also some adults need to learn it’s not OK to touch kids as and when you please.

  45. Ramona says...

    Remembered after posting another good phrase about bodies and consent that I learned as a Safety Village teacher many moons ago. (Safety Village is a class preschool children attend to learn about fire safety, pool safety, crossing the street, etc.; it’s pretty prevalent in the Chicago area, I’m not sure about everywhere else, ironically Bill Cosby was the face of it). The thing we told the kids was that if anyone ever touched you in a way that gave you an “uh oh feeling,” you should tell your parents or a trusted adult right away. Anatomically correct language is key to reporting acts of abuse, but I also like “uh oh feeling” because it is teaching children to trust their instincts about people and communicates to them that their parents will respect and act upon those instincts.

    • Yes! We tell our kids to listen to their tummy voice. Sometimes those alarm bells go off before anything actually occurs, and I tell my kids if their tummy voice tells them something is off to tell me and I will always believe them.

    • Ramona says...

      I like “tummy voice,” too! Definitely good to teach kids to listen for the alarm bells, especially since research shows that abusers often “groom” their victims by testing the waters slowly with increasingly transgressive acts. Much better to just intervene at the first sign of something being off!

    • Leanne says...

      Ramona – thank you SO MUCH for this extra piece of information…I came back to this post to hunt through the comments or ask my own question because this been bugging me: We are trying to allow for “boss of your body” and create a space for our kiddos to say no when they don’t feel comfortable, BUT we also need to enforce and teach respect for authority, rules at school and at home, how they speak and act toward other people, etc. Yes, they’re the boss of their body, but dude, it’s time to put on your shoes. Right now. I’ve asked you five times already and you’re disobeying. And when your teacher asks you to line up, you need to listen and do what she is asking. This “tummy voice” or the “uh oh feeling” is perfect to teach that distinction.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      such great advice, ramona! thank you!!!

  46. Ramona says...

    At 1.5, I’m already protective of my daughter’s right to decide how she wants to be physically affectionate. So much research shows that child abusers are often trusted friends or family members, and so I am careful about making it clear that it is up to her whether or not she hugs or kisses someone or sits in someone’s lap. When she doesn’t want to hug her grandfather goodbye or something, I just give a quick explanation about how with abuse being what it is the parenting trend nowadays is to allow children to decide who touches them. I don’t know if that’s making sense to people or if they all secretly think I’m nuts. :)

    I like the phrase “boss of your body,” but I wonder whether using it would come back to haunt me. Like if my daughter is the boss of her body and does not want to have her body strapped into the car seat or does not want the doctor to touch her body, then what? I wonder if there’s another way to say it? Or maybe it’s a phrase that I should save for when she’s a little older and can understand, at least at some level, the difference between deciding who hugs you and deciding you are never going to have your teeth brushed again?

    • Leanne says...

      your second paragraph represents my exact thought, Ramona! Even at 4, I’m certain my son would use “boss of my body” against me for routine things like teeth brushing and bedtime. Which is why I love the concept you (or another Ramona?) mentioned related to the uh oh feeling or the tummy voice. I DO think he’d be able to get that distinction.

  47. sarah says...

    today my 4 year old daughter asked me why I was taking a pill. I said it was medicine, then she asked if I was sick. I sad, no it is a pill so we don’t have any more babies. She said, oh that pig mama from sing should have taken that! Like you, i try to be open and honest! seems to be working so far.

    • Liz says...

      I remember asking my mother the same thing on a trip to the grocery store when she picked up her birth control at the pharmacy. I must have been 12 or so and, even at that age, she didn’t tell me what is was for. When I asked if she was sick, she actually said “Yes” with a strong tone that let me know the conversation was over. I wish she had been as open and honest as you! I worried about my mother’s “secret illness” for years until I recognized the round disk of pills that a friend of mine took in high school.

  48. Heather says...

    Thanks so much for this insightful post, Joanna.

    We have two young kids and initially I found myself prompting them to hug family/friends when we left a gathering, until one day I realized this is entirely their decision and I was worrying more about social politeness than my children’s comfort level and ability to decide upon and consent to physical contact with another. Since this time, I have also noticed that a lot of people ask my kids if they can have a hug. If I notice the kids are hesitating, I just speak right up and say ‘It’s okay, you don’t have to’.

    Interestingly enough, I haven’t applied that same logic to my own interactions with our children. I especially learned from the point about not pouting after a child refuses to hug or kiss you. I would sometimes do this as a joke but now I see it entirely differently. Thank you for this.

    I like how the post points out physical contact is the child’s choice, but i think ‘do you want to ask Jenna if she wants a hug or high five?’ is even a bit much. Maybe I am overthinking but to me, it implies that they should do one of the above and it is Jenna’s choice as to which one.

    Thanks again so much for drawing our attention to such an important issue. These are such important points that I find can often get overlooked.

    All the best.

  49. I love this. I don’t have kids, but I read every comment. I was thinking the whole time about how I can teach myself that I am the boss of my own body and how to teach other adults about consent.
    I’m 31 and in architecture, a male dominated field. I’m not someone who readily gives hugs, but find myself in situations where male contractors think it is appropriate to give me a hug. I had some clients who were really into hugs, and would hug the contractor, and then he would want to give me a hug as well. It made me extremely uncomfortable and I tried everything to politely reject, but would never quite succeed (I would think I got out with just a handshake, but then would run into him at the bottom of the elevator and he’d want a side hug! )
    The comments made me think about my own upbringing and whether it has been ingrained in me that I have to give a hug in order to be polite.
    Would love to hear how other women navigate awkward workplace interactions. I think I need to find a clear verbal way to reject, like, “I’d prefer a handshake.”

    • Mama M says...

      Yes, this. 100 times this. I am in the performing arts field, and while I understand why performers might be especially comfortable with hugging (we work with our bodies as the medium, and often have to physically interact with others), I am not personally comfortable hugging strangers in social situations. A hug is pretty much the standard way to meet someone in our field: “Hi M, this is so-and-so!” “Oh, nice to meet you!” *The stranger goes in for a hug while my outstretched hand collapses into their midsection, the result of an awkwardly half-executed handshake*

      It’s rough and I never, ever know how to say no. Especially when it feels like it’s ME who is being gauche or unfriendly by not wanting a stranger in my personal space.

      I really like “I’d prefer a handshake”. And somehow it still feels like it’d take a lot of courage to say it out loud.

    • jillygirl says...

      Ooo, difficult one because men can be so sensitive, when coming from a place of goodwill, if their genuinely friendly hug is rejected by a woman. This happened to me and I felt like a cad when I understood how hurt he was (no man wants to think he’s given a woman an ‘uncomfortable’ hug…) but it can be suuch a grey area, requiring Jedi social skills! I did my best! Yet: after many hugs from one boss (we worked alone together daily on a project and got along swimmingly with no romantic interest on my part and he in a serious relationship), I began to feel uncomfortable about them (I knew his partner would feel funny about them because I’d met her) and suggested as gracefully as possible that we just handshake at the end of the day and he took it very badly, was super offended and never again called me for another project (we’d done several together). It was awkward and yet I am glad I did it but still, I wish it had gone better…

    • Robin J. says...

      I can completely relate to this. When I worked as a reporter, I often found myself in that boat with men I worked with on stories. They would tell me I smelled good and almost always go in for hugs. I never came up with a polite way to decline, but I became a master of the side hug (lean in ever so slightly and give them a pat on the shoulder). They never last more than half a second, but still, I hated it! And now that I go back and read what I just wrote, why does it fall on us to find a “polite” way to decline? It’s not our job to protect a man’s fragile ego! I suggest maybe saying something like, “I’m really more of a hand shaker!” and just sticking out your hand so that no hug is offered! (Subtext: Get your paws off of me!)

    • So true! I have found that if someone asks me for a hug, I am likely to say sure simply because they asked, which I appreciate. But if someone just goes in for a hug I get all rigid and awkward and uncomfortable. More than once this has led to me being told by others that I am “anti-social” or awkward or unfriendly and I consider myself none of those things. I loathe this, because if I was a man would they be saying the same thing? Just because I’m a woman I have to be okay with hugs and physical contact? Ugh. I still don’t know quite how to deal with it other than just go along with it and try to smile. Kudos to you for standing up for yourself and insisting on a handshake! I’m not quite there yet.

  50. Aly says...

    This is golden

  51. Sofia says...

    I love this. This is why I keep coming back to this blog over and over, for years. You always have this sweet and approachable way of picking up on the most fascinating yet simple and universal topics that everyone relates to somehow. Look at all these amazing comments!

    • I couldn’t agree more!

  52. Cherry says...

    I totally agree. my mom was also very straightforward with me – her policy was, if you’re old enough to ask the question you’re old enough to hear the answer. I found her birth control pills when I was very young and she told me right away when I asked what they were for, so I never thought sex was something that should be shameful or hidden. I was also a pretty touch-averse kid, and I hated hugging, so she taught me ways to get around that (like how to offer my hand for a handshake beforehand, so that I didn’t have to hug anyone I didn’t want to but still was polite)

    • LOVE that policy!

      My kids have learned to say “my hugs are all used up for today” or “I’m out of hugs for today” to avoid a hug when they’re not into it. It works pretty well, even with grandparents ;-)

  53. liz says...

    Fantastic post!

  54. Greta says...

    I love this post. Teaching my daughter that she is “the boss” of her body is very important to me. I have one problem though – there are times when I need to change her diaper or she’s at the doctor and the doctor to check her heart and she says a loud and clear “No, I don’t like that.” How can I teach her, a two year old, that there are sometimes that it’s necessary for me or a doctor to touch her even if she doesn’t want that?

    • Greta says...

      I’m kind of haunted by this question. Any thoughts?

    • Kate says...

      I don’t know if this will work for you as well as it has worked for us, but:

      Our daughter is also two, and doctor’s appointments are anytime where we encourage her to “buy in” to what the doctor/nurse/tech wants to do. So when they want to take blood, for example, rather than holding her down and distracting her (as they usually recommend), we use it as an opportunity to talk about how COOL her body is.

      We talk about how she grows blood inside her bones, and the blood travels all the way from her heart to her toes and back up again. We show her the tubes and let her touch them. Afterwards, if the tech agrees, we let her shake the tube (50% success rate), we talk about how they are taking blood to the lab so they can see what is inside with special glasses, and how her bones arealready making new blood (we make a special chuga-chuga sound for that part).

      She has had a lot of blood tests at this point, and the above has worked pretty much every time! As for diapers, we let her participate in the process. When she is fighting us, it’s usually because she doesn’t want to lie down- “I STAND!”- so we change her standing up. She is also responsible for getting her own clean diaper from the basket, and usually putting the dirty one (all wrapped up, of course) in the can. That way she gets “buy in” into the process. Some days it works, other days it doesn’t work right away but gets handled in 20 min or so.

      I hope that helps!

    • Beth says...

      Love your feedback, Kate. It’s a very creative approach and I can imagine how a toddler would buy into it! Hope your little girl is ok <3

    • Our pediatrician always tells the kids exactly what she is doing and why she is doing it, and always adds something like , “your mommy/daddy is here and I’m the doctor, so this is what I do,” then she does it very quickly and matter-of-factly. Thinking about it, I realize this maybe will give my kids a reference point of what is normal for a doctor to do and not do. (Like when they get older, if they have a doctor that maybe lingers too long or makes them feel uncomfortable, they know that something is not right.)

    • L.M. says...

      I’ve gone to a number of safety training workshops for kids by the fantastic organization KidPower. They talk about the kinds of checking “for health and safety” where it has to happen, and under what circumstances those can happen. They have really fantastic resources for parents of kids of all ages (and for at-risk adults!), and I’d recommend checking out their website and attending a training if you’re in the Bay Area.

    • Sadie says...

      In situations like that, I try to give my son a minute to adjust, and explain what needs to happen. For example, if he didn’t want a diaper change, I’d say, “It sounds like you need a minute. We have to change your diaper, because it is not good for your body to sit in a wet diaper. But I can wait one minute for you to get ready.” This seemed to help him feel more in control of the situation and he agreed to the change afterward.

      At the doctor, I tell him straight up what was happening. I say, “The nurse is going to put that needle in your arm. It is going to hurt, but not too much. You have a very important job: you must hold very still so that it doesn’t hurt more. But when she takes it out, it will stop hurting right away. You can hold my hand the whole time if you want to.” It works really well for him– he will cry out a little when the jab happens, but no tears afterward. I was really glad for this approach when he needed prick testing for allergies. He was only 18 months. I told him they were going to put things on him that might make him very, very itchy, but that if he scratched, we would have to come back and do it all again. I explained that we had to do this to find out why some food was making his body sick, so we could help him feel better. I told him I was going to hold his hands to help him not scratch. He did cry and try to scratch for the entire duration of the test, but because he understood what was going on and why, he was not really traumatized or screaming in fear– just unhappy with the situation. And so was I! I told him, “I wish I didn’t have to do this. This is not fun for you, and I wish we could just make you better by magic! But since we can’t, we will do this, and I’ll help you. You can cry as much as you want, and I’ll help you try to think about something else so it won’t itch so much.” I think the important time is that there was no lasting sense of fear or trauma. Of course he didn’t like it– no one would! But he felt prepared for it and knew I was on his side while he got through something unpleasant.

  55. Abesha1 says...

    I’d love a discussion on how to say No as an adult… say, there’s a recurring holiday situation where people hug and kiss a roomful of people, but there’s one man who makes you intensely uncomfortable because his hugs are wayyyy too much.
    What do people do?

    • Mika says...

      Depending on the situation I would either give a polite No Thank You, one arm shoulder block hug, or give a light touch “hug” where you place your hands on his shoulders but block him moving in with your forearm/elbows. In every situation though you have no obligation to give an explanation as to why you don’t want to be touched, and you have no obligation to hug that person at all. I had this happen to me before, and the man called me “aloof” and tried to shame me in front of people for not bending to his affections. My response was “I just want to clarify that you are calling me aloof because I don’t want you touching me, right?” That shut down the situation real quick. Don’t take unwanted touching from anybody.

    • Kerry says...

      Good question Abesha1. Mika, I really like your response. And the way you responded to that man’s attempt to shame you and call you aloof was perfect. I hope I can be like you.

    • jillygirl says...

      @ mika, wow! Good for you. When people are dense, they require direct clarity.

  56. Roberta Roth says...

    Hi Joanna!
    I loved this post! It is so important to teach kids something so delicate in a way that they understand. I don’t have kids of my own, but I do have a young goddaughter (she’s 4 and seems to never run out of things to say) and most of my friends are moms by now. I was wondering if you would mind if I translate this post to Portuguese and post it on medium with proper credits, of course.
    I think it is so important to disseminate if not new ways of dealing with abuse, personal space and individuality, at least raising a question to how we can help avoid traumas and low self-esteem. Please reply if you can, either here or by email.
    Lots of love from Brazil,
    Roberta

  57. Related – my mom grew up in a super conservative religious household where the very thought of sex was punished heavily (not *quite* Carrie’s mom, but, close). She decided, when she was pregnant, that she would NOT raise her child like that, and bought the book Asking About Sex and Growing Up before I was born. She planned on reading it to me whenever I asked about sex; I asked when I was eight. She sat down, read it through with me the first time, and then let me have the book to read to tatters whenever I wanted. This book is STILL in circulation AND has been updated which is so amazing! Even back in the 80’s when I read it, it covered puberty for girls and boys, sexual intercourse, masturbation, and homosexuality, in a very thorough, plain, respective way. It was so progressive. I highly recommend it for any other moms out there!

  58. lexi says...

    What a fantastic post! Content like this is what keeps me coming back every day :)
    Just to throw in my two cents-I’m a sex counselor and I think these are all really strong ideas that can teach agency and awareness. I see some people in the comments are finding the idea of not hugging grandma a bit controversial, and I simply want to say that in my personal and professional opinion scenarios like this can always be explained as a teaching moment, and that I will always value autonomy and choice over physical touch as a symbol of politeness. Also consider the gender differential in these cases (tw for gendered language): when a young girl does not participate in these kind of polite rituals (“give grandma a kiss goodbye” “NO”) she is interpreted as difficult, or misbehaving. A young boy in the same scenario can be explained away as just boys being boys, and the onus falls on young girls to internalize that they are bound to different rules and have to please other people. For reference, here is a really great comic that shows the connections between how we treat children and how it can have an impact on body autonomy and consent later in life.
    http://everydayfeminism.com/2017/04/ways-we-ignore-childrens-agency/

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      such smart points, lexi, thank you! and i love that comic.

    • That comic is excellent! Thanks for posting it. I think I need to print it out and put it on the wall to remember every day. Giving kids choices, answering their questions in a meaningful way, asking not telling. Good stuff! Thank you!

    • Jenny says...

      Agree with Lexi. Thanks for this.

  59. Christie says...

    I just love how different this new generation is – when I was growing up (and I’m only 33 so not long ago), there wasn’t even an option given about kissing/hugging relatives, and I don’t remember ever hearing that I was the boss of my own body.

    I have a six year old daughter and early on my husband and I talked about how we’d parent the big issues – religion, consent, Santa, sexuality and so forth. Our policy is complete honesty about all things, and we always use ‘You are the boss of your body’. She’s an only child so we often use our pet cat as an example for her – ‘I don’t think the cat likes you poking her, look at her body language’.

    We also take her to karate classes and they’ve been so great about teaching kids that their bodies can be powerful and strong.

    • Beth says...

      I love how different this generation is, too. As a kid, it used to ruin my entire day knowing i had to kiss my uncle later! I’m sure my discomfort was obvious but my parents never reached out about it or said anything. I think it is so empowering that these things are framed as choices more and more. I do feel like being programmed to “please” has not always served me well in life. Here’s to knowing better and doing better!

    • Lauren E. says...

      I love the point about karate classes. I grew up dancing and it taught me a lot about being comfortable with my body as it is. I’ve always known that when/if I have kids, I’ll try to get them into some type of activity that promotes healthy bodies. I think it’s super important and I attribute my (relative) confidence as an adult to dance.

  60. Liz says...

    This is so important to me as a parent. We love the boss of your own body concept too! We do all the things that you list, but we also have a no tickling rule in our house. I always hated how out of my control that was when I was a kid, and my daughter has always hated to be tickled. So we made a no tickling rule that extends to grandparents/aunts/uncles/etc. Our sons have appreciated this rule as well.

  61. Kristin says...

    While she was getting in the car for her ride to kindergarten, one of the boys said about his sister’s Barbie doll, “Look at her boobies!” My daughter said, “Those are breasts!” Same daughter decided at 6 that she didn’t want children and insisted over and over that she needed to know how not to have them NOW, even though I told her there were many ways and I would tell her in plenty of time. We got a great book, explained, told her not to talk to her friends about it, because their parents needed to decide when they were ready to learn these things. Forgot to tell her not to tell her 4 year old brother, and picked him up at preschool to be presented with a picture he’d drawn of a sperm and an egg. His wonderful teacher labeled them for him, and they drew and labeled a zygote as well. We had to copy the picture, as she and I both wanted to keep it.

    • jen says...

      haha best response ever. “Those are breasts!” Awesome job mama.

    • Liza says...

      Something I keep hearing from people is that they tell their kids how babies are made when they’re three or four, but they encourage them not to talk about it. I hate the idea of suggesting that it is a secret and something that shouldn’t be talked about. We were really honest as soon as I got pregnant with my second which was when my daughter was three. We also covered birth control after she kept asking when the next baby was coming. Her first-grade class covered how babies are made during the first week and did so in a very honest way. Parents were invited for the talk and they were allowed to pick their kids up early if they wanted, but that was silly because the girls talked about it for weeks. The school has always been really honest about issues that affect young women and I can’t imagine them not knowing throughout elementary school. They started learning self-defense in gym class in the first grade in ways that are specific to protecting yourself when you’re little enough to be picked up and it is still one of the first units every year now that they’re in high school. I was always all about being 100% honest about body hair, erections, periods, abortion, sexual assault, gender, sexual orientation, consent, child pornography vs legal adult videos, etc. I don’t wait for her to ask questions. She’s a teenager now and we have really honest conversations about issues her friends have had, situations like the Brock Turner trial and the video of Donald Trump from this fall. She organized a group of girls from her high school to drive to DC for the Women’s March and I was so sad that I was traveling for work and couldn’t be with her. My thing is, she will never be worse off knowing the truth, but being in the dark could do real damage.

  62. Jess says...

    Seriously fabulous, Joanna. Thank you!

  63. I love this! As a kid I always used to dread greeting my relatives because I felt uncomfortable hugging or kissing people that I saw once a year and never talked too. Amongst friends we would always just wave at each other. Then, a girl joined my class in school who was a hugger and kisser. It made quite a few of us uncomfortable.
    The other thing I love is not being afraid of calling body parts etc. by their name. I cringe now when I think about seeing a tampon for the first time or a contraceptive pill and not being told what they were for. In hindsight, I wish my parents had been much more “grown up” about these things.

    • Beth says...

      My sons know, at 4 and 7, more about women’s periods than i knew at 10 years old! I would ask what tampons were when i saw dispensers in the bathroom and my mom (and once, my cousin) refused to answer, saying i wasnt old enough to know! I’m so glad our generation is letting go of the shame and the secrecy. I can’t, to this day, figure out what would have been so harmful in telling a little girl the basics of her own body.

  64. Emma says...

    This post is everything. My nephew randomly decided on one visit that he wanted to take baths wearing his underwear at our house and I was actually thrilled about it. “Yup, your decision baby!”

  65. Kerri says...

    I’m having so much fun teaching my oldest about body parts! He’s 3 and I am currently very pregnant with his second sibling and he is so curious about all of it. He asks me often “How is the baby in your uterus? Is baby’s head still poking your bladder?” The other day we were grocery shopping as a family and I made a startled sound and he asked me what was wrong. When I told him that the baby was “head booping my cervix” he said, “oh, yes, your cervix. And your testicles too?!” We are still working on learning which body parts correspond to each sex ?

  66. Samantha says...

    Bravo, Cup of Jo! Thank you for this.

    I’m surprised so many commentors disagree with the part about choosing not to hug Grandma. I remember growing up and being so grateful that I didn’t have to hug every relative, as there were some I had a bad feeling about. As an adult, I now see those same relatives and understand why I had such negative instincts about them. As an adult, I can make the decision not to hug Aunt Helen if I don’t want to, and childeren should be given that same choice, whether the adults understand their reasoning or not.

  67. Kath says...

    I really like the ideas you put out there but I have to admit I too am a little worried about the concept of “You are the boss of your body”. I am a pediatrician and unfortunately sometimes we have to draw blood/put in ivs and do stuff that children understandably don’t want us to do because it hurts. And no amount of explaining that is necessary will make them agree and in my opinion it is asking a little too much of a small child to not only endure a painful procedure but also to willingly agree to It. Just a point to consider. But other than that I really like your suggestions.

    • Sadie says...

      I agree that there are some situations in which the parent/doctor has to be “the boss,” but explaining helps even very small children. My experience is that explaining to my son why he needs to do some things that are painful dramatically reduces his sense of fear and teaches him that he can tolerate pain. Often, just acknowledging that he doesn’t want to do it creates an emotional connection that puts him at ease. Sometimes a sentence like, “I wish there were a way to make you better that didn’t hurt at all!” really helps, because that helps the child understand that their experience matters to the adults.

      As an example, whenever he gets an immunization, I tell him that the nurse is going to put a needle into his arm. (This has caused problems with nurses who believe in the “by surprise” method.) He asks me if it’s going to hurt, and I tell him, “Yes.” Then I explain that it will only hurt for a second, and it will stop hurting as soon as the nurse takes the needle out. Then I explain that his job is to stay as still as he can so that it doesn’t hurt more, and I will help by holding his arm so that it is very, very still. The result of this 30-second pep talk is that he has been a stoic little solider for every shot since he was a year old. Establishing that trust during immunizations turned out to be extremely valuable when he later needed more uncomfortable medical tests.

  68. My oldest son (6) is a massive hugger so he doesn’t mind giving hugs all the time, but my youngest (2) is NOT at all wanting to hug or kiss. We tell them they never have to hug if they don’t want to, and we never pout either -even though dangit I wish my little would hug more! We say “no means no” and “stop means stop.” My oldest has asked never to be tickled again, so we don’t tickle -which is so hard because it’s such an easy game to play. He also reminds me that I haven’t asked to touch him when I wash him.

    Good tip on figuring out non verbal cues. I need to get into that!

  69. silja says...

    Brilliant post, and SO important!
    My son (10 y) recently had a “body-theater”-session in school. Two actors played typical all day-situations in front of the class in which children were touched by relatives (hugs, kisses…), friends (brushing each others hair…), sports trainers and also strangers, and how they could react if they do not want it.
    Their main take home message for the pupils was: there are “yes” and “no” feelings. No “wrong” or “right”: just yes or no. If you listen to your inner self, you feel them very clear. Ask yourself when someone wants to touch, hug, kiss etc you: does it feel “yes” or “no” for you? And if it is “no”, you can (you should!) reject it. Without any guilty feelings at all. It has nothing to do with being not polite, “but others do it!…” etc. This is how YOU feel, and when it feels “NO!” for YOU – so it is.
    Loved that! So evident, and so encouraging to listen to your inner self and trust it!

  70. Samantha says...

    I really love this a lot. My son is 3.5 and we talk about how he can touch his private parts in his bedroom or the bathroom, but they are only for him. I like the idea of ‘boss of your own body.’ My daughter is only 16 months but we will start these conversations with her as well when she can understand. We use the correct anatomical names for everything (penis, testicles and vulva). We also talk about how grown-ups and kids don’t have secrets. And I have been very mindful that we talk about how if someone says ‘stop’ we immediately comply when tickling or hugging…and we reinforce that he must do the same for others. These comments are good tips for how to expand this conversation as my children get older. I so want them to know how to be respectful of consent in their own interactions as they grow up, and also how to protect themselves.

  71. Beth says...

    What a brilliant post! All great ideas for talking to kids about consent. I’m a pre-school teacher and always tell the children in my class that they can use the phrase “stop, I don’t like that” to another child at any time, and that it’s like a magic word – it means we stop straight away, no questions asked, even if we think what we’re doing is loving or fun. I love the boss of your body thing, because it emphasises that you have a responsibility for the impact your body can have on others, as well as ownership of your body and a job to protect it.

  72. Janine says...

    The part of this that always gives me pause is the bit about not greeting relatives. I often worry that it comes across as rude, and even bratty, to forego a greeting altogether. Then, I read an article about this issue which advised allowing children to decide HOW they greet the relative. Rather than deny a hug outright, the child could instead offer a high five, a hand shake, a fist bump, or any other greeting they felt comfortable with.

    • Or also, a smile or wave! So often we assume that greeting has to involve physical contact when it doesn’t! :-)

    • Samantha says...

      Totally agree with this. If you allow your child to not greet when they don’t feel like it, it’s plain rude, and it’s gonna look like you just allow the kid to do whatever they want when they feel like it. A person with good manners always greets according to the place and ocassion, either by saying good morning/afternoon/evening, shaking someone’s hand, hugging, etc.

    • Catie says...

      I don’t think that anyone is saying not to greet grandma. There are other ways to greet a person that are not physical and are still polite. They can still say “Hi, nice to see you.”

      Also, I would really give some thought to situations where a child is very strongly resisting having any sort of contact with a person and maybe try to dig deeper. Children tend to be pretty intuitive and also make it clear when something is up.

    • Laura says...

      I don’t think not agreeing to a greeting kiss equates to not greeting relatives, and though I agree with the “You’re the Boss” point, it could become more awkward across different cultures. I come from a big Mexican family where it’s custom that when you first arrive somewhere, you greet everyone with a kiss, hug, & a brief “¿Como esta?”, no matter how many people are there. My cousins & I even poke fun at it, not because of the physical touch aspect, but because how long it can take to of through & greet every individual person.

  73. Celeste says...

    This is great. I don’t have kids but I work with a Girl Scout troop and we recently taught them about consent. They’re a little older, but not by much, and we just told them that if someone is touching you and you’re uncomfortable, that you should say so. We also talked about people being in your bubble without touching you. We gave them three steps for resolving it:
    1) No violence (they’re a pretty rough bunch of girls and often resort to hitting)
    2) Tell them how you feel
    3) Tell them why you feel that way
    It’s a good way for these young kids to work through their own emotions and boundaries, while also maintaining control of their bodies.

  74. Cara says...

    This is a fantastic post. I think it is crucial to teach kids all of these things from an early age so that there is no grey area when they get older and hormones are involved. I think that kids whose parents don’t talk to them openly do have these same questions and they don’t have an outlet to get this information and it creates a major grey area for them.

    The one thing I’m still unsure about in these 5 things is maybe the point about asking a friend if they want a hug or a high five. I absolutely get the sentiment behind it, but it feels a little inorganic to me. I think sometimes the pendulum has swung really far to the other side and we still need to teach kids to pick up on social cues and teach them about relationships. I think when they are older, it might be weird asking a girl if he can kiss her, but I get that it at least teaches some kind of boundary at a younger age while their social skills are developing.

    Overall awesome, awesome post today!

  75. Twyla says...

    My brother grew up thinking my mom’s tampons were dynamite, so that’s how much information we got growing up. Good for you for empowering your kids and showing others how they can too!

  76. cooper says...

    My friend was teaching me some basic infant massage techniques she learned at a class, and she passed on the message from the instructor to always start a massage by asking the baby permission (e.g. “May I massage your feet?”). It felt super weird asking an infant’s permission, and they obviously can’t consent verbally, but it seems like a really good habit to develop, even at that young age!

  77. Emily says...

    I have been talking about and modeling consent with my boys since they were little (now 11, 9 and 15 mo). Once, my oldest asked if he could tickle me and I said no. He was surprised and said, “But I *want* to tickle you.” We had a good conversation- it is my body and I have to say yes (not just no). He respected that and I was glad we started this conversation early!

  78. jar says...

    i mostly agree with this especially the “check-in with your friend about if they want a high five or a hug” part and “look at the baby/puppy/kitty do they seem like they enjoy how you’re touching them—would you like it if they smushed your face? nope, so stop” but i draw the line at “you get to decide if you hug and kiss grandma.” that’s called being polite and respecting your elders. a three second hug in a large group of people (not condoning inappropriate touching in a one on one situation, obviously) is not going to harm anyone. one of my favorite yoga teachers once said in class “being uncomfortable will not destroy you” and that applies to kids too. sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to and when better to learn that? life includes tolerating a squeeze from auntie whoever.

    • Katie says...

      i think that being polite to and respecting our children is important too and i expect my family members to respect if my kiddo wants to say “no thank you” to a hug. because as adults, we have a greater capacity for feeling uncomfortable, and not put children in situations where they are forced to feel physically uncomfortable.

    • Kerri says...

      I think the sentiment behind it is to allow the children to decide who they offer affection to and that they not be pressured into it because as horrifying as it is, abuse if often perpetrated by adults that the children know. So if they are forced to give people hugs in a group setting when they’re not comfortable, they may think they have to allow inappropriate touch as well.

    • Emma says...

      The potential problem with this line of thinking may be that kids get confused about when they can say no and when they can’t. I don’t know the exact statistics but I recall that most sexual assault of children is perpetrated by close family friends/relatives. In extreme instances children could get confused about what is appropriate and may assume that because the person is a close family or friend they are “rude” for not declining a particular touch.

    • Sara says...

      But, I think the point is that makes it confusing for kids to know when they can or can’t say no to someone. Sure, kissing grandma goodbye might make them uncomfortable but not kill them, but what about that other adult that just makes them a little uncomfortable, too? How do they determine what is or isn’t ok, or when they’re allowed to say no?

    • Martha says...

      There are some types of kids (and adults) that may feel uncomfortable with touch. Lots of times kids with autism and other disorders have sensory processing difficulties and react to different fabrics or unwanted touch. It may seem rude not to give your grandma a hug, but sometimes it becomes so uncomfortable for someone to do that. They might start becoming really anxious because of it. I think it’s always important to know the boundaries of your body and what feels good to you, might not feel good to someone else.

    • M says...

      This. I think the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction.

    • P says...

      Yes, sometimes we do have to do things we don’t want to. Those things do not include doing things with our bodies that we don’t want to do, but that other people want us to. In terms of being uncomfortable, there is a difference between moving to a new city/quitting your job when you don’t have a plan/making new friends vs kissing/hugging/letting someone touch you etc when you don’t want those things done, regardless of who’s around at that specific time. The latter *can* destroy someone (emotional trauma, anxiety) and result in future ambiguity in terms of when to say no to someone who is physical with you, especially if you are trying to be “polite and respectful”. It is much more important to teach a child to respect themselves instead of pleasing others out of obedience.

    • Celeste says...

      I’m torn on this, because if I was a grandmother it would make me sad to be rejected by a grandchild and I know my mother would be as well. BUT! I was the kid who did not like giving hugs or, more importantly, kisses. My family is very touchy, so my declining kisses was not received well. It doesn’t mean I lack respect for my parents or grandparents, it just means I express my affections in different ways. I think grandparents and grandchildren can find other, special ways of expressing their affection that don’t make either party uncomfortable.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      instead of hugging, kids could smile and wave at grandma, say hello, be polite, shake hands, whatever else they’d like — but i don’t think they should be be forced to hug or kiss anyone, if they don’t want to. for our family, that feels like a good stance to have on consent and a good precedent to set. i think being uncomfortable in other ways (doing your homework when you don’t feel like it, walking home in the rain, going to bed even if you would rather stay up, etc.) is good, but not when it comes to physical affection.

    • If you force your children to submit to what an adult wants when it comes to the child’s body, how do they know when they actually have to the autonomy to say no? I think deciding who and when to hug and kiss is the best practise-ground we can give them to keep them safe in the future. And helping them to find greetings etc that they are comfortable with and that are still polite is a life lesson.

  79. Jackie says...

    I love this. My MIL will pretend to cry if my son doesn’t give her a hug right away. It makes me cringe. Whenever he does want to hug me, or get tickled, or anything like that, I just say, “Ok!” and a lot of the time he’ll change his mind right away and run to me. I don’t like the emotional blackmail!

  80. Marcy says...

    I think this is spot on and makes a lot of great points. But it seems like a lot of boy moms here and I have a question for the girl moms. How do you deal with consent and them being the boss of their body (love that!) when they regularly try to refuse having their hair combed/brushed? I mean, it has to get done or it just gets worse (they both have longish straight hair) but my 5yo daughter would probably jump off a cliff rather than have it done most days.

    • Lindsey says...

      I’m not a mom, but why not frame it as a choice she gets to make about her body?
      You could offer her a decision between having long hair and the responsibility that comes with that to take of it appropriately or the opportunity to get a bob or pixie cut that would require less maintenance. Obviously, you would need to ask in a way that makes sense to her but by five I suspect she would have an opinion about which option she would prefer.

    • Marg says...

      I don’t have girls (just two boys) but I took a parenting class recently where this came up. The advice given was to accept that it will take a long time to brush their hair…. like seriously long time…. because every time they say stop you should stop, and repeat the mantra ‘stop means stop’…. reading this back I’m not sure if it helps but sharing the info anyway….

    • Shannah says...

      I’m the mom to 3 girls, though they’re still young – 3.5 years old, and 1 year old twins. I think that with brushing hair, it’s in the “taking care of your body” category, and until they can do it themselves, it’s our responsibility to help them with that. Maybe say something like, “your hair belongs to you, but until you can take care of it all by yourself, I will help you with it”, and of course give them as much autonomy in doing it themselves as they can. Like teeth brushing – I let my daughter take a brush, and then I do a brush, even if she reeeeeally doesn’t want me to, because she just isn’t quite able to do a very thorough job herself yet. But I agree, it always feels like I’m being a little violating when she fights it, even when I’m being as respectful as I can.

    • Amy says...

      Ohhh, good question. I’m laughing because I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’m also not laughing because I understand how this relates to the topic at hand.

    • Amy says...

      Boy mom, here, but our son has hair that’s constantly tangled. We’ve approached it a couple of ways. We treat combed hair as hygiene; you must be clean, and here’s why, and it’s my job as a parent to see to that, just like making sure you’re fed. We also point out that if hair gets TOO tangled it will have to be cut to remove the tangle. Enter the choice – would you like to have long hair, and keep it tidy, or would you like to try short hair? There are tons of cute short cuts on Pinterest; she may go for that if it means saying goodbye to the brush!

    • Miriam says...

      I remember my own Mum giving me a choice when I whined & protested getting my long hair brushed. She would say “If you aren’t willing to let me brush your hair then I’m happy to let you get it cut. Its up to you but if you want to have long hair then you need to allow me to brush it. ” Of course it does mean you have to be willing to follow through if they want to get it cut. I did decide to get a cute bob when I was about 6!

    • Heather says...

      I am the mom of two girls! My oldest is three and a half and I we use the same words that she bosses her body. When it’s time to brush hair (or teeth, or get dressed etc.) we first let her do it herself, when she’s done we finish the job. I feel like that gives her a little ownership. If she runs away, we usually tell her two things 1) we can cut her hair if she’d rather not brush it/ put it in a ponytail. If she wants it long, she has to take care of it. Obviously we can’t use that language with teeth or getting in Jammie’s so instead we have to remind her of consequences. The consequences are positive or negative. If she runs away or plays when brushing teeth the consequences are that we have no time for a lot of bedtime stories. If she brushes well, good consequences of plenty of time for stories and healthy teeth.

      I feel like it’s super important to teach her she controls her actions and her body.

    • Em says...

      I agree…I’m curious about the language used when you need to cut their nails/brush their teeth, etc…would love a follow up on dealing with that.

    • Samantha says...

      There’s a saying where I come from that losely translates to “if you want nice hair, you gotta take the pain”. It’s something that Dominican moms always say to their kids. If I didn’t wanna deal with my mom doing my hair (I had SO much hair, and curly), then I would get a bob. And that’s just how it went. You’ll end up having to cut it anyway if they never allow you to detangle their hair.

    • Abesha1 says...

      My 4 yr old son has long, intensely curly hair. He’s told he can get it cut anytime he decides not to let me comb it. He’s actually asked me to get the scissors more than once, but then changed his mind! Loves his curls.

      RE the pediatrician above, we say the Dr is allowed to touch whatever they need to touch, but we’ll discuss it before they do.

    • Michaela says...

      Would you let her have short hair? My daughter has chosen a shorter style over frequent tangles and literal pain of combing it out. She is 4 and clearly understands her choice.

  81. Leah says...

    You have the best blog. This is so important, thank you.

  82. Stephanie says...

    I have a toddler and was initially surprised when we took him to the pediatrician and she seemed to skip or not complete evaluations of certain areas of his body if he was resisting or seemed upset. We’ve been back half a dozen times for his routine well child visits now, and I realize that this may in fact have been her way of modeling consent. After all, she and I spend the whole appointment talking about his health and she asks repeatedly if anything is on my mind or seems atypical for him. I know every inch of him through caring for his daily needs and will know if something seems wrong. Furthermore, he enjoys these visits and isn’t building an association between going to the doctor and coercion or discomfort. Hopefully that helps him be an active participant in his healthcare down the line.

    • Angela says...

      Our pediatrician is the same way and, since he is an adult male, I especially appreciate it. And at my son’s 3 year we’ll check, he actually asked my son if Mommy and Daddy had talked to him about his body, private areas, and saying no. I really appreciate that he, as a health care provider, was on board with empowering my son, being respectful, and coming alongside parents as a partner in this.

      All that being said, we have told my son that because the doctor is there to help keep him healthy and because, at his age, I’m still in the room with him, it is okay to let the doctor perform physical examinations of his private areas. While I want my son to remain in control and to be comfortable, I do understand that the doctor is qualified in ways I am not to assess his physical health. I want my son to understand this as well.

  83. Erica H. says...

    Great tips. Thank you!!!

  84. Yes! ??

  85. My little guy is only 6 months old, so this hasn’t really come up (and I honestly haven’t thought about it yet), but I LOVE this approach. Such good tips and I definitely hope to take a similar approach when the time comes.

  86. Lana says...

    I recently read that a good way to show your kids that no means no is that if you are tickling them and they are laughing and telling you to stop, you stop immediately.

    • sarah says...

      Totally agree. I personally despise tickling and always have– even as a very small child. I have distinct memories of gulping for air as my aunts or uncles tickled me. My kids are the opposite and are so disappointed that I never want to tickle them.

      Great topic.

  87. Hannah says...

    I think this is such an important issue. It really encourages communication between parents and kids. I wish that my mom had used tactics like this. I come from a really conservative Mormon family, and I was abused when I was 14 by a cousin, but I never told my mom about it until 10 years later. She asked me why I didn’t tell her immediately after it happened, and it was hard to say that I never felt comfortable talking to her about sex, or anything in that realm. That stuff was always just off-limits in our house. If I have kids in the future, I’ll definitely try to be more open about those topics.

    • Samantha says...

      I’m really sorry you had to go through that. I was abused when I was 13 but I never said anything because I thought it was my own fault, even though I said no and tried to push that person away from me. By the time I realized what happened I guess it was too late to do anything about it and telling my mom would be like hurting her for no reason, so I’ve kept it to myself. If I have kids I wanna make sure to teach them that even if a “friend” wants to do something you don’t want, and even if you like them, that doesn’t mean there’s consent. That’s something I didn’t know at a time.

  88. Nicky says...

    Such good advice! When i’m with my boyfriend’s nephews who I don’t see very often, I often ask for a high five when we’re saying good-byes and never pressure them to give me hugs, even when their mom asks them to (she doesn’t pressure them either – just asks). I remember always feeling awkward when my mom made me do that to our relatives and to this day I never want to hurt people’s feelings so I feel so obliged. I wouldn’t want my kids to have to do that.

  89. lana says...

    I wish this was something that was discussed when I was a kid. After being molested as a child by a close relative, I empowered my children to be aware and strong enough to say no, that’s not good and be able to communicate it with them and me.

  90. Kara says...

    Our twin boys asked the classic “where do babies come from” when they were 5, I believe. Maybe 4! And then they had follow-up questions. So we answered them! Some folks seem appalled that they know the basics of sex/where babies come from at such a young age but it took the mystery out of it for them and we wanted to be truthful (we used correct terminology while also remaining as age-appropriate as possible). However, while reinforcing that they should come to us with any questions, and telling them we’d answer them all, we also reinforced that it wasn’t something they should talk about at school or with their friends. Just like bodies, we said, it’s private and fine for mom, dad and their pediatrician to answer questions, but it’s not something to bring up with their playmate down the street. (Hopefully this takes care of misinformation and upset parents who haven’t had the talk with their kiddos yet.) :)

    • Love your advice! Check out
      http://www.birds-bees.com
      for great educational training videos for parents on how to talk to their kids about the birds and the bees!

  91. Sara says...

    Fantastic post! I’ve always been a big proponent of not forcing kids to hug their relatives goodbye, especially with my nieces and nephew that I only see a few times a year. That can be so overwhelming for a little kid!

  92. this is so smart, and i think these ideas need to get out there more. thanks for writing this.

  93. L.M. says...

    Yes, yes, yes. I have three boys (10, 8, and 6) and I feel like this is so important. Also, modeling asking and stopping. “Do you want to be tickled?” “It looks like you’re not having fun anymore. I’ll stop.” I also have boundaries about kissing (on the cheeks, not the lips—I know other families do that differently) and I enforce them with my VERY affectionate youngest boy. I like that our pediatrician tells my kids why she needs to examine their private parts, and that it’s only ok because she’s a doctor and I’m in the room too. Finally, I wish my kids would be more consent-minded when tackling each other!

  94. Meg says...

    Great post, and so important! One more thing we do in my family: my three kids like to roughhouse with each other and my husband and me (tickling, tackling, etc.), but if someone says “stop” or “don’t” we stop immediately, especially with tickling – no delay, no teasing, no pretending not to hear. Record-scratch-style.

    My husband and I talked about that as a way to model consent when the kids were toddlers, and we have always been really firm about it (way more consistent than lots of our other parenting goals!! HA!) Sometimes we say something to reinforce like “yep, we always stop when someone says stop,” or intervene when we notice one of them not following the rule (which happens of course!), but honestly I think it has made more of an impact that we as parents always modeled the behavior.

    I think it has really affected the way the kids play, and it doesn’t dampen the fun at all. Often the sibling being tickled (or hit with a pillow…or trapped between couch cushions…) will say stop, but then immediately laugh and say, “keep going!!” It’s a great lesson for them about being the boss of their bodies, and it’s super important to learn that even if it seems to you that another person is having fun, if they say stop, that’s non-negotiable!

    • Emma says...

      I really appreciate this! My boyfriend’s niece is 3, and both he and other members of the family roughhouse with her a lot. She loves it, but she will also yell ‘STOP STOP’ while giggling hysterically. I thought about this post, and about when I was raped–I said stop, and the guy (more physically powerful than me) did not stop. I brought up this connection between roughhousing and consent and my bf was initially kind of resistant. But I suggested that he didn’t need to stop everything (or never roughhouse in the first place), but just PAUSE and check in when she’s protesting. I think that resonated more–that I wasn’t saying “no, don’t play with your niece” but just “make sure this is still fun/enjoyable for her.” I noticed him doing this the other day and of course she WAS having fun and was immediately like “keep going!” but how great to feel heard and have a say in the matter. I also feel like this is important for teaching kids to respect the body autonomy of adults–if we don’t listen when kids say ‘stop,’ why would they stop when asked to stop pulling your hair (or whatever)?

      This sort of thing is also very helpful when teaching children how to interact with animals (like, do YOU want to get poked in the eye? Because maybe the cat doesn’t either…).

  95. e says...

    Love this! A bit off topic: I loved the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers growing up and started watching it with my 4 year old son the other day for the first time in years…and quickly decided to turn it off….definitely not a movie that reinforces the concept of consent.

    • Lisa says...

      All those sobbin’ women…

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, yes!! my mom and i used to love that movie, but i saw part of it the other day and was shocked!

  96. Erin Quinn says...

    A friend of mine has conversations with her 4-year-old daughter frequently about how adults should never ask kids to keep secrets. They can ask you to help with a surprise (like a birthday present) but never a secret.

    • Brianna says...

      This is so important. I don’t think parents should shield their kids from real life either. I’m not saying you should expose your kids to dangerous situations, but don’t lie to them. Explain things to them on their level. If they’ve got a sick parent/grandparent/other relative, put it in their perspective. This applies at any age.

  97. Kim says...

    This video comparing and discussing consent to a “cup of tea” is great when kids are older. I watched this video with all 3 of my boys as of age 12 yrs. Good analogy and good discussion (youngest is now 12 yrs).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGoWLWS4-kU

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes!!!! so so good, kim!

  98. omg I love this so much. as I was reading I kept thinking, “ooh I want to comment on that!” “and that!” and that!” the whole thing is a great read and I am excited to adopt all of these tips into my parenting repertoire! thanks for the info :)

  99. I really like the idea of not pouting! I had never thought of that before! And the boss of your own body is great. Kids definitely know the boss concept! ;)

  100. Karen says...

    Love this post <3

  101. My friend taught me the phrase “If someone isn’t having fun, we/you have to stop.” I use it all the time. I like that it doesn’t require anyone to say “No,” but puts the responsibility on everyone to stop when someone isn’t on board.

  102. danielle says...

    This is an excellent post about an important topic. Well done.

  103. Audrey F says...

    I love this post- thank you! My son is 11 months and so we’re just starting to navigate these types of topics. Great advice.

  104. As the mom of an almost-3-year-old I so love these posts you do! At this age, it wasn’t even something I’d really thought about but appreciate the ideas and suggestions!

  105. Heather says...

    Thank you for this post! As a teacher-to-be I’ve been thinking a lot about thoughtful ways to bring lessons on healthy boundaries and consent into the classroom. I love the ‘boss of your body’ approach for empowering children about their bodies and learning to respect other’s bodily autonomy. High five Joanna, I’m looking forward to seeing more awesome posts like this from the Cup of Jo team! :D

  106. Kim says...

    Thank you!!

  107. Logan says...

    I’m a teacher so showing affection is a bit different (I always ask or let kid initiate but I never refuse since it might be the only hug they get that day) but one of the teachers I work with does “hug, high five, or hello” with her students when the arrive each morning. More often than not, they choose hug but it’s a great way to show kids it’s their choice while also showing them the teacher cares.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s really sweet, logan. you sound like such a great teacher.

  108. Kelsey says...

    I love this! Such small and deliberate changes in the way that we speak to children as they grow can totally shape their understanding of hugely important things. Your boys are lucky to have such a consciously loving mom, Joanna!

  109. Ashley D says...

    I am not a parent nor do I plan on being one however I think this article is awesome and will be sharing it with my brothers and sisters who do have children.

  110. This post is fantastic. I am SO guilty of, when friends’ babies don’t want to cuddle, begging for kisses, but I won’t anymore! This makes so much sense to me. I don’t have my own children yet, but I hope and intend to raise them with the same open and comfortable dialogue as you. Thanks for passing along tips :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, that really opened my eyes, too!

  111. Sally says...

    I come at it from a similar but different angle.
    I don’t have my own children, but I’m the UK equivalent of a kindergarten teacher. At that age, the children do tend to want to snuggle with me or give me hugs. Sometimes I’m okay with it, and other times I just want to get on with my stuff.
    When that happens, I say something like “I like that you feel safe with me, but at the moment I’d prefer not to be touched.” I find being very clear and direct about what I want models it well to them. I show them the same respect by never taking their hand to hold, unless they initiate it. If I want them close to me, I do it with my words. “At the moment, I need to you stay with me. You can hold my hand if you want, but if you don’t want to, just walk next to me.”

  112. Megan says...

    I love this and found myself nodding to everything here (our boys are 2 and almost 4) — and will add the “you’re the boss of your body” phrase for good measure. Thank you for sharing on this important topic.

  113. Margaret says...

    Consent is so important! I would love to read a post about your sons consenting to having their childhoods memorialized on the internet.

    • Julie says...

      In the past, Joanna has posted about not sharing certain things about her family — that some things aren’t her story to tell. I think she demonstrates respect toward her sons in doing so. But writing about/sharing photos of children is a complex decision, for sure!

  114. Lauren says...

    Thanks for this post! My husband I were talking about a similar idea yesterday. Our daughter is 1 and we have both found ourselves accidentally playing games with her that are fun but don’t reinforce the idea of “no means no” (e.g., when she reaches out to touch us with food-covered hands, I sometimes laugh and saying “no, ew” but obviously not seriously…and let her touch me before saying no again – when I write it out that’s so clearly a bad game but it is surprisingly easy to do!). We decided to be more thoughtful in our language around play and were brainstorming other ways we want to be intentional around confidence, standing up for herself, and saying no. For example, I’m going to stop saying “I’m sorry” when I mean “excuse me” I agree that language is powerful and have found this made more clear seeing my daughter build her understanding of language – and having such an ability to influence that! I really appreciate the concrete advice.

  115. Kit says...

    I don’t have kids, but the teens I work with – They heard all the time “use a condom” but didn’t really know more, so we went over checking expiration dates, feeling for air and no holes, and how to properly roll one on a penis. I also do a lot of fun True or False quizzes about STIs, HIV, and pregnancy myths/facts that brings up great questions and discussion.

    I’ve found that the biggest barrier to girls is them not wanting to seem weird for stopping to put on a condom, insisting on using a (flavoured) condom for casual oral sex, or asking if something’s okay before doing it to partner. I try to normalize those pauses as much as possible, like *eeeeeveryone’s* doing it.

  116. Stephanie says...

    This is really insightful! I have two boys as well, same ages as your. We have been A LOT of conversations about bodies and life. Seriously, my 6 year old blows my mind and kinda freaks me out sometimes with all of his questions and observations. So that you for this piece. I will be keeping this in mind the next time something comes up, which will probably be tonight. :)

    • Ha, kids always seem to ask questions sooner than you think! Check out http://www.birds-bees.com
      for some great educational training on how to talk (and keep talking) to your kids about the birds and the bees starting at a young age.

  117. Lindsey says...

    I love the “boss” idea. But as a nanny, this can be really difficult sometimes, when the mother of the 3 year old a watch asks me to give him a bath before she gets home, and he doesn’t feel like a bath, I don’t want him to be the boss. Or when he wants to put on his own shoes but it takes him 5 minutes to do so, and we are already late for picking up His brother, I would prefer he not be the boss. If hygiene and time were no issue, this would be a lot easier.

    • Meredith says...

      I usually tell my kids that some things for the family are non-negotiable, but how we do it is. It’s not negotiable to take a bath, but because it’s your body you can decide if you want me to do the soap or you can. It’s non-negotiable to get your shoes on, but because it’s your body you can do it yourself or I can do it for you. I think this works well with the doctor’s office, too. Check-ups and shots are non-negotiable, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have any choices about your body in those situations. Once, though, the doctor asked if my then 4-year-old minded she did a public check. My daughter said she didn’t want one, and because it had been framed as a question I backed up my daughter and just said that we’d have to wait until the next visit when it might not be negotiable. Many things with our bodies we are the boss of, but some things are non-negotiable and kids can learn the difference at a pretty young age. Good luck with the little one’s you are watching!

    • Stephanie says...

      We use the “you are the boss of your body” approach and have run into similar issues. For bathing I try to tell my daughter, I need your body to be clean, would you prefer a bath or a shower? Or would you like me to shampoo your hair or would you like to do it? It’s not a perfect solution, but does give them back some of the control.

    • Ashley says...

      This was my reaction as well! I have a 2.5-year-old, and there are times when I have to be the boss of his body — like you, mainly for hygiene reasons. As he gets older, this will naturally become less of an issue, but for now, while I love this post and agree with most of what’s here, I can’t be as clear and direct as Joanna is.

  118. Lisa says...

    Such a helpful post. I’m only starting to get into this (my son is 14 months) but I think it’s best to start young. It’s also so different from how I grew up – I remember absolutely hating being tickled, but not having the ability to stop someone (who was bigger and stronger) from doing it.
    On the greeting thing (that someone raised above), it is a fine line. I remember one time running past my aunt to go and play, instead of greeting her (with two kisses – she’s French). She gave me such a taking to afterwards even now (around 30 years later!) I’m too scared not to kiss her. It wasn’t that I was uncomfortable kissing her, I was just too focused on the fun to be engaged in social niceties

    • Kate says...

      My in-laws are French, and I’m starting to think about how we’ll approach the commonplace practice of kissing hello and goodbye with my son as he grows older. As you say, people really take it personally if you decline to greet someone in this way!

  119. Alexandra says...

    Just wanted to say I love this post—thank you for sharing!

  120. Becka says...

    This is so thoughtful! It makes so much sense that these early examples of being able to exercise control over the level of affection and physical touch you want (whether it’s a hug to a distant relative or cuddles with your parent) shapes the way you respect others’ boundaries throughout your life. Thank you!

  121. Thank you so much for sharing this! This is such an important thing to talk to kids about and I think it can actually make it easier if you start these conversations when kids are young, rather than waiting until they are older and more likely to feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. My son is only twelve months old but I already try to use appropriate body part names and talk to him clearly when it comes to diapering, hygiene, etc. I also let him choose if he wants to wave, high five, hug or nothing at all when it comes to greeting family and friends.

  122. I think these are really great ways of teaching kids consent. I never had a choice growing up, hugging relatives etc, and while I never thought much about it as a kid, it would have been much more enjoyable to give affection if it was genuine. With my nieces and nephews now, I ask them if I can have a hug and never force it. When they give you a hug, it means they wanted to. <3

    http://www.shessobright.com

  123. Sarah King says...

    Great post — something I don’t think about enough. The pout part really opened my eyes!

  124. teresa says...

    Wow! Thanks for the insight. My kids are a bit older now (youngest is 10) and these are great parenting tips that I wish I had thought of or heard about when my kids were toddlers. Some things seem too complicated to talk about with younger kids, but these are great examples of how to naturally integrate the concept of respect in our day to day life early on. Thanks again!

  125. Sally says...

    Yes! Thank you fir sharing. We’ve been having similar conversations with our daughter (now 4.5) for awhile, too. It’s so wonderful to see her empowered to make decisions about her body at a young age.

    We have also liked these books:

    Miles is the Boss of His Body
    https://www.amazon.com/Miles-Boss-His-Body-Safety/dp/0989407136?SubscriptionId=AKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q&tag=duckduckgo-iphone-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=0989407136

    It’s Not the Stork (comprehensive and approachable and has a nice section on consent):

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0763633313/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493054674&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=its+not+the+stork&dpPl=1&dpID=618RwRFU3ML&ref=plSrch

    • Susan Magnolia says...

      Thank you for the book recommendations!

      Bravo Cup of Jo on this post!

    • ilana says...

      I agree- It’s Not the Stork is a great age appropriate book for the 4-8 set and has a good section on consent.
      As a former sex crimes prosecutor, I know that teaching my daughter how to speak openly and confidently about her body makes her less of target for abuse.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for these recs!!

  126. Rebecca says...

    Yes! Such an important topic. Key to realize we can teach consent to boys AND girls from a young age without having to get into the more complicated issues surrounding sex. Here’s another great piece on it: http://www.seattleschild.com/Lets-talk-consent/

  127. Liz says...

    The “don’t pout” is soo hard, especially with a 5 year old who used to BEG for smooches. He used to say “kiss me fast, mommy!” and I’d cover his chubby little cheeks with dozens kisses as fast as I could while he giggled his heart out. Now I’m the one asking for a kiss and he’s like “maybe later dude!” :(

    • Amy says...

      Try reinforcing your love for it when he DOES choose to give a kiss or hug. As in, “thank you so much for that kiss! I love getting love from you – it reminds me of ‘fast kisses’ when you were a baby!” Our kids are all more conscientious and willing to show affection when they know it really makes us happy, and it isn’t just a habit. And the younger ones love hearing about when they were babies

  128. brittany says...

    love this post! such a good thing to talk about at a young age. i also think using and teaching the correct terms for body parts is important too!

    xo, brittany
    http://www.notablob.com

  129. Good for you, Joanna, for being straight-forward with explanations, and respectful of your kids’ feelings, and teaching them to feel empowered over their bodies! I think these are great tips that are relevant to parents/caregivers of kids of all ages. I don’t have kids myself, but will keep these tips in mind for the time being with the kids I nanny.

  130. Caitlin says...

    So great to read this as a new mom to a five month old boy who is starting to think about how to talk about these things later. Regarding your boys noticing tampons, how much detail do you go in to for things like that?

    • Amy says...

      My mom never hid tampons from us, and when asked, she would say, “mommies bleed once a month.” Honestly I knew about it literally my entire life, from before my earliest memories, so it never seemed weird or scary. I guess we never asked any questions beyond that, because she didn’t explain the whole ovulation part until we were probably 8-9 years old. I feel like my childlike mind put it in the same category as “daddies shave their faces”.

    • Samantha says...

      My 3.5 year old son just knows that ‘mommy sometimes has blood’ — his words. I agree with the previous poster that true and brief is the best way to describe this stuff to kids. It is not weird to him at all, because he is learning about everything and it all just seems like new information to him. He did ask if it hurts me once, because to him blood means a scraped knee. I just told him that it does not hurt me, (which is true for me, I don’t get cramps ever). I do ask for privacy when I have to change my tampon, but honestly, privacy in the bathroom is not something that I always get with a 3 and a 1 year old.

    • Beth says...

      I say “It’s like a diaper for mommies that catches blood that comes out once a month. But don’t worry, it’s not a lot of blood and doesn’t hurt that much.” The not hurting thing is obviously a stretch, but you don’t want them thinking the whole thing is scarier than it is! ;) My 6 and 4 year olds have been completely satisfied with this explanation so far. My 4 year old sometimes finds a tampon and asks if it’s “for the blood.” I say, “yep!” And he’s already on to the next thing.

  131. BW says...

    I like this topic. I think it segues nicely into discussing (directly) that it’s not ok for anyone besides a doctor to touch a child’s private parts. I read that you don’t tell a child to look both ways before crossing the street just once; it’s something you reinforce. Talking about the issue would also presumably make it more likely that your child will feel comfortable telling you if they were ever abused or confused about an interaction. I didn’t tell my parents when I was harmed as a kid until several years afterward, and I understand that now because that kind of topic was off-limits in my house. (Also, they didn’t address the issue when I did tell them, which I must have unconsciously anticipated!) It’s hard enough to bring something like that up, much less if your parents signal that uncomfortable topics like that shouldn’t be discussed by never discussing them. It’s hard to talk about this stuff with my young daughter but I do because I want her to know she can bring it up with me too.

    • mwhitsel says...

      This is my first time commenting and I’m doing so because this is such an important topic. I work with elementary kids and have taken part in “Darkness to Light” training which deals with childhood sexual trauma. One of the main takeaway points for me was that we need to teach kids the CORRECT names for body parts and APPROPRIATE expectations for physical interaction. If kids aren’t armed with this knowledge it complicates any reporting or confiding of inappropriate interaction. If a kid can’t name a body part in reporting or uses a more subjective name that the confidante doesn’t recognize it can be overlooked or dismissed, but less so if they have the recognizable vocabulary.

      I also love that this can be tied into teaching consent, something we need to get better at as a society.

    • Yes! We need to replace “the talk” with several age-appropriate conversations with our kids. Sex and body parts are not taboo – parents need to start talking and keep talking!
      http://www.birds-bees.com

  132. Tania says...

    What a wonderful perspective, thank you. I was upset when my twelve year old boy (now 13) stopped wanting to be kissed and I didn’t realize I should “let it go”. I will now respect him and not force it. Thank you.

  133. lomagirl says...

    My five-year-old is at an interesting stage. I’m not supposed to look at him when he gets into the bath- but I can towel him dry, afterwards. He had an issue with his penis this weekend, and his older brother shut him down when he mentioned it. I asked my 11-year-old not to do that- but maybe to just direct him to talk to me about it. The 11yo doesn’t want to hear about it, which I have to respect, too.
    I also read somewhere that it is really important to use the terms “penis” and “vagina” with kids. That gives them the correct language to use in being the “boss of their bodies!”
    Thanks for writing about this!

  134. Laura B says...

    A MILLION TIMES YES. Thank you.

  135. Lisa says...

    What a thoughtful post. My son is 14 now and we have expanded the conversation, obviously. Recently we have actually been talking about “yes”. In the event that you don’t hear someone say “no”, you need to hear a clear YES. There is no room for ambiguity in conversations about consent.

    • Abbie says...

      Ohhh, what a great point. Thanks for sharing.

    • teresa says...

      That is a great way to look at it!

    • Eliza says...

      This is great! I think it’s important to normalize asking permission for giving affection. I think a lot of people grow up thinking its not romantic to ask if you can give someone a (romantic) kiss (and etc. ) and that is more romantic to “steal” a kiss, as shown in every show and movie, but love and romance should also be respectful!

  136. Liz says...

    “does it seem like the baby likes it when you squeeze her? Her face looks upset. That means you need to stop right away.”

    Haha, so cute. Loved reading this post.

  137. Jill says...

    This is so interesting Joanna, and I love how you’re raising your boys to be such thoughtful, empathetic young men. But the point around asking first for hugs vs high fives gave me pause.

    There’s something to be said for teaching kids what the ‘normal’ physical interaction is for a situation – e.g. saying goodbye to an elder relative you respect? Give them a hug. As a grown woman, I hilariously still struggle with this sometimes – when do I shake hands with someone? Should I give male friends a kiss on the cheek or a quick hug when I say hello? It’s so reassuring to just know what the most universally accepted interaction is. Letting kids ‘opt in’ to these normal physical rituals like hugs makes sense on one level, but it also makes something quite normal and non-controversial into more of a big deal than I think it needs to be. Of course, we need to teach kids about consent and good-touch vs bad-touch, but is opting out of hugs the best way to do that? Made me think!

    • I totally see your point, Jill. I think in the end, I’d most want my (future) kids to feel like they could choose what the appropriate greeting/goodbye was for them. For instance, I love my uncles but would prefer to hug one of them rather than get a wet kiss on the cheek. My parents were affectionate with my brother and me growing up by giving us lots of hugs, but kisses were weird to me. In the same vein, another one of my uncles, completely well-meaning and great with kids, loved to be the “tickle monster.” At first the game was fun, but then I felt like my requests for the game to be over weren’t listened to and I’d eventually have to go seek refuge near my parents who would have to ask my uncle to stop on my behalf. Neither of these situations happened frequently, and they weren’t terrible, but knowing I had more autonomy over my body — and that I should enforce others respect my choices — would’ve helped!

    • Allegra says...

      I think the whole point was/is that there ISN’T any one, specific “normal way to say goodbye to an elder relative”. Not all people like hugs even if they respect their elders, and kids should not be forced to do that if they don’t want to. And just because it feels “the normal way” to you, does not mean that it’s the only acceptable way to behave. You are free to show them what feels comfortable to you in these situations, but requiring kids to repeat the same gesture that you prefer for yourself is where the line should be drawn, in my opinion.

      I myself have no problems hugging anyone I have any positive feelings towards, but I totally understand that not everyone is the same way when it becomes to touching other people.

    • Eliza says...

      I also think some forms of affection are normalized by how we were raised. My parents kissed me on the cheeks and still kiss me on the cheeks. I have one aunt who is a lip kisser; She’ll kiss my grandma, my mom (her sister), my dad (her brother-in-law) on the lips and everyone is okay with it! This strikes me as funny and weird (but not inappropriate) and she gives me and most of the nieces and nephews a kiss on the cheek; however if I was raised in a lip kissing family maybe it wouldn’t be funny or weird to me and I’d go around lip kissing and being the weird funny one! BUT, I don’t initiate many hugs to anyone other than my parents and my siblings but I often gladly receive hugs from non-related people who are huggers, or I give hugs out of obligation because I’ve hugged one person so now i need to hug the rest of the group! Platonic/familial casual affection is a peculiar thing for me to navigate.

    • M says...

      Agree with you here completely, Jill.

  138. Katie says...

    Thank you so much for this article. As a mother of a two year old with another boy coming in just a few weeks, I spend a lot of timing thinking (and worrying) about consent. I really like the thoughts behind these ideas…especially Don’t Pout. I too am guilty of putting on a little show of faux disappointment when my son doesn’t want to give a hug or kiss, but it makes total sense how this could be harmful.

    On a similar note, I would love it if anyone had advice for dealing with a slightly younger child who is just starting to understand physical boundaries. My son just turned two and loves to show affection to myself, husband, dog and favourite toys by giving a kiss on the mouth (it kind of took me by surprise when he first started it, but I find it really sweet). At the park he has leaned over and tried to kiss another child on two separate occasions. I picked him up and told him that we don’t kiss other children, because they might not be comfortable with that…but I have to admit it seemed to go over his head. I really like the “boss of your own body” idea for slightly older kids, but does anyone have ideas for dealing with younger toddlers and consent?

    • Maria says...

      Try searching on Janet lansbury.com. She’s got some great posts aimed at babies and toddlers. What may be helpful is acknowledging the behavior and your child’s feelings about showing affection in a matter of fact attitude, which can be challenging of course. I find that even with the slightest bit of uneasiness in my delivery, my kids pick up on it and repeat the behavior over and over.

  139. Eleanor says...

    Joanna, what a beautiful post! I don’t even have kids– and won’t for a while, I haven’t even graduated college yet!– but this post is so inspiring and refreshing to me. As a university student, the topic of “consent” comes up a lot, but the conversation is usually focused on what the aggressor (that’s the best word I can think of) should NOT be doing rather than what everyone else SHOULD be doing. That’s what I love about this. It gives us an important and simple role.
    Also, I just love the concept of not be “grossed out” by any parts of anyone’s bodies– it really helps create more comfort and self-esteem I think!
    Well done. I look forward to more posts like this in the future :)

  140. Eleanor says...

    As a person who understands having consent trivialized, I SO appreciate this post. My son is 1.5 now and I’m already thinking – ‘how are we going to make sure he never has questions about what is right?’ Especially in pressure situations it can be hard for kids to make the right choices. Older kids, younger kids, doesn’t matter. It’s important to give them clear rules and a voice to enforce their own. Thank you.

  141. Katie says...

    Love this! Thank you!

  142. YES! This is such a great list. We’ve really tried to talk a lot about other people’s bodies, respecting space and asking if X “wants to play that game?” which seems so necessary with rough and tumble toddlers, but I hope is laying a good foundation for future behavior.

    We had a proud parenting moment recently:
    (Very kind!) ER Dr: “So I heard your pee-pee hurts when you wee wee?”
    Our three year old had no idea what he was talking about and responded “Actually, my testicle is hurting me sometimes.”
    ha. (and he was ok in the end, fyi!)

    • LOVE

    • Sil says...

      I loved it!

  143. Brooke says...

    A few things – I have a 2 yr old boy and since he’s so little, we haven’t talked much about this – other than teaching him his body parts with anatomically correct names..
    ..and he may or may not have seen me using a tampon, then took a new one and waddled around with it between his legs…. 0_0

    When he gets older will he try to use the “it’s my body” tactic for things like brushing his teeth, wearing certain clothes, eating his dinner? How do you as parents designate that on some things Mom and Dad have control over what you do with your body?
    Also here are a couple more similar themed books I have saved on Amazon:
    1. (for those who are religious) https://www.amazon.com/dp/1942572301/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pd_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=7IZ25XKZKYM1&coliid=I1RWOHCUSTM1TZ

    2. https://www.amazon.com/Said-Guide-Keeping-Private-Parts/dp/1878076493/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=1878076493&pd_rd_r=0MBN8PKM6C3ZSZSZDVHP&pd_rd_w=LiN56&pd_rd_wg=b5jIS&psc=1&refRID=0MBN8PKM6C3ZSZSZDVHP

    • Lib says...

      Yes! My four year old has totally turned the “boss of my body” on me to his benefit. “My ears don’t feel like listening to you when you tell me what to do”, etc. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so infuriating. We designate safety as separate. I will tell him to hold my hand in a parking lot, and explain that there’s a safety-related reason that I’m asking him to do something with his body. (Also key – I still ask. If he doesn’t hold my hand we won’t be able to go, but it’s still his choice.)

    • Michaela says...

      Yes! And at least in our family it has been a really good way to examine our values and what is truly important to us. The first time this came up was my then 4 year old son saying “you don’t respect my body” when I tried to force him into a haircut. We dropped the issue and later he decided his longer hair was annoying when swimming and got a cut. We also let our kids choose their own clothing as long as it is clean and warm enough – except for special occasions. They have made some choices I would view as questionable fashion-wise (and per social standards – my sons occasionally opts for a dress) – but overall I think they feel respected, supported, and confident having control over how they present themselves. They learn soon enough about the social and other consequences of appearance. We decided to not emphasize this early on, instead valuing self-expression and creativity.

  144. Kelly says...

    Hi Joanna,
    I’m wondering what you think about the issue of consent as it applies to internet privacy. I think it’s really important that you’re teaching your boys about consent as it applies to touching their bodies/other people’s bodies, but what do you think about consent as it applies to posting their bodies/names/information on the internet? Do you ask them if it’s okay before you post? I don’t mean to sound hostile, I’m just a long-time reader of your blog who has always wondered about this issue.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your question! i’ve thought about this so much over the days/weeks/months/years, especially as my blog grew over time from a personal site for friends and family to a bigger site. i could write a book about the subject as it pertains to our family, but to answer more concisely, i think as a parent you make many life decisions for your children when they aren’t able to make the decisions for themselves (or even understand the questions in many cases) — for example, which school they should go to; what risks you’ll allow them to take when it comes to sports, transportation, etc.; where you live; what you tell friends and family about them; if/what religious paths/education they’ll go down; who takes care of them; what TV and movies you allow them to watch; what food they’ll eat; etc. etc. etc. and in this case, i feel comfortable sharing select photos and light-hearted information about them to a demographic i feel is, on the whole, likeminded and warm and wonderful. that said, i’ve chosen to write less and less about them personally as they’ve gotten older and become more individual people, and that’s a big part of why i’ve hired more writers/editors/voices to contribute to the site and started featuring more about different topics (fashion, beauty, food, culture, books, relationships, etc.) instead of focusing on everything from a personal angle. and there are MANY things i don’t and won’t share about my children, including anything i think they might not want me to share as they get older. like with all things parentings, it’s a very personal choice based on the people involved and the situation you’re in and the philosophies and levels of comfort that you have. anyway, i could honestly talk for days about this, and hope this helps answer the question! thank you so much, joanna

    • Caroline says...

      Thanks so much for answering this one Joanna! I, too, have always been curious and wondered about the “how” of what you decide to post about your children (never so much the “why” if that makes sense. Why you choose to post some things and not others is totally for you to decide! But the process of how we make those decisions about what we share- especially on the internet- and about other people is so fascinating.. i think it’s such an interesting conversation as the blogs I read have grown, especially over the last ten years. Gahhh, great answer :) thanks!!! Xoxo

  145. My kids are big huggers and then pouters if someone doesn’t want a hug (they’re 3&5). We’ve been working on asking first, not being disappointed and being ok with someone saying no. I’m going to start using the boss of their own body.

  146. Ask first. Amazing tip. My son is a bit of a hugger and sometimes he can be clingy to other people/kids. This is what I am going to say to him from now on!

    I have been teaching my son to say No. Its so hard as sometimes he says no to me and I have to respect it even when I dont want to. Its a learning process for the both of us.

    Lovely read!