Photography by Shandra Massier
In previous posts, I have written about a caregiver’s responsibility to raise our children in a culture of consent. Imparting these ideals on our children is the only way humanity has a hope of overcoming rape culture.
When we talk about creating a culture of consent, we have to recognize a correlation between the body positive movement and the consent conversation. Taking a step back from both issues, you can see the overlapping themes in both: Respecting our bodies, and respecting the bodies of others.
The two go hand in hand. It doesn’t matter your gender or how you express it, you need to respect yourself and your body; this leads to the unencumbered ability to respect other people’s bodies.
This hunk of flesh and blood is the vessel that we get to occupy while here on earth. We get one body. One life. We need to imprint on our children how vitally important it is to respect and nurture both.
My hope is that if we teach children how special and beautiful their bodies are, they will recognize its sacredness and recognize the sacredness in each individual they meet.
Before we talk about the kids, lets just quickly and honestly talk about ourselves.
I don’t have to remind you that children MODEL everything they see us do. Body positivity is something we MUST teach our children even if WE don’t feel very confidant ourselves, we have to STOP passing down the generational ‘sin’ of hating the beautiful miracle that is our bodies.
We need to respect and appreciate our bodies.
Practice unconditional self-love.
The human body is a wonderous thing. I could seriously rabbit trail here(don’t worry, I won’t) and extol the scientific wonders of what our bodies are capable of. The human body should be the 1st and foremost wonder of the natural world and we need to revere it.
We need to treat our own bodies with the awe and respect it deserves.
…This is hard. Both my husband and I struggle with body image (who doesn’t?) so we try very hard to not let our own insecurities manifest in front of our children. However, we aren’t always successful.
One day Andrew brought me home a box of donuts from my favorite Italian bakery down the road. I jokingly exclaimed “are you trying to make me fat?!” Auggie overheard it and for a quite a while afterward, whenever he would see sweets, would exclaim in the cutest little voice: “are you trying to FAT me?” While undeniably cute, it was hands down NOT the message I wanted my kids to hear.
Since that realization I have decided to ZIP MY LIPS whenever I have a negative criticism of my body trying to burst forth. I have literally had to bite my tongue in order to avoid disparaging myself in front of my kids. Its hard. But it gets easier the more you do it.
We have to stop passing down the ideology that if our body doesn’t fit into one particular mold that we should feel ashamed of it.
I want my kids to know that the size or proportion of the body doesn’t matter. We place an emphasis on healthy eating and activity. Whenever we talk about bodies, it’s with a very pointed explanation that the physical health of the body INSTEAD of the appearance of the body is paramount to a person feeling good about themselves.
The body isn’t a shameful thing.
It is a miracle of nature and I try to impart that awe to my children.
We find that using the anatomically correct words for their private areas is extremely important in this respect. There shouldn’t be a taboo on talking about genitalia or on the body’s various processes (I ask you: what kid doesn’t love talking about poop and pee?).
We look at our bodies from an educational standpoint and we use every opportunity we can to educate our kids on the wondrously scientific ways our bodies function.
If we re-name the vagina a “kootch” or a “pee-pee”, or a “T.O.S” (My grandma’s name for it; I’ve asked around and still can’t figure out how that one came about) we are conveying a sense that there is something improper or shameful, or even scary, and this thing Must Not Be Named. It’s the Voldemort of body parts.
It’s like… if we were embarrassed or anxious about our elbow and started calling it the “crook” or the “hingey-hinge”. It’s silliness.
Say it. Vagina. Penis. Say it without having a red face. Educate your children about the body, without shame.
We need to respect and appreciate other people bodies.
Teach the difference between good touch and bad touch.
Most adults know the difference between good touch and bad touch. Kids? Not so much. They have no concept of physical assault and its ramifications.
I literally had to teach my toddlers to not murder their younger siblings. All you parents know what I’m talking about.
When they are young they have no concept of how their physical actions affect others. Like when Aurora met Auggie for the first time. She was so offended by him nursing on what she viewed as being her property that she walked up to him and sucker punched him right in the soft spot. :/ It’s a good thing 20-month-old’s don’t know how to wind up.
I know your picking up what I’m putting down, cause you’ve all been there.
It’s our job as parents to teach them how NOT to hurt people, and ultimately to be respectful of other people’s bodies.
As soon as my kids started physically interacting with others, I would show them what “gentle” touch looked like and when they were being aggressive would talk about “owie” touches. They need to know that “gentle” touches make people feel loved and comforted, “owie” touches make people feel pain and fear.
We need to give our kids the language to advocate for themselves as well as be able to identify harmful behavior.
Teach children the importance of “please stop”
As soon as my kids started talking I tought them to say: “please stop” with their hand outstretched in front of them. This was more than anything a way to stop the siblings from “over-loving” each other, but it has really helped with their sense of self-autonomy over their bodies.
There should be no “stop and pause” reflex, in these instances. There shouldnt be any sense of, “this person is doing something to me that I don’t like, but they are older/stronger/(any other reason), and so I will stay quiet.” If someone is doing something we don’t want done to our bodies, we should nurture the instinct to protest, vehemently, if needed.
On the same note, they should learn to understand the importance of respecting if another person says: “Please STOP.”
Andrew and I have a lot of conversations with our kids about the importance of respecting another person’s ‘bubble’. Children don’t have any real concept of personal space, so it’s up to us to impart the importance of it.
When the children are all up in each others business, you know how it works. One pokes and prods and the other explodes and all of a sudden your livingroom turns into a UFC cage.
Both parties need to be addressed. First the “instigator”, needs to be asked how they would feel if they were on the other end of the harassment, and second the “exploder” needs to be reminded, instead of a rage reaction, to hold out their hand out and say: PLEASE STOP.
When they are old enough it should become a two-step process: asking the behaviour to stop AND encouraging them to “name the feeling”
i.e: “Please stop(hand outstretched) when you poke me I feel mad” or “when you scream, it hurts my ears” or “when you stick your pinky toe up my nostril, I feel annoyed”.
The moment we can calmly relay how a persons actions make us feel, we can appeal to their sense of empathy.
“Please Stop” lets kids advocate for their space and teaches the importance of personal boundaries.
What do you think? Do you agree with the correlation between creating a culture of consent and body positivity? What ways do you practice body positivity? I would love to hear your thoughts!