Teaching Consent to a 4 Year Old

My children do not have to hug daddy, kiss granny, snuggle mummy, give hugs to aunties or indeed engage in any physical activity they don’t want to. 

This can be quite hard. If I want to give my 4yo a goodnight kiss and she decides that she doesn’t want one I feel like I’ve missed part of the evening, if I drop her off at school and she decides she doesn’t need a hug I feel a bit like I’ve missed a step. I am not alone in feeling like this. I have heard many variations on a theme, both to my daughter and to other children around me: 

‘But you have to kiss daddy, you’ll hurt his feelings.’

‘Give grandma a kiss, she’s driven a long way to see you.’

‘Go and hug aunty, she’s brought you a present.’ 

‘Oh, well if I don’t get a kiss I won’t bring you a present / read you a story again.’

Just think about those sentences in the context of a teenagers life whilst flirting for a second: ‘I’ve bought you a drink, so you have to kiss me.’  See how wrong that sounds? The idea of kissing someone so that you don’t hurt their feelings, or kissing someone so that they don’t feel they’ve missed part of their evening becomes problematic when we’re talking about meaningful consent among teenagers (or older). 

I struggle to understand how we expect our teenagers to hit 13, 14, 15 etc years old and suddenly have the confidence to say no, when we’ve been overriding their wishes when it comes to physical contact for years and years. 

My daughters will never have to kiss or cuddle anyone unless they choose to and I will always back them up if they choose to say no. My 4yo knows that kissing (and hugging, holding hands, tickling etc) is only fun if everyone *wants* to do it. 


4 responses to “Teaching Consent to a 4 Year Old

  1. Pingback: Consent. Again. | kissmeandbequiet

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