Real life examples of talking to a 5-year-old about consent & coercion
Tuesday, April 18th, 2017
Have you ever heard someone say something along the lines of “you can’t talk to kids about sex. They are too young.”
Or, maybe in your own discussions about talking with your kids about sex you heard something more along the lines of, “let kids be kids, protect their childhood innocence because one day they will learn about the real world!”
In response to those sentiments, let me tell you a short story on consent, a pretty big concept when it comes to sexual and health education, as it applies to a now five-year-old.
Do not get the concept of consent tied up exclusively with sexual activity. That is simply wrong. Consent is allowing someone else to make choices for themselves and you listening & respecting those choices.
To wit, our five-year-old is fierce as hell. She’d be great to follow around with a camera all day long. She is a star who does things that stars do.
I would love to have 1,000 pictures of her doing these things on my wall at work. I wish I had videos of her to remind me of the stuff she says because I am prone to thoughts of “they grow up so fast.” We could all benefit from this.
Aha. But she hates having her picture taken. This is where consent comes in—we don’t take her picture.
We know she doesn’t like having her picture taken because she has told us she does not. So we ask for her permissions every time we would like a picture of her. And then we wait for her answer. She says no. Almost always. She doesn’t even look up at us when we ask. She just continues doing what it is we would like a picture of her doing.
We would love to beg her to change her mind because this moment is so wonderful. So many people would love to see this picture of her. Oh, but that is coercion and that is also wrong. So we don’t take her picture.
Not if she’s singing her favourite song from Moana. Not if she’s flying around like a superhero. Not if she’s giving her sister a hug. Not if she has fallen asleep with a book over her face.
What is more important?
That I have a picture of her casting a magic spell on my phone, or that she knows we will listen to her?
That was rhetorical.
It is her knowing we will listen to her choices. And that she makes those choices for herself.
And so right now we barely ever take pictures of her. Only on those occasions she asks us to or when she says “yeah sure, I’m so cool.”
Look at that. Consent and coercion discussions with a five-year-old. Completely age appropriate, completely simple, and completely a foundation for us to have more discussions about other sexual and health education as she grows up.
You can have these conversations. You need to have these conversations.