At Parenting Power, we believe that the expectations that we set for our kids in the home are the... more
Consent. It’s a word we’re hearing more often these days. It especially started gathering... more
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At Parenting Power, we believe that the expectations that we set for our kids in the home are the ones that they will take out into the larger communities. Since children learn what they live, our job as parents is to be sure that we are modelling, teaching and living the values that we believe are important.
So what does that look like on a daily basis?
That depends on your family. Let’s say that you want your kids to take responsibility for keeping the community clean and safe. That begins at home. If there is litter, we pick it up. We create expectations for our kids to be involved in taking dishes to the dishwasher, cleaning the table, putting garbage in the garbage can, etc.
Once that becomes the norm, we take it out into the community. Perhaps we are picking up litter on a walk or tidying up the chairs after a school performance. When we model and expect responsibility from our children, they learn what they live.
Connection with community, whether it is family, neighbourhood, school or beyond is really about interdependence—sharing your strengths with those who need them and asking for help when you have an area of weakness. This is how we build relationships. This can be a great discussion topic for a family dinner or a car ride, or the holidays. You might ask, ‘What strengths do we have that we can share with our neighbours, school, or team?’ This is a great way to get kids thinking about how they can contribute to the community. Perhaps you will shovel snow, do some baking, drive someone in the community or take a snack to soccer practice.
Getting kids involved in community is as easy as asking the question.
Image of collecting trash from Shutterstock
Consent. It’s a word we’re hearing more often these days. It especially started gathering momentum shortly after the Jian Ghomeshi fiasco hit the news—a story involving alleged non-consensual sexual acts. Consent is a word that’s been a big part of my vocabulary for the last 25 years—thanks to my work counselling clients. Before I provide any therapeutic help, clients need to sign a consent to treatment form after reading the parameters of our relationship and what to expect. Most are not unfamiliar with this protocol. But with this word making headlines and coming to the fore, I was reminded again of how important consent really is, and how it fits in to our day-to-day family lives.
This got me thinking even further about the age at which we deem children capable of giving consent—not only from a legal perspective with professionals but even on an everyday basis with parents. I was especially thinking about the divorced parents who share with me that their child is not happy spending overnights with the other parent, only to be told ‘sorry, but the legal documents say you have to,’ and also reflecting on other words we use and the power we exert when insisting that our children do something that they’d rather not.
If you listen to conversations between parents and their children (yours and mine included), you will no doubt hear lots of examples of a parents imposing something against his or her child’s will. I get that there are daily activities that, given the choice, most kids would prefer not to engage in: brushing teeth, taking a shower, waking up early and going to school, to name a few. I also get that there are decisions that parents need to make and give consent for on behalf of their children that make them pretty unpopular, like ‘Yes, you do need to let the dentist take pictures of your teeth even though it is uncomfortable,’ for example.
However, I’m thinking that there are also times when we disregard our children’s wishes and impose our own on them, when we might not need to. ‘You need to wear gloves. I don’t care what you say. It’s cold outside’, or ‘You will sit here and eat your vegetables even if you have to sit here all night,’ are examples of times when a parent may consider a different approach so that a child can feel more in charge of his or her own body. So, instead of insisting that gloves be worn, let your child’s hands be cold as a reminder for next time that gloves are better worn than left at home. Or, instead of insisting that your child eat everything on their plate and thereby teaching them not to listen to what their body is saying (‘I’ll gag if I eat those green beans’), let your child serve himself food from platters on the table. If he sees you eating green beans, I promise there will come a time when he will try one instead of being turned off beans for the rest of his life after being forced to eat them.
Even though these examples might seem trivial when compared to the kinds of acts that probably come to mind when we think of consent, the takeaway message here is this: if you show respect towards your children by acknowledging their desire to be in charge of their own bodies and that their tastes and needs differ from yours, then they too will not only learn to respect themselves but appreciate you more, too. In addition, if you talk with them about choices and allow them to stand up for what they believe in, then they will be better equipped to make good choices later in life.
The silver lining to all of this shocking news is that a somewhat taboo topic is now out in the open. Parents are springing into discussions with their sons about how to respect girls (and others of course) and to their daughters about how to trust their intuitive selves, how to say no and how to speak up until someone listens (even when they’re afraid to do so).
I urge you, as parents, to consider what you’re modelling in your own relationships. Remain true to your messages about consent by being conscious of how you’re molding your children into respectful and sensitive people by first being respectful and sensitive towards them.
Image of holding hands from Shutterstock.
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