"Ask If She Wants a Hug." Teaching Kids Yes Means Yes
My littlest nanny kid is crazy cute. They're all cute of course but June Bug gets lots of attention for her beyond adorable curls, bright eyes and round cheeks. Everybody wants to hug her.
She gets sick of it.
Junie does not owe anyone hugs because she's cute.
I want all the kids to receive the message from me that they are in charge of their own bodies. That they're not obligated to hug or kiss anyone, regardless of social pressure to do so.
Others should ask her and wait for a "yes" before they move in for a hug.
It's hard for my other nanny kids to resist the urge to hug her. But they've learned to ask, "can I hug you?" and wait to hear her answer. This rule extends to others too - little brothers, babies we meet at the park.
Her parents and I encourage her to say, "no thanks" if she's not into it.
The upside to this situation is that J-Bug gets lots of practice setting boundaries about her body and her personal space. I stay close and prompt her to look right at the space-invading friend and say, "please back up" or "I'd like more space please" or "no."
Learning to give and get consent starts in early childhood.
Consent is in the news right now. Two days ago California enacted a law that requires affirmative consent for sex. It replaces "no means no" with "yes means yes" and requires that two people get and give consent before sex. This new law is in response to a rash of college campus sexual assault cases. The white house has even gotten involved by starting the It's On Us campaign. I watched the video and it reminded me that it's on us nannies to teach kids that someone being touched against their will is wrong.
When our nanny kids give and get consent about hugs and kisses, they're not thinking about it as practice for sexual encounters in college. But I am. I want kids to know deep in their guts that they don't have to accept unwanted touch. I love it when kids learn it's their responsibility to get consent before touching someone else. And I welcome opportunities for them to practice setting clear boundaries when they don't want to be touched.
Sometimes though, they do want a hug or kiss! They say, "yes!" and get to experience how fantastic it is to want affection, say yes to it and feel great about getting it. That's really fun to practice too.
I'd love to hear from you!
Should "yes means yes" apply to kids and babies? Tell us your thoughts on consent in the comments. Your insights are just what other nannies and parents are hoping to hear. So thank you for adding your voice to the conversation!