My husband was playing with my daughter at the dinner table and was having cute little conversations with her. He tickled her underarm (which she normally thinks is hilarious) and suddenly she said “DON’T tickle me.” And that was that. Wes apologized and told her he wouldn’t.
Children are born to us, they are our blessed responsibility, a gift even. But they are not our property. If I lean in, to give my daughter a hug and she says that she doesn’t want a hug, I do not give her a hug at that moment. I do shower her with love and affection all the time, but if she states a preference that at that time, she does not wish for me to hug her, I respect her wishes.
We were out of town and stopped at a gas station. A very loud (and I’m sure, strange-seeming to my daughter) woman started trying to engage my daugther in a conversation. My daughter refused to say hello and said (quite loudly) “I don’t like that woman, mommy.” I wasn’t mortified, my daughter was expressing discomfort and trusting her gut instinct. I said “You don’t have to like her, but I want you to know that you are safe to say “Hi” if you want to because you are with mommy and daddy.” My daughter wasn’t being a snob. She was expressing fear and needed to feel that it was ok.
How many times do you see parents/people violate children’s boundaries like this every day? Children are tickled (when they’ve expressed displeasure at it) they are taunted and teased and disregarded when they express emotions or “embarass” their parents. We send the message loud and clear from a very early age that children have no rights to their own bodies and they do not have the right to their emotions. The message is:
"What happens to you, and what you feel, does not matter."
Does this mean that I don’t give my daughter a bath if she doesn’t want it? Does this mean that I don’t feed her healthy food because she wants to eat only candy? (Actually she would only eat apples all day every day if we’d let her) No. By explaining the necessity of baths and self-care, I’m showing her to respect her body. I’m teaching her to practice taking care of what belongs to her. I don’t get ridiculous with it, but I do want to send my daughter the message that, in age-appropriate levels, SHE is in control of her own body and she has the right to her own feelings.
Maybe in some way, I’m hoping to inoculate her against people who try to violate her boundaries in the future. I want that same sass that she has as a two-year-old to be present, unbroken, loud and clear when she’ll need it most. As an adult.
Why I feel so strongly about children’s rights. PM me for the password.
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