I shared a post earlier this morning on my facebook asking women to comment if they have NEVER had to do ridiculous things to avoid harassment, sexual assault, or creepy men, and to like or share, if they have.
So far there are no comments and several likes/shares. Let that tell you what it will.
I ended the post by saying we need to focus on the men that behave in this way.
But actually, by the time these men behave in this way it’s already too late.
We have 6 children who benefit from our thoughts and parenting, the majority are boys and its surprisingly easy to focus on teaching them to not become rapists.
Because men who assault, rape, harrass or expect things in return from women, aren’t born that way.
So I thought I would share a few thing we have done/ do at home to teach consent and respect and how the focus is on empowering our daughters and teaching our sons to not become those men.
Things we’ve taught all our children:
Our kiddos have never been made to kiss or hug someone goodbye if they arent comfortable. They arent made to speak to strangers or adults if they don’t feel comfortable and especially not if they are made to feel uncomfortable for not wanting to.
Their voice, feelings and emotions are respected and we advocate on their behalf in situations they feel unable, but make clear they don’t want to engage in said requests.
Why? Because each person has body autonomy and that should be respected. Forcing a child into physical touch when they arent comfortable tells them their experiences don’t matter and other people’s desires should be made a priority.
And it’s not even a big thing! You gonna give nanny a kiss goodbye? No. Okay cool, wave goodbye then!
Boys are general taught that feelings are for girls, while girls are taught that their feelings are too much.
Just this week our dentist told my 12 year old son to be brave and not to cry. She was trying to help but I corrected her. Its totally okay for my son to cry when something hurts, or is upsetting or scary or for any other reason. Crying is a release and that’s okay.
Being human is hard and full of emotions. Normalising those emotions, naming them, discussing them and being there for big emotions is essential for helping your children to recognise and empathise with other people.
Letting them see how you deal with your own emotions in a healthy and safe way means being open and vulnerable around your children too.
Let them have their emotions and normalise that and let them recognise that in others.
Why? Because a man who sees every person as a human being that feels pain and struggle, that they can empathise with, is much less likely to see women as anything but the same as them.
3️⃣ No and Stop
This has been a big one in our house. Normalise and model stopping something when someone says no or stop.
My dad and sisters used to tickle me until I cried. I would plead with them to stop and gasp that I couldn’t breathe and the joke was that its fine because if I passed out I’d breathe normally again.
What started as harmless tickling games turned into something very different that I didn’t recognise until I had my own kids.
When my kiddos were small I taught them the stop/go game. It was originally for if they ran a little too far away or were close to a road, but it quickly became so much more.
It started with shouting stop if they were a few steps away, and they had to stop still like a statue. Then I would shout go and they would continue on their way. It was fun! And we experimented with it lots.
We also played the same game for rough play, tickling and general messing around but this time they would say stop or go and I would stop still or continue.
And then they would do the same with each other the same rules apply. Stop means stop, go means go. No means no more.
Now, my husband is still learning the rules of this game and he is a perfect example of how when we are enjoying our part in a game, it can be hard to stop straight away, but thats why its so important to keep practicing.
He has been upset in the past when someone has said stop and he hasn’t straight away and the other person has got angry. He struggled to understand why I then advocated for the person who said stop.
Theres been many conversations about it and that will continue, because my husband is a good person who wants to do better and wants to get better at listening, at respect, at consent and modelling that to our children.
Games should be fun for everyone involved and there is a learnt tendency in boys who haven’t been taught this, to elevate their enjoyment over the other person’s discomfort or not hearing or seeing that discomfort. And that stuff? Can turn really sour when those boys turn into men.
These are hard conversations. But when someone says stop we stop. When somewhen says no, it means no. Straight away.
Why? Because respecting all players wishes in the game means everyone has fun. And that is directly related to experiences of sex and dating and socialising later in life.
We are a touchy feely family. Its been super important to me that the boys in particular have gentle, loving, tender touch and can reach out for affection and comfort via touch. But this also means teaching to request that touch instead of just taking it and it means modelling that too.
I ask my kiddos if they would like a hug, or to hold hands or to snuggle on the sofa. If they say yes, fab. If they say no, fab. And I am constantly reminding them to ask the same. I will never deny cuddling my kiddos when they are upset, sad or angry.
Withholding affection is just as damaging. However one of my children uses hugs to regulate his energy and proprioceptive senses and this can happen 30 times a day so I assess his requests and sometimes suggest other options to help regulate himself too. Because again, it’s important that he doesn’t come to rely on women to regulate his emotions and needs for him.
Its definitely a balancing act of helping him to learn that I am not a tool for his use while also being a caring, loving mother!
5️⃣ Straight talk
As the kiddos have gotten older we’ve had deeper conversations including sharing some of my own experiences with them to help ensure they are aware of inappropriate behaviours and can talk to us about that. We’ve also fostered a nature of calling out what you see. Standing up to friends when they behave poorly or speak poorly of others and being aware of what to look for in situations that may be dodgy.
We’ve spoken directly to why it may not be all men, but that women don’t know which men are the bad ones and there are enough bad ones to cause suspicion of them all including our own sons.
We’ve spoken directly to consent in sex and dating and watched tea consent and other such analogies, I’m sharing the tea consent video below as it’s great!
In conclusion, I dont exactly know what to do about the men already in the world who attack women. Women like Sarah Everard who was just trying to walk home after seeing friends. But we could start with actions like enforcing men not going out alone at night for women’s safety. Imagine how quickly this danger would be focused on if men’s freedoms were under threat instead of women’s?
But as a mother, I can do my best to recognise the behaviours boys learn and teach them another way instead. A way that will reinforce them not becoming rapists.
I’ll leave you with this beautiful poster I shared this week, 5 rape prevention tips.