Thursday, June 9, 2016

It's ok to say "No, Thank you!" || Boundaries For Children

"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." 
  — Frederick Douglass, abolitionist and statesman 

It's ok to say "No, Thank You!"
One in five girls and one in twenty boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.  More than 90% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone who the child knows and trusts, such as a teacher, neighbor, or family member.  Yet, children are often taught that it is always disrespectful to say "no" to an adult.  This is clearly problematic and puts children in a particularly vulnerable situation.  Children who believe that it is unacceptable to place boundaries with adults or that they will be punished for saying "no" are at a much greater risk of becoming a victim. Children should understand that if they feel uncomfortable in a situation or do not want physical affection it is fine to say "No, thank you!"  This means that children have the right to politely deny hugs and kisses from an adult.  Rudeness is not acceptable, but turning down physical affection that makes them uneasy or that they are not in the mood for is a healthy boundary.  Last week I was tickling Miss Cupcake.  She said, "Stop!" In a moment of playfulness, I attempted to keep tickling her.  She politely yet firmly stated, "Please respect my 'no, thank you!'"  I held back a chuckle because it sounded funny coming from a stern faced three year old, but I was incredibly proud of her for politely placing a boundary.  No one is ever obligated to let another person hug, kiss, or touch them in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable.  This may mean that I occasionally get denied a hug from Miss Cupcake. And that's perfectly ok with me.

Secrets aren't safe!
Secrets are a risky business when it comes to children.  An article called "Why we Don't Keep Secrets In our House" describes the benefits of adopting a no-secret rule in households with children.  The article states, "We don't keep secrets in our house, we do surprises."  The difference can be explained to young children by stating that a surprise is something you will temporarily keep quite, while a secret is one you keep forever.  While playful secrets may seem innocent, children should never be asked to keep a secret.  If the issue must be kept a secret, a child should not be involved. Abusers actively seek out children who they believe they will be able to manipulate into keeping "their secret" from others.  Children who have been expected to keep secrets in the past may not be able to distinguish when it is appropriate to tell.  Teaching young children that they can always confide in a trusted adult if something feels uncomfortable and that they are never responsible for keeping a secret is a powerful way to help them self-protect. 

No, he is NOT pulling your hair because he likes you!
How many times has a little girl come crying to a parent or teacher because she has been pushed or taunted by a boy only to be told, "He's only doing that because he likes you!"  This response makes me cringe.  Love is about respect and treating someone with kindness- regardless of their age.  Sadly, many young women and men have inadvertently been taught that to be loved is to excuse mistreatment or domestic violence.  Every nine seconds in the United States, a women is assaulted or beaten.  Nearly twenty people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.  This means that during one year, more than 10 million women and men are experiencing abuse in their relationships.  Many of these individuals choose to stay with their partner despite the abuse.  Teaching children - boys and girls - that being treated badly is a sign of affection is clearly a bad idea.  Instead, children should be taught to treat others with respect and that mistreatment will not be tolerated. 

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