by Oluseye Igbafe
I watched as my children played teacher and student but noticed the younger one didn’t seem to be having much fun.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” I asked her.
“Not really”, she replied, glancing at her sister. “I don’t want to be a naughty student, I want to be a good one”.
“But that’s not the play, she is supposed to be punished for not doing her homework", the older sister insisted.
"But it’s a play", I said, "that means both of you are playing together and must enjoy it equally. Once one of you is not enjoying it, then it’s no longer a play, you are now using her as a toy in your play", I explained to the older sister.
“Okay”, she grumpily replied and at that moment, it hit me!
This isn’t just about play, it’s about consent, a perfect opportunity to talk about consent. So I went further to explain that to them...
“Playing is having fun; and when you and someone are playing, you must be sure you are having fun and the kind of fun you like. You shouldn’t play with someone just because they asked you to and you shouldn’t act a role you don’t enjoy acting.”
“So, what do you do next time?” I asked.
“Stop the play“, they replied.
“Yes, you tell the person you want to stop or tell the person to stop. No matter who it is or how old the person is, you must want to do it for it to be play. No one should play with you or ask you to play with them in a way you do not enjoy or feel is wrong”.
“But mummy, sometimes you say we mustn’t enjoy everything", the younger sister interjected.
“Yes, I do but that applies to work, exercise and eating vegetables, not to playing. Play should be fun, so If you are feeling uncomfortable with any type of play, something a person is reading, saying or showing you, you should say stop and make sure the person stops. Then you tell me about it later."
“But she didn’t force me, I agreed to it”, said the younger one
“Even then, you can still stop it. Maybe initially, you wanted to do it but you can change your mind. So even if you said yes at first, don’t be afraid to say no, if you see it’s not what you want."
ConsentThe concept of consent is very important in preventing sexual exploitation of our children. It enables us teach the principles especially to young children whom we cant give more details on sexual exploitation.
Consent is just as important for boys as it is for girls. We must teach our boys that "no" means "no", "yes" means "yes" and "stop" means "stop"! "No" can never mean "yes"!
Consent empowers our children to have control over their bodies and emotions.
They get to decide what to do and what not to do; it empowers them to set boundaries.
Our children must know that just because they asked nicely doesn't mean the person must consent and just because someone asks them nicely doesn't mean they have to consent either.
Consent isn’t only about sexual abuse, it’s equally about self-respect and boundaries which is the very core of rape and other sexual assaults.
Modelling ConsentThis brings up a need for us to model consent by asking consent. Yes, we can only give them room to exercise their rights if we respect their consent too.
So more of asking, "will you like to give me (yes, me mum) a hug? Will you give me a peck? Can I give you a hug?"
We must stop tickling when they say stop, even when we think they are enjoying it. We must respect when they don’t want to play or be alone. There is nothing wrong in being alone, it’s even good for them (everything in moderation of course). Yes, it has come to that.
Modelling consent takes away the notion that adults can simply take charge of the children's bodies and mind.
When parents ask permission, children become fearless in stopping others and insisting on boundaries.Consent is an evolving topic which we will need to address with our children over the years but I am glad I found the perfect start.
How about you?