Teaching a kid about consent has nothing to do with teaching them about sex. It’s about respecting boundaries.

We believe parents can start educating children about consent and empowerment as early as 1 year old and continuing into the university years. It is our sincere hope that this post can help us raise empowered young adults who have empathy for others and a clear understanding of healthy consent.

Consent Matters
A group of happy children holding hands

In general terms, consent is a matter of an individual granting someone or something permission for a particular event to take place. It is the achievement of willful acknowledgment, sexual acceptance and eventually permission (expressly stated) by a female/male, to an advance made by a member of the same/opposite sex. 

General explanations such as these unlock doors that open up the opportunity for questions such as how does one relate this concept to children?  Or, how do parents, guardians, teachers etc. teach their children about consent?

As far as that is concerned, teaching consent becomes a rather simple process that requires practice and discipline in other areas of life. 

The act of teaching consent and the conversation around sexual consent starts at the early childhood development stages, by guardians teaching their children to understand their bodies & body language to respect the same & opposite sex but most importantly by teaching them to speak up for what they believe in. 

Some of the steps and many ways in which guardians can teach their children consent include:

1.  Boundaries remain vitally important from childhood. 

What about boundaries is so important you ask? Well, boundaries influence factors such as behavior and understanding. Boundaries are types of limits the facilitate the establishment of qualities such as empathy, support, respect, and discipline, as well as caring for oneself and others. 

If boundaries are crossed, a punishment can be allocated to establish a consequence for negative behavior. This in itself allows children to understand the remaining elements of this discussion concerning the teaching of consent in children.

2.  Respect remains as significant as teaching boundaries. 

Teaching children respect is interchangeably linked to the phenomena of consent in that respect allows for the development of positive relationships and relationship enhancing skills. Through respect, some factors that children are able to develop a more open-minded sense. 

Comic story about respect and boundaries

3. Communication & consequence it is important to communicate intent & permission for touching, kissing, or various sexual behaviors. 

If one does not have consent for a said act, the act could consequently lead to be considered a form of sexual assault. It is also extremely vital that there be a clear and open line of communication between child and guardian. Parents/Guardians must be willing to listen to their children and teach them that their emotions are warranted. 

4.  Reinforcing the use of the word NO and accepting the word

As you can see, there are countless aspects to consider when teaching children about the phenomena of consent. It’s important to remember that, as a parent and/ or guardian, it never too early to teach children about consent. 

By children having a greater awareness of what consent entails, children can then be more thoroughly prepared for developing and promoting healthy functional relationships which encompass facets such as boundaries, respect, listening, and communication.

Teach your kids that “no” and “stop” are important words and should be honored. One way to explain this may be, “Thandi said ‘no’, and when we hear ‘no’ we always stop what we’re doing immediately. No matter what.

Comic story about the use of the word NO

Also, teach your child that his or her “no’s” are to be honored. Explain that just like we always stop doing something when someone says “no”, that our friends need to always stop when we say “no”, too. If a friend doesn’t stop when we say “no,” then we need to think about whether or not we feel good, and safe, playing with them. If not, it’s okay to choose other friends.

If you feel you must intervene, do so. Be kind, and explain to the other child how important “no” is. Your child will internalize how important it is both for himself and others.

Consent is as simple as tea! 

We have provided visual links on teaching consent to children. Feel free to watch it together with your kids! 

Consent for Kids

This video helps kids of all ages understand consent in a fun and friendly manner! 

Consent is as simple as tea

This video  shows how consent as the act of making tea and serves a great way of making children understand what consent is by using a simple act they could relate to which may make the conversation around consent less frightening for both parent/guardian and child! 

About the Authors: 
Born in a small town called Zeerust, 24-year-old Mokgabo Maletswa is a graduate in Bachelor of Commerce in Finance who strives to achieve excellence in each and everything. Her complex combination of resilience, vibrancy, patience, diligence and her nature to help those who are less fortunate has led her to lead organizations like ABASA NWU-VTC. Being a caregiver and leader has come naturally. Her mantra in life is that she necessarily doesn’t what to change the world but spark the brain that will, through thought-provoking conversations and genuineness.

Natacha Martins is a 22-year-old female who is a recent graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree and Honours Equivalent in the field of Psychology obtained at the Pearson Institute of Higher Education. Natacha is currently completing a TEFL certificate. Natacha has both experience and interests in the fields of university readiness, children’s education, research, statistics, school counseling, parental guidance counseling, addiction counseling, and alternative therapeutic methods through sport and physical activity.