As parents, it's our job to teach our kids about consent from an early age, but there are also definitive lines that need to be drawn between a parent respecting a child's decisions and being the responsible adult they need. We can't cater to every single request of our children but we also need to let them know that we're listening, that we respect them, and that we truly want them to be able to steer their own lives and make their own decisions. In other words, there are times when it's hard to respect your kid's consent because, well, their choices just suck. Like, sometimes they're the absolute worst decision makers and allowing them to make that horrible choice will only end in tears (or worse).
The problem is, when they're still kids, they're not necessarily aware of the consequences of specific actions. They don't know about gravity and how powerful it can be; they don't know about the dangers of the world that we vigilantly look out for; they don't know that randomly pooping on a sidewalk is, you know, frowned upon by the majority of society. So it's a problem, the whole, "I want to teach you to be a self-determining individual and I want to respect the decisions you make, but also I want to keep you from falling off of a high cliff so, you know, work with me, kid."
No matter how much we want our kids to learn independent decision-making skills, "No, you can't play with these sharp knives," and, "No, you can't do cannon balls off of the couch onto a hardwood floor," are perfectly acceptable requests to deny. There's this thing called safety and it's a parent's responsibility to draw some lines in order to keep our kids free from harm and establish healthy boundaries and direct them in the right direction. However, we also don't want our kids to grow up and feel like their opinions are irrelevant or that their parents are just dictators that dole out rules and don't respect them. I mean, no one wants to be a toxic parent.
Our kids need to know that their feelings are important. They need to understand that what they have to say is worthy of a listening ear, and that we do respect what they have to say. It's just that sometimes it's, well, hard because some of their decisions are kind of the worst. Here are the 10 most difficult times to respect your child's consent, because their choices are pretty questionable, at best.
When They Refuse To Eat What You've Cooked For Them
If our kids only understood that eating a fistful of sweets before bed every night would take them down a bittersweet path towards diabetes, they would probably second guess asking for that bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough speckled ice cream. There are some obvious boundaries in these situations, yes, but if our kids don't want to eat what we've made from dinner, we really can't force them to. It sucks sending a kid to bed after they've only eaten crackers for supper but, sometimes, that's just a battle that isn't worth fighting (even if it totally is a line worth holding).
When They Don't Want To Get Dressed, Or Want To Wear Something Completely Inappropriate For The Weather
My son never wants to wear his pants. Often, the first thing he does when we get home from an outing is to take his pants off and leave them at the door. I get it — I don't really like wearing pants either, but it's a necessary evil while out in public. So, yes, I make him wear pants when we leave the house.
There are other times when he chooses attire that isn't exactly appropriate for the setting we're headed to. Sometimes, he wants to wear his big, cushy, fluffy vest outside in the middle of summer, with nothing else on under it. Sometimes he wants to wear sandals in the middle of winter, so we just give him a thick pair of socks to wear underneath his sandals so that his little toes don't freeze. You get the picture. Kids choosing their own clothes is super adorable, sometimes, but it's also super questionable, especially when their clothing choice isn't going to protect them from the elements.
When They Don't Want To Hug Or Kiss Your Family, Or You
We all want our kids to feel loved, and a lot of us express that love with hugs and kisses because they're just so damn cute. However, it's important that our kids understand that their body is their body, and if they don't want someone hugging or kissing their body, they don't have to let them.
There are plenty of ways to make your kid feel more loved that don't involve physical contact. Many parents understand this, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins may not understand why our kids aren't interested in their hugs. Some people even get offended by it, but that's not something that a parent or a child should have to apologize for.
When They Don't Think It's Their Bed Time Even Though It Clearly Is
When my son was very young, my husband and I worked so hard at maintaining a bedtime routine. I mean, he's still very young, but he's to the point now that he likes to make up his own mind about a lot of aspects of his life. Still, every night at the same exact time, we tell him that it's time for bed, but sometimes he's legitimately not ready to go to sleep. For a while, we would take him to his bedroom despite his protests, but we would hear him for an hour, sometimes two hours, on the monitor playing and talking and, well, sometimes crying. We felt bad that he was sitting in a dark room all alone, so we started listening to him when he said he wasn't ready for bed. When he gets tired, we ask if he's ready to go to sleep, and if he is, he simply says "yes." Sometimes he even takes himself to bed, which is pretty awesome. We still have routines, to be sure, they just look a little different now.
When They Want To Read The Same Book For The 27th Time
Kids benefit from routines and they find comfort in repetition. For this reason, they often cling to certain items or stories. One story in particular might be their favorite and they really don't think that they could ever hear it enough times. Until they've figured out how to read on their own, parents are just going to have to suck it up and get to know Dr. Seuss on a whole new level until our kids are old enough to ready Harry Potter, and then we're totally down for reading books repetitively.
When They Don't Want To Share With Anyone
Learning how to share is an important part of every child's life, but that doesn't mean that they should have to share everything. They should be allowed to have certain things that are theirs and theirs only. That's totally okay, until some other person's kid wants to play with their toys and that kid, and perhaps their parents too, doesn't understand why they can't.
Our kids shouldn't have to give up their ownership of everything. I have things that I don't like to share either and if someone were to ask for one of these things, my answer would be a definitive "no," so why should I force my son to share all of his things?
On Movie Night When They Choose The Same Annoying Movie You've Watched For The Last 12 Weeks
Again with the favorites and repetition. My family has seen Cars probably 32 times. So much so, in fact, that my husband and I are capable of communicating with one another solely through Cars quotes. Movie nights are fun until you watch the same movie over and over again for weeks, even months in a row.
Sometimes They Want To Play Naked Outside. This Presents, Um, Obstacles.
Kids are innocent and the last thing that should be on their minds is what someone else might think about their naked body. If a child wants to play naked outside in their yard they should be able to do so without our society sexualizing them. However, being completely naked can present certain hygienic concerns, so it's best to at least put them in a diaper or in their underwear because, well, digging sand out of certain anatomical areas can be sort of not-so-fun.
When They Insist On Bathing Themselves
When a child decides that he or she wants to take on the responsibility of cleaning themselves, it's honestly pretty great. My kid gets to "play" in the tub, and I have an extra hand to drink my wine. Of course, practice caution and keep your kids safe, but if they want to bathe themselves, let them! There will undoubtedly be a huge mess to clean up afterwards and they might not exit the tub completely clean, but if it makes them feel like a big kid, what's the problem? Other than the puddles in the floor and the soap on the walls, I guess.
When They Want To Help With Household Chores
This is every parent's dream: a kid that is willingly and voluntarily assisting with keeping the house clean. Except, if you've ever actually allowed your child to help clean, you completely understand that, no, it's actually sort of a nightmare sometimes.
Kids tend to make bigger messes when they "help clean," but allowing them to assist you with the chores helps to teach them responsibility and helps them to feel like they're skills are needed. All you can do is bite the bullet with this one and just clean the house when they go to bed.