I've never been a free range or a helicopter parent. Instead, I fall somewhere in the middle and am something of a "gentle child herder." Rather than try to control what my kids do, I create boundaries with love and redirection and teach them how and why I want them to do things, instead of saying, "Because I said so." In my opinion, one of the most important skills I can teach my kids is how to ask for and give consent, which is really freaking hard to do when people violate your kids' consent every day.
I honestly don't think most people are consciously trying to harm our kids. Rather, I think that our culture sometimes teaches adults that we have a right to control what kids do, and I don't think that's OK at all. My children are not my possessions and their bodies belong to them, not me (or anyone else). I believe their right to bodily autonomy is way more important that what I (or anyone else) wants them to do, unless that thing is taking medicine, putting on a seat belt, or brushing their teeth. That means I don't make them give grandma a kiss, get a hair cut, or even eat foods they hate. So, it really pisses me off that other people try to make them do these things every day.
I want my kids to know that they control what happens to their bodies and to understand concepts like consent and personal boundaries. That means, in our house, we show physical affection only when the other party consents. For us, no means no, even for small things like tickling and being picked up. I would honestly prefer if people just wouldn't touch my kids, period.
When They Demand Affection
I wish people would please stop demanding that my kids give them hugs and kisses. Most of the time, I am OK with some people (like relatives) asking, but I don't want my kids to even think that they have to do something with their bodies to please other people. It's just not OK.
When They Make Kids "Clean Their Plates"
As someone who once sat at the table until 11 p.m. because my parents demanded that I eat a piece of liver (liver, you guys), I will never make my kids eat something they hate. I occasionally put new foods on their plates and encourage giving them a try, but I don't force feed my kids.
When They Pressure Kids To Do Something They Don't Want To Do
Coercion is not consent. Again, for the people in the back: coercion is not consent. If you have to talk someone into something, beg them, or convince them to say, "yes," you should probably back off and ask again another day. Or, you know, respect their first answer, which was "no."
When They Take A Kid's Picture Without Asking
I try to always ask my kids before I take their picture, and if they ask me not to post something on the internet, I totally respect their wishes. I expect that absolutely anyone else who ends up wanting (or taking) a picture of my kids, will do the same.
When They Touch Kids Without Permission
Please don't touch my kids unless you ask first, and if I say it's OK, you still need to ask them if it's OK, too. When you do ask them, try, "Do you want to?," instead of "Can you?" It implies that they have the ability to say, "no," which is super important.
When They Make Kids Change Their Clothes
Don't tell my daughter that she needs to cover up some skin (she's a freaking kid) or tell my son that he can't wear pink because it's a girl color. As long as it's weather appropriate and safe, they can wear whatever they damn well please.
When A Kid Changes Their Mind
Kids have a right to change their mind about what they are comfortable with, and they can revoke consent at any time. So, it really freaking bothers me when I hear, "But you said yes, before" or, "You said you wanted a hug." No means no, even if it used to be a yes.
When They Show A Kid Something Upsetting
I will never forget the time my 2 year old totally freaked out when they killed and cooked a live octopus on Top Chef. Who knew that a cooking show would be so upsetting? I didn't, but that didn't change the fact that I totally violated her consent. I wish I could go back in time and shut it off before she learned a graphic lesson about the circle of life.
When They Don't Stop When Asked
If you are touching my kid, chasing them around the playground, tickling them or pushing them on the merry-go-round, and they ask you to stop, you stop. Please don't persist once they've said stop. Telling an adult to stop is really freaking hard for kids to do, so show them some respect.
When They Don't Respect Boundaries
Starting from when they are toddlers, we teach our kids to say, "no thank you," and to walk away if a friend is doing something they don't like. So, it's probably confusing for a kid to watch an adult refuse to respect their boundaries. These concepts are pretty easy for kids to get, so I'm not sure why adults think they can touch children, play with their hair, or continue holding them when kids are usually pretty clear about what they like and don't like.
When They Demand A Kid Gets A Hair Cut
Hair is attached to a child's body. It's theirs. Unless there's a real health concern, decisions about hair cuts are best left up to the child.
If you cut my child's hair without permission, as my ex mother-in-law once threatened to do, I will hunt you down and, well, not do anything except explain the basics of consent to you, because I respect your bodily autonomy, too.