8 Ways To Teach Your Son About Consent Without Ever Mentioning Sex

Ad failed to load

Having a daughter was always something I was prepared for, and in many ways. I knew how difficult it would be to teach her about body positivity, feminism, being true to herself, and all the other challenges that go along with being female in today's society. Raising a son, though? It's hard in completely different ways. Sure, every good parent teaches their son about respect but, well, there's more to it than that. Teaching your son about consent, without ever mentioning sex, is where it really all begins. In the end, consent means so much more than just having, or not having, sex.

We're all born with a certain moral compass (I'd like to believe) but there are hundreds of years' worth of cultural messages that distorts the meaning of consent, or erases it entirely and refuses to acknowledge that it exists and is necessary. We, as parents, need to teach our sons to ignore what culture has come to define (or fail to define) consent as, in order to avoid having more Brock Turners released into the world. If we are going to raise a generation that destroys rape culture and believes in complete body autonomy, it starts with us our sons (and daughters) and, yes, it starts young.

So, for me, the conversation has already begun with my 2-year-old son, and it will continue well into his teenage years. Naturally, there's no mention of sex at this point, but eventually there will be, when he's old enough to talk about it. I think it's one of the most important concepts I'll ever teach him. So, having said that, here are eight ways to teach your son about consent without ever mentioning sex:

Ad failed to load

Explaining That No Means No. Always.


This is a tough concept for small children to grasp, so I've found that it requires you to teach it again and again and again. In fact, both of my kids (my son and my daughter) hear this on a daily basis. Boundaries are blurry when you're little, so every opportunity to teach them how important the word "no" is, I take advantage of it.

Establishing The Concept Of Personal Space


There was a time when my son would see my daughter get undressed, and immediately go to touch her bum or vagina. Clearly, this is not OK (I mean, they're only two and four, but it's something they need to learn), and so I've been talking to my son about how our bodies are our own, and no one else's.

Explaining How Important Listening Is, Every Opportunity You Get


There are times when everyone gets wrapped up in the moment and, maybe subconsciously, you fail to listen to what those around you are saying because it means an end to the fun. Listening is of paramount importance, when it comes to the issue of consent, because not everyone says a loud and clear, "NO."

Ad failed to load

Always Listening When Your Son Says "No"


When you're teaching your son to listen when others say no, the least you can do is respect when he says it, too. That means stopping the tickle attack when he asks, even if he asks you to start again immediately. That's just him experimenting with control, which is important.

Even When He's Having Fun, If Someone Says "No," You Stop


Do you see where I'm going, here? All facets of the word "no" need to be explored with your son, so that he responds without faltering, when someone says that word.

He Doesn't Have To Hug Someone If He Doesn't Want To


This isn't just about another person's consent, of course. We need to teach our sons that it's OK for them to say no to situations which may come with societal expectations of children, as well. Hugging family members may make your son uncomfortable, and he should understand that he doesn't have to go through with it, just to please his aunt, cousin, or grandparent.

Ad failed to load

He Shouldn't Force A Hug On Someone Who Doesn't Want One


If your son is, in fact, the cuddly type, it's important to make him understand that not everyone is. There was a boy in my daughter's kindergarten class who used to tackle other kids with hugs. Super cute, right? I mean, he's just being loving. Except when some of those kids really didn't want a hug.

Teaching Them To Ask For Consent


Boy, that seems like a pretty basic concept, right? Except, how often do you hear kids asking other kids if it's OK to do something like hug, like I said before, or use a toy? This is such an important part of the equation, because the longer kids are allowed to take and do what they want without asking first, the harder it is to eradicate that tendency, I think.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills