1. Teaching Boys About Consent and Respect
When it comes to dating, it’s crucial to teach boys about consent and how to treat girls with respect. But where do parents even begin this conversation? Is it too early to start talking to boys about these topics? Experts share their insights on effectively teaching boys about consent and the importance of respecting boundaries in relationships.
2. What is consent?
Start by educating your children about the difference between consent and sexual misconduct.
“It’s crucial to educate both your sons and daughters on the clear distinctions between consent and sexual misconduct,” says Katie Leikam, LCSW, a therapist based in Georgia and South Carolina. “Consent means getting permission before proceeding with any sexual or physical contact, while sexual misconduct includes any behavior that makes someone feel uncomfortable or unsafe in a sexual situation, whether it’s through physical touch, conversation, or otherwise.”
3. Surfacing the subject with young children
It’s important to teach kids, even as young as five, about the concept of consent, says Katie Leikam, LCSW, a therapist based in Georgia and South Carolina. One way to do this is by emphasizing the importance of asking for permission before touching or being touched.
Leikam suggests using giving hugs as an example, encouraging children to ask family members if it’s okay for them to give a hug before doing so.
But it’s important to note that consent isn’t just about physical touch; it’s also about respecting boundaries and listening to someone’s verbal or nonverbal cues. “All kids should be taught that their bodies belong to them and no one has the right to touch them without their permission,” says Christine MacInnis, a therapist based in Torrance, CA.
4. Talking to teenagers
MacInnis stresses that consent should be ongoing and active throughout the entirety of any interaction or relationship, not just a one-time agreement. She also emphasizes the importance of teaching children that they have the right to change their minds at any point and that others must respect that decision.
“It’s important for parents to educate their children, both boys and girls, about the concept of consent and the importance of respecting boundaries. Teenagers should understand that intimacy, whether it’s kissing or sex, requires clear and enthusiastic consent. Encourage your boys to ask for permission before making advances, and teach your girls that it’s okay to say no without fear of negative consequences to their self-worth.
Additionally, children of all ages should learn that their bodies are their own and no one has the right to touch them without their consent.”
5. What should the boy’s parents should focus on
“This is why parents must educate their teenage sons about consent, and how to approach intimate situations with respect for their partner’s boundaries,” says therapist Katie Leikam, LCSW. “By teaching them to ask for permission and to respect a ‘no,’ parents can help prevent these types of misunderstandings and ensure their child understands the importance of consent.”
“Experts advise parents to educate their teenage sons on the importance of consent and the potential consequences of not obtaining it. In addition, they recommend open communication and teaching integrity to prevent sexual assault accusations.”
6. Remind kids consent is not just between boy/girl
It’s important to teach children about consent, especially when it comes to dating. But it’s not just about the opposite gender.
“Consent is acquiring permission before you move forward with getting in the space of someone else, either sexually or with your conversation or intentions,” says Katie Leikam, LCSW, a Georgia and South Carolina-based therapist. So it’s important to include a discussion about consent within the LGBTQ community as well. In addition, parents should remind their children that “no means no” regardless of gender identity, and it’s about clear communication and respecting one’s partner’s feelings.
7. The impact of drinking
MacInnis emphasizes the importance of talking to kids about the impact of alcohol on communication and consent. “It’s crucial to explain the risks and discuss how alcohol can affect our ability to make clear decisions and understand others’ boundaries.”
8. Moving past the awkwardness
It’s normal for parents to feel uncomfortable discussing sex and consent with their kids, but starting early is important. “Normalize these conversations from a young age,” suggests Leikam, a therapist.
“Be honest with your child about the anatomy and mechanics of sex, and don’t make it a taboo topic in your household.”
It’s important to have open and honest conversations with your children about sexuality and consent from a young age. By normalizing these discussions, you can help them understand the importance of being sure of their partner’s intentions and respecting boundaries. In addition, MacInnis stresses that it’s crucial to educate children on the various ways in which “no” can be conveyed, such as through nonverbal cues, and that these conversations should start early in order to align with your family’s values.
9. The role of media
Leikam emphasizes the importance of teaching boys that their partners have a choice in sexual encounters and that communication and consent are key. “Boys need to understand that media and societal expectations shouldn’t dictate their understanding of intimacy and relationships.
Instead, parents should stress the importance of open communication and respect for their partner’s boundaries.”