Humans have evolved since Adam and Eve. Starting from just two, we are almost 8 billion with our underlying needs of having a loving and happy family. No other creatures have such a family-setup where a specific demarcation of duties and responsibilities of parents as well as their kids have been carried out wonderfully and respectfully. Respecting the boundaries of not only outsiders but also our family members is what kept that love and respect for each other alive. Once you feel violated, that trust is lost even if the abuser is our ‘family’. And consciously, this has recently been termed as ‘Culture of Consent’.
What is the Culture of Consent?
Taking somebody's consent before getting into their physical space is what culture of consent is all about. And if you still are doing it, you are simply an ABUSER. More and more parents are teaching the importance of it to their kids early on which is important for the fact that many abusers are roaming freely on the streets without it being mentioned on their faces. Since these abusers can’t be taught to respect privacy, it is better to teach our kids how to protect themselves and instilling in them the culture of consent is the best first step towards it. And since we lead by example, more and more parents have been asking which consents they should get from their kids from- feeding them? bathing them? changing their diapers?
Should parents ask for consent before changing their child’s diaper?
Setting up a culture of consent in your kids early on will have a positive impact on your kids later in life. They will carry these values into their toddlerhood years, pre-schooling and schooling, and so on. And you have made an adult who automatically respect others’ boundaries as his own has always been respected. He knows it is the only way of co-existing happily and peacefully.
But then when is the appropriate age to start asking them for their consent? And as a child, he’s bound to have a single answer to all consent-related questions and that is a big ‘NO’. Let’s discuss his various diaper-wearing stages and the probable issues and their solutions.
Asking for consent from your infant
For the first six months of their lives, infants lack the ability even to remember faces, forget about understanding the things going on around them. They rely on us for care. Forget about their consent, they haven’t even acquired communication skills yet. But they do express themselves when they need us and what they want us to do for them. How? By crying.
Crying is the biggest consent of an infant. He’ll cry if he’s hungry. He’ll cry when he feels uncomfortable from being wet. And a parent knows all his cries. So, in the case of an infant, you already have consent from your baby. And he wants you to do it for you as he simply can’t.
Asking for consent from your toddler
This is the age when your baby gains some sense of things around him and starts learning walking, communicating, playing et al. This ideally should be the age to teach your child the little rights and wrongs in his life. Just the way you teach him not to lick that dirty thumb, teach him that ‘it is a dirty thing (diaper), let’s make you clean’. Many parents have expressed positive results with this technique because now their toddlers come running to them saying, ‘I’m dirty, clean me up’.
The important consideration here is that teaching consent shouldn’t be taken in a literal sense. It is more of intimating them that they need to mentally prepare themselves for a cleanup. This doesn’t even make a child cranky with those sudden cold wipes and twisting and turning. They already expect it as they now recognize those words, ‘Let’s clean you up’ with what’s coming up soon. Just teach them a correlation that wetness equates to diaper change, you will succeed as a parent for teaching the basic hygiene to your kid.
Asking for consent from your school-going child
This is the age where parents are bothered the most by their kids. They throw tantrums left, right and center. Be it going to school or doing their homework, eating healthy food or brushing their teeth, they just want to run away from all of this. If you did that basic hygiene teaching well in toddlerhood, this shouldn’t be the problem.
But growing kids learn many things from their friends and surroundings. If they have picked up a bad habit of staying dirty, make them clear that he has no choice in certain things and diaper change is one of them. Many parents confuse this consent by waiting for their yes or no. You cannot be democratic in a situation involving your child’s hygiene. Stay a dictator.
Asking for consent from your teenage child
Your child is all grown up in a teenage. He has a sense of privacy and bodily autonomy. Simply do not change your teenager’s diaper unless he asks you to do that. Forget about changing a diaper, a kid who can walk and perform his routine himself shouldn’t even be touched without their consent as they might feel abused.
Raising a kid is not an easy job. But don’t be an over-thinking parent. Just be a balanced parent. Accept some of your child’s terms and make them accept a few of yours’. Be open to discussion for their learning process. But always keep in mind a few non-negotiable parts of parenting and healthy food and proper hygiene must be the top two.
It is important for them to learn the concept of consent but doesn’t ask in a situation where you are going to do it anyway. That will simply backfire as you are teaching him that there is no such thing as consent and if so, it is not important at all. You will lose your child’s trust forever. And you will raise a monster for whom only one person is important: just himself.