When it comes to educating your child about proper conduct with others, are there certain subjects that are too early for children to comprehend?
That is something Redditor Signal_Guidance_7956 is grappling with after an argument with their spouse.
Our Redditor is a parent who was concerned about witnessing something their nine-year-old son had done at school.
Identifying potential for problems in the future for when the child is older, they decided to nip things in the bud through a discussion about proper interaction with others.
The conversation between parent and child was met with much opposition by the Redditor’s spouse, who accused them of blowing things out of proportion.
Confused, the Redditor turned to the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit and asked:
“AITA for telling my 9 year old son he shouldn’t touch girls without their consent?”
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
“My husband and I have three kids, 2 girls (teenagers) and a 9 year old boy. Last week I saw him on the playground putting him arm around a girl from his class and when I asked him about it he said she was his ‘girlfriend.’”
“My husband laughed and told him ‘don’t break too many hearts.’ I asked my son if he had asked the girl if it was okay before he put his arm around her and he said no.”
“I gently explained to him that he shouldn’t ever touch girls like that without getting their consent first. He didn’t know what consent meant so I had a mini discussion with him about how it’s not nice to touch people without permission and asking first means that you know the other person doesn’t mind.”
“My husband was silent during the entire conversation. My son didn’t seem to be bothered by our talk (which only lasted a few minutes at most), told me ‘okay’ and then went to go play his switch.”
“After he left the room my husband went off on me, saying that I’m making my son sound like a predator in the making, that it’s just innocent playground fun, and that I’m blowing it way out of proportion.”
“I obviously don’t think my 4th grader is a predator, but I felt like it was important to teach him about the idea of consent from a young age.”
“However, I do have a complicated history when it comes to this subject so maybe that’s clouding my judgment. Was I the AH here?”
Strangers online were asked to declare one of the following:
- NTA – Not the A**hole
- YTA – You’re the A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everybody Sucks Here
Many Redditors were on the OP’s side.
“NTA, my sister had that talk with her kids when they were 6 or 7. She didn’t limit it to just boys and girls.”
“It’s kinda funny, because now her sons will be horsing around and she hears from the other room:”
“I do not consent to wrestling! Stop, [brothers name]. Mooooom! I did not consent to wrestling.”
“Ugh! Personal space, [brothers name]!!! Mom! Brother is in my personal space.” – mzhummina
“When I was a kid (and still now) I hated being touched by strangers or people I didn’t know well. It got me in trouble sometimes because I would push other kids away when they tried to hug me and I didn’t want it.”
“My mum had to go to my teacher and explain, though back then we didn’t get the ‘consent’ talk, my classmates were just told ‘it’s nice to ask before a hug’ and the issue stopped.”
“NTA, definitely. Consent isn’t necessarily just because of predatory behaviour, tell your husband that. Some people just don’t like being touched and it’s cool to ask first, just like you wouldn’t just go pet a dog or cat because you don’t know how they will react.” – frangipaninini
“I’m not sure there is an age that is too young to have an age appropriate conversation about consent. For really little kids you can keep it very simple and tell them it’s ok if they don’t feel like hugging their aunt. You can model the behavior and ask for a hug or a high five instead of forcing it.”
“You don’t need to go into the sexual side of consent at all until they’re older but you can absolutely lay the groundwork from when they’re very young by teaching them their body is theirs and that it’s ok to not want to be hugged/touched and model consent behaviors for them.”
“Teaching them from very young that their body is theirs will help instill that principle for when they’re older and it does apply to sexual things as well.” – alana_r_dray
‘I’m making my son sound like a predator in the making’
“You’re doing the exact opposite. Absolutely NTA. I’m sorry that your husband has insecurities about this, that’s red flag territory for me.”
“I would ask him point blank: how exactly does he think telling your son this could harm him?”
“Because there is no rational answer to this. I hope you can work this out and set him straight. Good luck!” – JeMappelleJoeDeLait
“Yep. Most predators aren’t malevolent sadists who assault women because they enjoy hurting people. Most of them are ‘nice’ young boys/men who have learned toxic, misogynist lessons about themselves, women, and relationships.”
“If parents aren’t actively raising boys to respect women, boundaries, and to be whole human beings, then they are perpetuating rape culture. I say this as survivor and as a parent of two young boys.” – smallmammalconcierge
“I teach preschool, and I try to talk to my class as often as possible about ‘my body is my body’, ‘it’s okay to tell someone “stop that, I don’t like it”, and ‘I know we like hugs, but we need to ask before we grab a friend’, and it’s okay for them to say ‘no thank you'”.
“My students are four. Am I upsetting them? No. Are they able to remember right away? Also no. But is it sinking in? YES.”
“It’s only halfway through the year and already about three-quarters of my class are fairly consistent about asking to touch other people. I’m so proud of them. I figure that if I can make this not a problem now, it’ll be far less of a problem come high school/young adulthood.”
“NTA, OP. You’re doing what I wish more of my kids’ parents would do. Your husband, on the other hand? Could have raised my creepiest ex. ::shudder::” – seriouslaser
“Serious, I feel like teaching them about consent when they are young is like the easier thing in the world… they try to take a toy from a friend/sibling and the sibling says no or cries and you have a conversation about consent!”
“I’ve been saying ‘Are you respecting his no?’ to my two boys since they were like 2 years old!”
“As they get bigger and still want to jump on people we start talking about asking BEFORE you initiate contact. With my older kid we talk a lot about how his younger brother doesn’t have all his words so lots of things mean ‘no’ besides just the word No.”
“‘Respecting someone’s No’ isn’t just about listening for the word no, it’s about seeing if they’re laughing and having fun or if they’re pulling away or making upset noises! It’s about being aware of how your playmate feels and stopping if they’re not having fun playing with you. If they leave the area you don’t chase them unless they invite you to as part of a game…”
“it’s so easy to build into how you teach small children to not be A-holes!” – OrindaSarnia
“Exactly, my daughter is 5 and I have to talk to her about asking permission and respecting other people’s personal space. She is a very physical child and wants to touch everyone at all times. She does it out of affection, comfort, or even without thinking. I’ve seen her snuggle up to another kid she doesn’t even know.”
“So we talk about consent. We talk about keeping our hands to ourselves. We talk about how not everyone is comfortable touching other people and they might not know how to say it.”
“We talk about how you should always ask before you hug someone and that it’s not an attack on you if they say no.”
“It has nothing to do with boys vs girl. It’s all about respect for others.” – sujihime
“As a dad of three little girls I want to say thank you. It gets overlooked often, but this is a lesson that needs to be taught to people, gender not being relevant.”
“NTA OP. I have very similar conversations with my now 8 year old daughter.” – Coffeineaddicted
“NTA- He also didn’t even know what consent was, so either way it was a great teaching moment and the timing was perfect. The child didn’t take it to heart (or so it seems) and simply said “okay mom” and went about his day.”
“The husband is weird here, teaching a child what consent is doesn’t make the kid a predator it just means you did what you could to prevent them from doing something that is extremely inappropriate that they may not know is inappropriate depending on their age.” – Financial_Mess_1397
Overall, Redditors praised the OP for being a good parent by having a discussion they thought was important.
After reading much of the comments, the OP was relieved to hear their concerns were validated.
They followed up with this update.
“Holy moly! I was not expecting so much feedback! Thanks for affirming my decision and assuring me that I did right by my son. Also, thanks for pointing out that consent is gender neutral. Totally agree and will make sure to emphasize it goes both ways in the future.”