An important way to teach kids consent, she explained, is respecting their wishes when a child says no.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on August 20, 2021. It has since been updated.
One thing that almost every conversation around consent makes alarmingly clear is that a disturbing number of adults have difficulty understanding the concept. This reminds us of the importance of teaching consent to children at a young age. Unfortunately, most parents consider this an uncomfortable task as many assume that any discussion about consent has to inevitably touch on the topic of sex. However, Lolo Cynthia—a 25-year-old UNHCR Nigerian influencer—doesn't believe it has to be this way. In a viral Twitter thread last year, Cynthia listed out seven ways to "teach your children consent without mentioning sex."
"1. Teach Your Children To Say NO. Teaching kids to say no might seem like an insignificant gesture, but the impact goes a long way; especially in African cultures where children are not encouraged to be assertive or disagree with an adult as it's seen as disrespectful," she explained. "This kind of parenting conditions children to accept anything an adults says or does as superior and correct, passing the message that their own opinions and decisions do not matter when talking to adults." Another equally important method, Cynthia explained, is to respect your child's no.
Our school, church and family friendly posters for children teaching them on consent, their private parts and bad / good touch!— Lolo Cynthia (@Lolo_cy) June 15, 2019
MYBIM (My Body Is Mine) is our Comprehensive sex education syllabus under @LoloTalksInc used to teach children and Teens! pic.twitter.com/n4qToWpd8z
"Nothing is more confusing to a child than when you teach them to say no but don't respect their decisions when they do; thus they learn to accept that their NO is only valid when speaking to people younger than them," she tweeted. Moving on to her 3rd tip, Cynthia wrote: "Teach Your Children To ALWAYS ask for permission. We need to teach children to always ask for permission before taking or touching what doesn't belong to them, no matter how close they are to the person EVEN FAMILY. We all know how annoying and invasive it feels when people go through our stuff or take something without asking; this feeling doesn't automatically disappear because the person is family- we simply learn to normalize such behavior and diminish the feelings associated with it."
Cynthia also assures that having a strong positive male figure to look up to will do a world of good for young boys. "In our society, it can be very easy for young boys to think and view others as objects meant to fulfill their own needs. When boys have men they trust and admire be vulnerable with them, it opens up a chance for them to see the world with compassion, allowing them to become more sensitive and respectful of others," she explained.
The fifth method, Cynthia wrote, is to teach children not to move people out of the way with their hands. "This is one that can only be taught when the ADULT themselves adhere to the rule; the child can only learn this by watching their guardian respect other people’s bodies and personal space," she tweeted. "I notice that rarely do we do this with people who are older than us; it is easier for us to move our peers or someone younger out of the way. So if we have the patience to wait and allow the person older to move on their own, we can do the same with people younger or our peers."
Teaching kids not to give out others' personal information without their explicit permission is another way to make them respect consent, Cynthia tweeted. "They need to be taught to always ask before giving out the information of someone else no matter how close they are to the person. It shows respect for the person's privacy!" Last but not the least, parents should "take advantage of every moment to pass knowledge because things said casually sticks," she wrote. "There are many instances that consent can be taught in non-sexual spaces; these are simply a few ways to let children understand the importance of seeking permission and respecting people’s decisions."
Watch this 1-minute clip for a simple example on how to make daily activities a teachable moment pic.twitter.com/OnEH0U1P7L— Lolo Cynthia (@Lolo_cy) June 16, 2020
"So before addressing sexual consent, we must discuss how to respect people's decisions even in non-sexual spaces, because if one cannot give or seek consent in non-sexual spaces, there's very little chance that they will be able to in a sexual space where the risks are higher."