The Meaning of Consent – Thoughts, Opinions, and Questions

When it comes to consent, most adults will consider it in relationships. It is especially heavily implemented in conversations regarding partnerships. Consent involves having the knowledge and understanding of what is being asked and knowing whether to accept the proposal or shut it down. Basically, consent is having the wherewithal to say yes or no.

But do children have the same criteria of understanding consent? Do children deserve to be asked yes or no questions regarding consent?

There is a prime example of a situation where a mother said she doesn’t change her child’s diaper until she got her child’s consent. The quickest reaction to this is that it is despicable that a mother would allow their baby to be in a soiled diaper until it gave permission. How does a baby demonstrate to his/her mother that he/she wants their diaper changed? Simple: it doesn’t.

Could this be arguable and say that it’s form of child abuse? You are refusing to change your baby’s diaper until it gives you consent, and you allow your child to stay crying in sp. Not only is it trauma from a young age, but wouldn’t this be considered neglect?

It wasn’t until I did some more research that I understood what was being said about consent with children. You aren’t necessary denying your child any assistance, but rather enforcing the importance of open communication.

You are recognizing your child has a voice, and you encourage their voice to be used. Granted asking your baby for permission to change its diaper is a bit extreme but you or someone else asking your child if it is okay to hug them if they are crying isn’t wrong. You never want to force a child to hug someone if they don’t want to.

Let me elaborate a little more – for example: your child is upset their toy is broken and they start to cry. Your initial reaction is to hug them. But in that moment, does your child want a hug? Are they crying for a hug, or for the fact their toy is broken? It wouldn’t hurt if you asked, “Would you like a hug?” Because if your child says no that is a clear indicator that your hug would’ve done nothing but potentially aggravate them more. Something to think about…

In those terms I do believe consent being instilled at a young age is important. This not only builds more trust between you and your child, but also encourages open communication. As they get older, they will be able to set healthy boundaries. They will be able to understand what they do like and what they don’t. They will know more about themselves rather than needing to depend on their parent for feelings.

Additionally, I briefly want to touch on consent with children regarding social media. At this point touching any concept will come with covering a moment on social media influence. It appears children are now seen as “accessories” and are being “advertised” on the internet. Instagram is a culprit in this regard, because any “family” page is really some parents showing off their lavish lives and children who might considered to be spoiled.

But these kids don’t really have the right understanding of what goes behind social media exposure. Most recently, I scrolled through the “For You” page, where a conglomeration of various posts goes through to entice you to click on their page. And one was of a little girl having an at home “spa day.” Her mother had her laying on a white sheet with a white pillow, put her in a towel and proceeded to put on an avocado face mask, banana eye mask, wipe her face with a towel, and put cream on her face. She then did her daughter’s nails and cured them under the UV lamp.

To me it seems like an average mother doing fun activities with her daughter. I remember as a child I enjoyed doing my nails with my mother and face masks with her too. Granted I was maybe about 10 years old when I started doing that, and the child in the video was a toddler (a very well-behaved toddler) but it is something that I feel mothers should do with their daughters.

I decided to go through the comment section out of curiosity, and found it riddled with hate and nasty comments targeting the mother for being bad. “Face masks aren’t good for your kid at their age” or “you’re a horrible mom for putting your daughter through this”, etc. I was confused because I didn’t find any harm in doing this with your child.

Let’s break it down though. After thinking about it, I concluded that the video was staged. There was clearly a ring light illuminating the child. The white sheets and white pillow with a small white towel covering the child seemed deliberate as well. So, the video was really taken to add content to the mother’s family page. It was meant to highlight their “perfect” and chic family lifestyle. It had nothing to do with bonding with the child. If you are trying to bond with your child, why are you trying to make it look aesthetically pleasing too?

I think it is important to ask your child if they are okay with being on Instagram or another social media sites. Ask them if they would like to do a video to add to your page. Teach them at a young and appropriate age what social media is, and what it entails so they are aware of it. Don’t assume your child is okay being on your story, or posts and continue because at that point you are forcing your child to be involved in social media.

Do you ask your children for permission when you post? Should we as adults, and parents maintain a balance of how much we post about our children? Though this a subject matter is for another time, are we putting our children at risk when we post too much about them? Is it safe for them? Is the child’s consent enough to be able to say it’s okay to post?

I truly stand by the statement; your child is not an accessory. They are your responsibility and show them as much respect as they show you. They may not understand everything, but knowing they look to you for education teaches them the concept of consent and ask them questions, so they are aware of what it being asked of them. Teach them to grow up to be a healthy adult.