Most problems with touch and consent can be prevented when adults and kids have clear and appropriate personal boundaries. This article is from the Kidpower Child Protection Advocacy Workbook, a tremendous resource for protecting children and teens from sexual abuse, sexual assault, bullying, harassment, abduction, and other harm.
Kidpower constantly gets questions from concerned parents, teachers, and health professionals about how to teach kids, teens and adults about consent in relationships.
The answer we give is this:
To have healthy relationships, you need to have good boundaries. To have clear boundaries, you need to have an understanding about what behavior is safe and what is not safe, appropriate, and respectful – both emotionally and physically, to ensure positive consent.
“What’s Positive Consent?”
The phrase “positive consent” in relationships means making sure that each person has the choice to participate, and how they participate. Positive consent skills are about being able to communicate clearly with others about your boundaries on touch, teasing, and play – and staying aware and respectful of the boundaries of others.
Too often, problems in relationships about consent are caused because of confusion about what is and is not experienced as safe, respectful, and appropriate for each person.
Kidpower teaches “boundaries for people we know” – starting with four key principles:
- We each belong to ourselves.
- Some things are not a choice. Being safe with what you say and do is not a choice. Doing your work or chores is probably not a choice. Going to the doctor or the dentist when you need to is not a choice.
- Problems should not be secrets. It is also important not to keep secrets about presents someone gives you, friendships, favors, or any kind of touch.
- Keep telling until you get the help you need. If one person doesn’t listen, then tell someone else.
Kidpower’s Consent Checklist
For all ages, the Kidpower Safety Rules are that touch, teasing, or play for fun or affection should be:
- Safe so that no one gets hurt
- OK with Each Person so that each person says “yes”. We need to notice when people change their minds or start to say “No” with their bodies or words. We need to remember that people who are scared, sick, over-tired, drunk, or otherwise impaired cannot say, “Yes.”
- Allowed by the Adults in Charge – talking about or staring at people’s bodies or making gestures or noises about how they look is not allowed because it usually makes the other person uncomfortable
- Not a Secret so Others Can Know, because abusive behavior thrives in secrecy
You are welcome to download and use our “Kidpower Consent Checklist Posters” of these 4 Safety Rules about Touch or Play for Fun & Affection in your school classroom, office or waiting room, and even at home! For more information about how to teach children to persist in setting boundaries and getting help see our article: Kidpower Skills to Persist in Protecting Personal Boundaries through 5 Levels of Intrusion.
Kidpower’s Safety Rules About Private Areas:
Remember that while touch for health and safety (such as a doctor’s exam) might not be a choice, it should never be a secret. Tell children: “If you have a safety problem, tell an adult you trust and keep telling until you get the help you need. If one adult doesn’t listen, tell another.”
For children, the Kidpower safety rules about touching, showing, or viewing anyone’s private areas are:
“Your private areas are the parts of your body that can be covered by a two-piece swimming suit. For play or teasing, other people should not touch your private areas, nor should they ask you to touch their private areas, nor should they take or show you movies or pictures about people and their private areas. For health or safety, such as if you are sick, your grownups or doctor might need to touch your private areas, but it is never a secret.”
Teens and adults can benefit from having more information about the difference between “privacy” and “secrecy,” because they are not the same. Privacy is a voluntary choice. You can change your mind and share your private experiences whenever you want.
For example, in healthy relationships, people should be able to speak freely with their health care providers about any concerns – including experiences about intimacy – that they might consider private.
Secrecy is when someone tries to pressure you into not letting others know about something that has happened or is still happening, even to get help or to get advice.
When parents, guardians, or educators decide to address sex education and sexual behaviors, the Kidpower Consent Checklist items above still apply. The truth is, consent is about ALL types of touch and attention – not just about sexual touch and attention.
For more information about helping kids talk about problems with loved ones read our article, Sometimes the People Kids Love Have Problems – What Children Do and Do NOT Need to Know
Make the Kidpower Protection Promise™
When teaching Kidpower in a classroom, we ask the students, “Who would you go to for help if you have a safety problem?”
We encourage them to come up with lots of ideas – and then sometimes turn to their teacher and ask, “What about YOU? Suppose your kids here have a safety problem, can they come to YOU for help?”
Of course, each teacher will immediately turn to their students and say in a heartfelt way, “YES! You CAN come to me no matter what. And I WILL help you!”
The problem is that far more often kids hear messages that can conflict with the idea of getting help – such as “Don’t bother me. I’m too busy.” “Don’t upset anyone.” “Be polite.” “That’s private.”
This is why we now recommend that all adults leaders give the Kidpower Protection Promise to every young person in their care. Please discuss this message today and keep talking about the importance of getting help when you have problems. Here it is again:
Tell Kids: YOU are VERY important to me. If you have a safety problem, I want to know – even if I seem too busy, might get upset, or don’t understand at first – even if someone we care about will be upset- even if you promised not to tell, feel embarrassed, or made a mistake. Please tell me, and I will do everything in my power to help you!
Awareness is just the Start: How to Learn and Teach Healthy Boundaries and Consent Skills
Knowing these Kidpower boundary principals and safety rules for touch is important. People of all ages also need to learn skills for communicating about boundaries and positive consent. This is why our Kidpower Positive Practice™ teaching method emphasizes coaching our students to be successful in practicing the skills they need to keep themselves emotionally and physically safe – in ways that are appropriate to their ages, abilities, and life situations.
Use our free Kidpower Skills Guides today – right away – to find information on how to teach kids to safely stop unwanted touch (without scaring them).
Read articles about ensuring consent and healthy boundaries in teen and adult relationships:
- Skills for “Yes Means Yes!” – How to Ensure Consent, Set Boundaries, and Protect Sexual Safety
- Teenpower Boundaries for Teens with People They Know
- Fullpower Boundaries for Adults with People We Know
- Fullpower Social Safety Stories for Teens and Adults
Checkout our Kidpower and Fullpower Safety Comics series for children, youth, teens and young adults as a fun – age appropriate – tool for teaching about boundaries, consent, and healthy relationships.
Our Comics are a great resource for learning and teaching others What to Say and How to Practice Skills and Strategies for Taking Charge of Safety.
The Kidpower Safety Comics series for provides safety skills to stop trouble before it starts, including how to prevent and stop bullying, sexual abuse, harassment, peer pressure, assault, kidnapping, and other violence!
Published: March 11, 2011 | Last Updated: October 17, 2018