The violation of children is at an all-time high in South Africa, with some incidents being shared across all media platforms and others happening behind closed doors. As noted by NGO Pulse, “child protection statistics in South Africa paint a troubling picture: high proportions of the nation’s children are victimised by violence.”

With trending hashtags such as #MeToo, it is so important to teach our children that their bodies are their own and that no one is entitled to their personal space, not even the closest of relatives or family friends. An imperative part of positive and effective parenting is to teach your children consent—this is an important step in raising children who are empowered and are aware of their rights.


What Exactly is Consent?

An important aspect of consent is asking for permission; consent involves a mutual agreement between two parties regarding shared desires. If asked to do something and you say no, you have not given consent. Silence is not consent

Planned Parenthood, an American organisation, uses the acronym FRIES to break down what consent entails.

Consent is:

Freely given: No one is under pressure to do something they aren’t comfortable doing.

Reversible: Even when someone has said yes, they can still change their mind; the yes isn’t binding.

Informed: Your child must know and fully understand what they are agreeing to do.

Enthusiastic: Consent occurs when both parties are looking forward to what’s about to happen.

Specific: Agreeing to one thing does not mean that a person has agreed to everything.


It’s also important to tell your children that even if someone asks “nicely” or “politely”, they don’t have to say yes.  

How Can You Teach Your Children Consent?

As adults, we must not force our children to do things that make them feel uncomfortable, confused or unsafe. Teaching your children consent is also a way of protecting them. “Don’t shame children into accepting unwanted touch,” writes Dr Tammy Nelson, international speaker and relationship expert. So, when a family member or friend visits, don’t say “give auntie/uncle a hug.” Rather, ask them if they want to and if they don’t, the visitor must also be made aware of the fact that consent is an important value in your household.

You can also teach consent by leading by example. Before hugging or kissing your child, ask them for permission. If they say no, do not coerce them, or even ask them why; respect their answer and show them that they don’t need to explain themselves—no means no. “Reaffirm their right to say no by saying, “Okay, you don’t have to hug me right now, that’s fine. I am glad you are taking care of yourself,” advises Dr Tammy. Even when you are tickling your child, as soon as they say “stop”, you must stop immediately. If they asked why you stopped, tell them that it is because they asked you to; this will teach them the importance of respecting and honouring someone’s requests, especially as it pertains to their bodies.



Why is it Important to Teach Consent?

Your children need to know that unless they have given permission to someone—regardless of their age or how they are related to them—they have every right to say no and that their feelings are valid and must be respected. It goes without saying that consent must be taught alongside inappropriate physical conduct by adults.

Teaching your children consent is important because it will empower them and build their confidence. It will also help them understand the importance of boundaries; they will then be able to speak up when someone violates (or attempts to violate) their boundaries. Teaching your children consent will also teach them to respect other people’s boundaries.


Leave a Reply