Personal Space And Consent Are Good Lessons For Young Kids

A Thank You To My Daughter’s Principal For Not Falling Back On ‘Boys Will Be Boys’

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Last week, I got a voicemail from my youngest daughter’s principal. Primarily, I know him as the man who does is his damndest to keep parent pick up from turning into a road rage tragedy. So when I listened to the voicemail saying there had been an incident at school, I was pretty taken aback. He didn’t make it sound overly urgent, but seeing as getting a call from the principal (even as an adult) makes me nervous, I quickly returned his call. 

Thankfully, there was no major accident. Nor was it a problem with masking or quarantine, as I had suspected. My six-year-old daughter’s principal called to let me know that my daughter had told the playground teacher that three boys were chasing her. They were chasing her, trying to corner her to kiss her. I wasn’t angry. I was more shocked. My first thought was, especially with Covid concerns, I think the fuck not. 

Now, I get it — they’re six. So on the surface, it might not seem like a big deal. After all, it’s just a game, right? Wrong. Playing chase is a game, if all parties are willing participants. Chasing someone to corner them, invade their personal space, and kiss them — that’s not a game. And no, they aren’t too young to understand that. There is nothing remotely okay about invading other people’s personal space, and fortunately, the principal affirmed this. He said a conversation was had with the entire class, and individually with the boys involved. 

Yes, Personal Space Needs To Be Respected

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It’s so important that I celebrate the way her principal handled this. Because I swear, if I would have gotten the line “boys will be boys,” I would have crawled through the phone in full mama-bear mode. I’ve raised my daughters to protect their personal space as well as to respect others. As someone who has spent my whole life making sure to not make a fuss when people made me feel uncomfortable, I know what the personal consequences can be for failing to set boundaries. And damnit, it will be different for my daughters. I will make sure of that.

Will this be a funny story we tell someday at her wedding? Maybe? But I’m not ready to laugh about it just yet. A lot of things have changed since I was a kid, but this whole boys will be boys bullshit needed to end a long time ago. Regardless of gender, it’s time to stop playing off invading the space of others, like it’s a rite of passage during childhood. Just because kids are young doesn’t mean rights to their own body do not matter. 

Let’s Put This Into Practice, Not Just A Theory

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On the flip side, it’s equally important to teach our kids to respect other people’s space as well. This same daughter, who was chased for a kiss, is an absolute love bug. Every single person she ever plays with automatically becomes her friend. And if you’re her friend, she likes to give you a hug. I’ve often reminded her that she can’t hug people without asking. Not everyone likes hugs, and especially in Covid times, it’s definitely not the right move to hug a stranger you just met at your sister’s soccer practice.

It might seem silly or strange that I make my six-year-old ask if she can give someone a hug before she does, but the thing is, it is never too young to teach the importance of consent and personal space. She absolutely should ask permission, not forgiveness after a bad encounter. I hope these are lessons that serve her well in the future when it comes to setting her own boundaries. Honestly, this entire experience affirmed the fact these lessons are being heard loud and clear.

She felt uncomfortable and didn’t want these boys invading her personal space. Her principal made it very clear to my daughter that she did the right thing by telling the teacher. That she didn’t do anything wrong, and nobody had the right to touch her body. That kind of validation is so important. Too often, things like this are simply dismissed. Not necessarily because they aren’t important, but because the school, daycare, etc, don’t have the staff or the resources to dedicate to a seemingly minor issue. When a child is told to speak up, and then nothing is done or addressed regarding their concern it is invalidating. We see this time and time again with survivors of assault, harassment, and abuse.

As I said, kids may be kids. But that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to have their boundaries and personal space respected. The sooner we help them understand that, the better off and brighter our future will be. I’m thrilled to have my daughter’s principal as an ally.