I don’t recall ever being explicitly taught as a child that I could tell an adult “no” if I was uncomfortable with their touch. Chatting with a friend recently, she shared how she was tickled until it hurt, and her family all thought it was hysterically funny. Many of us have experienced tickles and hugs that we would have preferred not to have had growing up, but our ‘No’s’ were not respected. As a mom, I have prioritized teaching my daughter that she is the boss of her body and can say “no” if she isn’t comfortable with the touch being offered.
But how do we teach body autonomy? How do we empower our children to know that they have the final say of what is acceptable for them and their bodies? How do we engage in the critical task of teaching them how to respect the boundaries of others? Fortunately, we have help. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite books as a parent and a school counselor to help facilitate conversations about consent and body autonomy. I hope you find them as helpful as I have.
This board book is an excellent choice for toddlers and young children to reinforce the concept that they are the boss of their own bodies. Throughout the book, ladybug asks her friends for hugs, and sometimes they say ‘no,’ and other times they agree or provide an alternative to a hug such as a high-five. This book teaches protective behaviors that can keep children safe from sexual abuse and begin creating the framework for consent and body autonomy.
“C is for Consent” is also a board book, and while it is marketed to the 1-3 age group, I think this book would also work well with Kindergarten and First Grade children. This book is full of diverse characters and directly teaches children that they are not required to hug, kiss, or sit on anyone’s lap if they don’t wish to, even family. Most importantly, they are taught that other people are the bosses of their bodies as well, and we must ask for permission before we touch them.
Based on the (incredible) video, The Safety Show, by Ruby’s Studio, Miles is being playfully touched by everyone because it is his birthday; he’s given hugs, kisses, pats, and other touches, but he doesn’t want to be touched. Miles felt disrespected that others were not asking for consent before they touched and tickled him, so he asserts that he’s the boss of his body, and while he loves them, it is his choice when he is touched, how, and by whom.
This is without a doubt the longest book title on our list today, but with content this good, we don’t mind. Our next book is called, “No Means No!: Teaching children about personal boundaries, respect, and consent; empowering kids by respecting their choices and their right to say, ‘No!” (Told ya it was a lot.)
Perhaps the best line in the entire book is when the little girl says, “When people ask me things, and I say ‘No’…I don’t mean ‘Maybe’ and I don’t mean ‘I’m not sure.’ What I REALLY mean is NO!” Teaching boundaries and consent is critical; this is the foundational work required to ensure that they can confidently use their voices. Click HERE to hear a reading from the author.
School counselors who will teach personal body safety with their students this year might benefit from reading Erin’s Law: A Personal Body Safety Lesson. This article is an excellent beginning point to get you started mapping out this critical lesson. *Erin’s Law is currently required education in 37 U.S. states.
Disclaimer: I only recommend products I have found to be of great value and are worth reading or using. If you buy something through one of the links above, I may earn an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. Thank you so much.