When I was eight I had something happen to me that was akin to the first ten minutes, or the infamous warning sign section of an after school special. An authority figure yelled at me and then pinched me really hard in an inappropriate place because I wasn’t finishing up a project fast enough. There were no witnesses and because I had been yelled at and “got in trouble” I was embarrassed and ashamed. I did, however, cry to my classmate and friend A. that day and she, thankfully, told her mom who immediately called my parents who then immediately took action.
I still remember the conversation, in the coat room of a restaurant for my eighth birthday where my parents tried to explain to me that I had done nothing wrong and why I needed to tell them when an adult acted in a way that made me uncomfortable. They also reiterated that while respecting adults is important that, my body belonged to me and that no one should yell at me, bully or ever touch me without my permission.
In retrospect I feel sorry for them, trying to explain difficult concepts in the black and white world of a third grader. I can only imagine what would have happened today where tolerance for bad behaviour, thankfully, is much lower.
Recently I asked my mom about the situation, whether or not she was horrified that I hadn’t gone to them. As a parent I have a new level of concern over the terrible behaviour of the person and the way that I was isolated when they pinched me. My mom told me that she was more relieved that I had told a friend and that person had done the right thing and that was what was important. She was also pleased that I had learned something really valuable before things had gone further.
How do we arm our kids to deal with something like this? One of our first steps towards protecting our children is knowledge. We have been teaching our twins the correct and proper names for their body parts. One of our favourite tools for this is Kathy Stinson’s The Bare Naked Book. It’s a perfect story for one of us to read while we get bath time babies ready for bed and teach them the correct names for everything from hair on their heads to the tips of their toes.
A few weeks ago I came across a great article on Bunch Family about teaching your Toddlers about Sex Education. It boasted China’s excellent sex education for young children, including the use of anatomically correct puppets and gives great tips on empowering your kids with education.
I learned something important from my mom about parenting. Sometimes bad things happen, it’s the way we deal with these situations that really teaches our children about life.