My loyal readers know I don’t go in for much “Save the children!” rhetoric.
I am the type of parent who believes in preparing children for the world rather than protecting them from it.
It turns out that most of the things we do as parents, relatives or friends of children to prepare them for the world have the added bonus of protecting them from its worst elements as well, or at least reducing their risk of falling victim.
So today, I want to share 5 words that truly CAN save a child.
In a study of convicted pedophiles, the researches learned that children who know the anatomically correct words for their sexual body parts are significantly less likely to be targeted!
The reasons for this are that these children are assumed to be more mature, harder to manipulate, have more open relationships with the adults in their lives, and be more likely to report if someone makes them uncomfortable or approaches them sexually.
In short, these children are perceived as being stronger – and that strength protects them.
The organization that brought this to my attention followed up by assuring us parents that they would, of course, not be using those words in the class they were teaching to 3rd graders on sexual violence prevention. Instead they would be referring to all body parts that are typically covered by bathing suits as “private parts.”
As you can imagine, my head almost exploded.
First, this organization’s mission is to prevent sexual violence toward children.
Second, their primary tactic in this is to educate children on how not to be victimized.
Third, they know of a tool that by all accounts can effectively predator proof the children they are teaching.
Fourth, they will NOT be using this tool.
I see this type of thing happening way too often with children.
We are so busy bubble wrapping them and “protecting” them that we inadvertently protect them from the very knowledge that could one day save them.
I am so completely over it.
Well, I was sort of born over it. I was that child who got a hold of this type of information and disseminated it as widely as I could. I was the child who got invited to slumber parties because I had actual facts and honest research based information about puberty, sex, sexuality, masturbation, drugs, alcohol and other “off-limits” topics.
I saw the amount of misinformation floating around my schools and I was terrified by it.
I saw what ignorance led to.
I was determined to do my part to eliminate it.
I’m still on that crusade.
So, I know somewhere in here you’ve mentally gone through the words I’m talking about.
Let’s see if you got them all.
Breasts or nipples.
Then there’s the 5th word – the most important word we can teach our children, and empower them to use.
I’ve met a lot of parents lately (living near the hippy parenting capital of the world, Boulder) who don’t use that word with their children, and don’t allow their children to use it. “It’s negative. We’re trying to teach positivity.”
Look – “No” is perhaps the most powerful, important and critical word in the human language, with the possible exception of “yes.” (Which will be getting its very own blog post.)
“No” sets limits, enforces boundaries, defines our will.
“No” protects our space, our bodies, our emotions from intruders.
“No” is all the bubble wrap we need to give our children.
Will they use it against us – absolutely! And they should!
And we should let them. We should encourage them. We should reward them when they refuse to let us steam roll over them.
Will they abuse it? Occasionally, just as they abuse every new super power they acquire.
But we don’t take crying away from them as infants just because they become temporary tyrants. We learn when to respond and when to ignore their wails of despair over having heads bigger than their arms (or whatever it is babies cry about when it’s not food, sleep or diaper issues).
This is where parenting comes in.
We have the power of “No!” too.
And the power of “Now!”
And the power of “One… Two…” (I’ve never gotten to three, thank the odds. I never knew what I was supposed to do after that…)
We have the power of, “Tough skittles kid, I’m older, meaner and WAY more stubborn than you. I win this round, let’s go.”
But in between being the boss of their universe, we need to let them flex their own will a little. We need to help them discover, set and enforce their own boundaries.
And then, we need to give them the confidence to talk about ALL the parts of their bodies. They need to be able to talk about their penis, anus, breasts, vagina/vulva with the same casualness that they talk about their elbows and knees.
They need to be able to tell a parent or trusted adult when something hurts, itches or otherwise feels uncomfortable.
They need to be able to tell a parent or trusted adult when someone or something makes them uncomfortable.
They need to be able to talk about what makes them feel good, as well as what makes them feel bad.
They need to learn their own boundaries around good attention and bad attention.
They need to understand why their tummy flips when that cute girl smiles at them, and why it turns sour when that leering woman winks.
They need to be able to talk about it, be heard, be respected and validated – so that they can learn to trust their guts. And so that if that leering woman comes over and asks to “push their button”, they feel empowered to tell her to bugger off, and to report her actions to the nearest trusted adult.
This same skill will serve them when they enter the dating world and need to communicate with their partner(s). They’ll feel confident talking about what feels good, what doesn’t feel good, and about saying no when they aren’t ready to try something yet.
So, if you have a child in your life, whether it’s your child, or one that you watch, or just one that you love (platonically, of course) – step up. Teach them the five words that could save them. Use those words yourself. Get comfortable with them.
Seriously, it’s just a body. There’s nothing innately wrong, dirty, sinful, shameful or bad about having a body.
Penis, vagina, vulva, anus, breasts and nipples are NOT bad words, they are not x-rated, they are not adult or indecent in any way.
They are real words that describe real things that even children have, use and need to be able to talk about.
It’s well past time to remove the stigma around them.