Yes Please No Thank You

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Asking permission – Teaching them to ask first “Let’s ask give X if he would like a hug goodbye.” if the answer is no then offer a cheerful alternative “Let’s wave instead”.

Empathy around them – Encourage them to watch other interactions and be observant of interactions happening. Help them help other kids or explain consent/permission and alert trusted grown-ups when necessary.

The importance of YES and NO – Teach them that they are important words to be honoured by them and by others. That just as we stop when asked so must others when you ask them to stop.

Face time – Encourage them to read facial expressions and body language. Charade style guessing games with faces are a fun way to do this.

Too polite to say NO –  Never force them to physically interact, even with someone they are familiar with or know really well.

Body ownership – Encourage them to wash their own bodies, particularly genitals. Yes Mum and Dad have to help sometimes but explaining to them that their bodies are important and that they can take care of them can help to give them a sense of pride about their bodies and their actions/ownership over them. Ask for permission to help them and respect their answer. Similarly teach them to call their genitals by their proper names.

Choices choices – Give them options and choices in their everyday lives when you can. For example : picking out clothes, how they wear their hair that day, what toys they are playing with or perhaps what colour they paint the dog in the picture. If you have to intervene (sandals aren’t great for walking the dog in the snow !) let them know that you heard them and their opinion mattered and then explain the reasons for your response. That you are trying to keep them happy and healthy ultimately.

Don’t be squirmy – Allow them to talk about their bodies freely and without shame, let them know any changes as they grow are a positive and natural thing that happens to everyone eventually – be it wobbly teeth, spots or pubic hair.  If you don’t have an answer there and then make sure you explain that and maybe ask if you can have a think on it and get back to them – making sure you do just that. Be enthusiastic. If you act ashamed or embarrassed about responding then they may feel that way about asking or wondering in the first place and may not come to you again next time they have a question. How you respond now to such questions will show a willingness to talk about future more sensitive subjects as they grow up.

Trusting instincts – Talk to them about “gut feelings” – sometimes these can be dead on and aren’t to be ignored. Things can make us feel weird or uneasy and it’s not always obvious why. Ask them if this has ever happened to them, listen to their response and let them know they can always talk to you about it to work out their feelings and thoughts on it. Remind them they have ownership of themselves and their bodies and that no one has the right to touch them or tell them what to do with them.

Good and bad feelings – what feels good to them? Tickling, spinning until they feel dizzy. What feels bad? – being sick, hurt feelings. Allow them to lead the discussion and give themselves the tools to articulate how they feel.

T.O. – Teaching a ‘time out’ every so often in play is a good way for them all to check in on each other and make sure everyone’s feeling happy with what’s happening.

Safe speak – Help them negotiate a safe way to say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ in particularly active, rough or physical play. Could be a silly random word or a forceful “I want to stop” but this can help to bring them out of the focus of the game – whether it’s imaginative pretend worlds, trampolining acrobatics or a particularly intense football game, and stop to listen to each other.

Step back in time – Take opportunities when discussing a negative interaction to ask them what they might do if they could go back in time and help in some way. What could they do differently if they saw a peer being bullied but said nothing? It could be anything from being a superhero and saving the day to getting a teacher or carer. This can help them to learn to observe and interpret what’s happening around them. Give them praise for talking about any tough or tricky subjects with you too.

Girls & boys – don’t tease or make a distinction between same sex friends and opposite sex friends. Or even people they might have a crush on. Ask them how the friendship is going but be prepared to let them lead the (potentially non-existent!) conversation.

We’re all in it together – Help them understand that our action’s affect others in very simple terms. Look at the litter – who has to pick it up? Listen to the noise – who is it disturbing? Would that game scare some children and not others? We all have a role to play in daily societal interactions as well as in our own small worlds. We could pick up the litter and put it in the bin. They can be quiet on the bus so as not to disturb the other passengers. They can reassure their scared friend to make them feel safer. We can all be considerate with our actions and words.


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