Children's Property on their Body

Child Rights Activist Melike Çıtak, October 15, 2021

Imagine someone else is deciding how to cut your hair or what clothes to wear. Someone forces you to hug or kiss someone… Or Imagine that there is someone who knows better than you how much you need to eat to be full. How does that feel? that's the truth.

Parents or caregivers sometimes unconsciously feel control over their child's body and choices. Well, if it doesn't really affect the child's safety, why might we not be giving him the choice? Do we think “ will make a better choice” as parents? So, what message does this child give, and whose life does the decision most affect?

In order for children to comprehend and protect their bodily autonomy, first of all, the adults around them must accept the children's right to bodily speech. The fact that adults feel protective and responsible for the child's health and safety can sometimes make it difficult for children to accept their body autonomy. However, children have the right to make all kinds of choices about their bodies. It's not just about knowing that no one can touch them in a way that makes them uncomfortable. This includes freedom of movement and its physical expressions.

Like who they kiss or hug; It's also about choosing whether you want a haircut, how much you eat, and what you want to wear.

Getting a child's ear pierced or getting a haircut against their will is a big deal for many of us. It may not seem like a problem. However, this sends the message to the child that an adult has the right to somehow change his or her body, regardless of the adult's intentions. Or “Come on! kiss the aunt/uncle...” is a phrase we hear often. But even if we are a relative or even a parent of a child, we must remember that we have no right to hug, kiss, or have any physical contact with them without their consent.

Consent is everything!

It is very important to help children learn about consent and their body rights. This is related to the privacy education given from infancy. Unless it violates the rights of others; Children should be able to move freely and express themselves as long as it does not threaten their hygiene and safety. This does not mean that we will not raise our concerns or guide them in their choices. However, children still deserve to manage their own bodies and selves.

Children learn to make good decisions by making decisions. Our guidance as adults is important in this regard. We can take small steps to help children internalize their bodily autonomy:

  • We can ask questions for him to make his own choices.

    By asking questions such as “What would you like to wear today?”, we can give the child room to make their own choices. This lets the child understand that he or she will make decisions about his or her own body.

  • We can include him when making decisions about bedtime.

    Bedtime doesn't have to be a struggle. Instead, we can talk about boundaries and make decisions about bedtime together, supporting the child's autonomy. Every child's daily routines can be different. However, it may be a good way to try to persuade the child by explaining the situation to him or to reach a mutual agreement so that the child feels that his decisions are taken into account in his choices.

  • We can cooperate with the child on eating.

    “One more bite…” We can try to support him in deciding how much he wants to eat at any time. Making him feel guilty and punishing him for not eating can prevent him from developing a healthy eating habit.

    For example; Giving a child a choice when he refuses to eat can help him feel better: “You may not want to eat right now. So, do you want to eat in half an hour? A question like ” will affect the child's decision-making mechanism in a healthy way. As the time approaches, making small reminders will also be healthy in terms of getting used to the concept of time. However, inculcating a regular and healthy eating habit in a child is a completely different phenomenon and is not the subject of this article.

  • We can allow freedom of movement.

    We can remember that children have the freedom to play and act as they please, as long as it does not affect the rights of others.

  • We can allow safe sensory experiences.

    For example; The child may want to stick a toothpick into their finger. We can allow such sensory experiences in a controlled manner as long as they do not cause harm. If the child still wants to try after explaining that the toothpick is sharp and it might hurt: we can get him to experience it to a degree that we're sure is safe.

  • We can include it in decisions about where we're going.

    As we prepare to go somewhere, we can ensure that the child participates in the decision of where to go, or at least has knowledge.

  • Without physical contact We can get approval first.

    Before physical contact we can get approval “I want to kiss you, do you want it too?” . If the child says no, we accept this answer without feeling guilty or embarrassing: “No one can touch you, including me, unless you want it.”, “You make the decisions about your body. We can support it with expressions like ”. Getting children's approval “My body is special to me.”, “My body and what I feel are respected.”, “I make decisions about my body.” gives the message.

    To children “acknowledgement While explaining the concept of ”, you can use the video “Confirmation for Children” prepared by the Association for Combating Sexual Violence.

Knowing that children control their own bodies and most importantly they have the right to say “no” adults' responsibility.

Children's thinking that all adult behaviors are unconditionally correct may cause them to have problems in protecting their bodily boundaries. For this reason, we should give space to children to express their uncomfortable situations and be good listeners.

“Of course! It's your decision and I respect your decision”, “Thank you for expressing yourself clearly. You can let me know if you change your mind.”, “I'm happy when you say no to things you don't like.” “You don't have to say yes to anything that makes you feel bad. Supportive sentences like ” show that children are in control of their bodies. it makes you feel.

If we ignore the feelings of children about this issue, it would be unfair to expect them to say no to unwanted physical contact later in their lives. Giving children control of their bodies from an early age creates a foundation that will help them establish healthy personal boundaries later in life. It is very important to maintain this approach not only in our behavior towards them, but also in their interaction with the environment. For example, while hugging a friend against her will, telling her that it is not okay to touch her friend unless she wants it helps the child understand that other children have physical limitations as well. adults can do our best; we can deliver what children deserve.

Note: The purpose of this article is to create an insight into children's right to bodily speech. The article does not directly focus on the topics such as privacy education, sleep routine, eating habits, and does not cover different approaches on this subject.

Sources

`Oz, N., & Suntekin, C. (2021). Adult Responsibilities in Preventing Sexual Abuse and" Children's Bodily Voice”.`

Melike Çıtak

Child Rights Activist