Getting Permission and Giving Children Ownership of their Bodies
I was lying on the treatment table having my eyebrows waxed and chatting with the beautician. I’ve been going to the same place quite regularly and am often seen by the same beautician who knows I work with children.
We were talking about nurseries. The beautician told me that her friend works in a nursery and she couldn’t believe that her friend had to ask permission to wipe the children’s noses. I just agreed with her as having a debate when having your eyebrows waxed isn’t ideal.
What I wanted to say to her was…imagine you are on your lunch break in the staff room and you are sitting eating your lunch and chatting with your friends and a hand appears from no where and wipes your nose. In my experience the person doing the wiping is talking to someone else or commenting on how disgusting the dirty nose is and not being that gentle. Of course this wouldn’t happen to an adult so why does it still happen to children and babies? Why are people shocked that you should ask a child permission to wipe its nose? Or at least tell them that’s what you are about to do.
This kind of permission is only the tip of the iceberg. I had to speak to a fairly new member of staff about kissing the children in one of the nurseries I managed. The staff member was upset but, as a parent I asked her how she would feel to see someone she doesn’t know very well kissing her child. She saw my point of view. (We had a longer discussion about the inappropriateness of the situation.) But this isn’t just an issue for staff in nurseries and schools.
Sometimes we force children to kiss and hug family members because they’re family. We should never force children into these situations and should always give them the option to kiss and hug others and be kissed and hugged themselves. We should be teaching them ownership of their bodies.
I tell children that they can tell anyone to stop regardless of their relationship.If someone, anyone is doing something that they don’t like they must tell them. I encourage children to tell other children “stop, I don’t like it” when a peer is hurting them or doing something they don’t like. I think this is an important step in them taking ownership of their bodies and keeping themselves safe. It also helps them to resolve conflicts themselves rather than have them always seeking an adult to help them. Often the other child won’t realise their actions are hurting or annoying and someone simply telling them they don’t like it will put a stop to their actions.
Do you wipe noses automatically without thinking about it? Do you consider the child? Do you seek permission? I’d love to know what you think.