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I'm Avital.

You want a present, peaceful and playful family life? I'm here to help you make that a reality.

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How to Promote Your Child’s Body Autonomy

Ever wonder how you can help ensure that your child’s body autonomy is respected?

With all the #metoo campaigns, scary stories coming from our very own communities, schools and places of worship, and an increasing awareness around the importance of consent – I think body autonomy is atop everybody’s lips for a reason.

Sometimes I feel like being tasked with raising these precious small humans, keeping them safe and whole is just a too-darn-big-for-me job. When I first became a mother I felt as though someone had ripped my heart from my own body and implanted it in this very small, innocent being who was walking around in the world (and often bumping into things).

Talk about vulnerability.

Factor in the headlines, the hushed gossip at church, or the skeleton in your neighbors closet…

It can feel like the world is not on our side.

But I want to dissuade you from that feeling.

This video is not another “warning” sign.

It’s not here to feed into alarmist, pessimistic views about the risks and dangers our children face.

It’s not here to heighten your fear of sexual predators.

It’s not here to shame parents who tickle, roughhouse or smother their children with kisses.

That’s not my style.

The reason I’m addressing body autonomy today is that as intentional parents, we want to float into the center of our awareness all of our most default and automatic behaviors. And then to choose the ones that serve us.

Intentionality

It’s important to bring these topics up with ourselves and our kids, to address them and move from a place of awareness and consciousness – even from the youngest of ages.

Today, I’ll give you 10 ways to respect your child’s body autonomy, – including one very important “caveat” at the end, so stick around for that.

My goals is to keep it actionable and simple – I’m a firm believe in the goodness of the universe and in the inherent goodness of most people around us.

I believe raising children with a trusting and calm approach to life is far safer, from a physical, emotional and spiritual viewpoint, than constantly alerting them to dangers and functioning from a place of anxiety and fear.

On the flip side, it’s often us parents who are actually, (unintentionally and unbeknownst to ourselves), undermining our children’s body autonomy.

Far from the dark and malicious weirdo down the street – it’s often through well-intentioned words of safe and loving caregivers, that children start to loose touch with their own sense of ownership of their bodies.

Every time we:

  • Tickle them into a state of panicked giggles but think ‘they’re loving it’!
  • Pick baby up like a sack of potatoes, without communicating – human style – what we’re about to do.
  • Grab at our child’s face with a tissue, quickly! Before they can react!
  • Bribe them to give Uncle Bernard a hug, even if he does smell like carpets.
  • Hold the spoon full of creamed-broccoli to their pursed lips and push, just a little.

Are these acts of willful harm? Of course not.

Do all of us do these kinds of things from time to time when raising young children? Of course.

But could we become a hellovalot more conscious about how we treat the youngest members of our society? Youbetcha.

 10 Way You Can Promote Your Child’s Body Autonomy

  1. Offer physical touch unconditionally (1:00)
    Do not use hugs, closeness to you, sitting on your lap or any other form of physical affection as a bribe, a reward (or removing it as a punishment). It’s critical that physical affection flows freely, authentically and consistently.
  2. Receive Physical Touch Unconditionally (1:43)
    When you ask your child for a hug or a kiss, allow them to decide fully whether or not they are interested in giving those. Don’t add in emotional manipulations (“But mommy is so saaad!”) or bribes (“If you give me a hug I’ll give you a cookie!”). We want our children to learn that physical affection is non-‘transactional’, but rather a spontaneous and authentic reflection of their internal experience.
  3. Do Not Tickle or Rough House without Consent (2:30)
    I’m a big fan of roughhousing. And, despite what some people teach, I think tickling has it’s place in rough housing for some kids (my daughter loves it, and so did I as a child). But never ever tickle or roughhouse without consistently, checking in and offering a safe code (such as “NO MORE!” or “STOP”) before you start.
    If your child is laughing hard, stop and ask: “Again?” or “More?” and let them set the pace with plenty of opportunities to stop. Remember, initial consent (“chase me!”) doesn’t imply continual consent and your child might have started out enjoying it, but now isn’t.
  4. Give Your Child a Voice (3:26)
    Because children aren’t listened to very well, and because they may still be learning to express themselves – they often don’t know how to speak up for themselves.Teach them to say…“NO!”
    “It’s my body and I don’t want to.”
    “No, I don’t want to play that game.”
    “It’s my body, it’s my decision.”
    “No, I don’t like being touched in that way.”
    “No, I don’t want a kiss.”

    Side note: Your child is going to use those words to you as well! Be okay with the fact that they will be able to tell you, “It’s my body, it’s my decision”, at a very young age – and that is a very good thing.

  5. Use Real Language for Body Parts (4:20)
    Part of respecting a child’s body autonomy is to speak openly, clearly and honestly about their bodies. Euphemisms, or avoiding answering questions about their body inevitably produce shame and confusion. Start with the right lingo. (Learn more about how to have these conversations here.)Children who feel embarrassed and gets the message that speaking about bodies, body parts, or body functionality, is something that should be ashamed of or not appropriate to talk about – are children that are more likely to be targeted by predators or people who want to take advantage of them. If they don’t have the language to even speak what’s going on – give them that language clearly, scientifically about your body, their body and all about the amazing things that bodies can do.
  6. Don’t Shame Your Children for Self Exploration (5:18)
    As uncomfortable as this might feel for many of us from W.E.I.R.D (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) countries – children have sexual interest and it’s absolutely normal for children to touch themselves, and to explore sexual play with other children if they aren’t guided not to do so (more on this in coming up in the Present Play membership).I believe kids should be allowed to explore themselves (not others). Our role is to stay calm, communicative, and help our children to set boundaries and behave appropriately in public and with other children.
  7. Teach Children About “Tricky People” without Igniting Fear of Strangers
    Part of respecting their body autonomy is teaching them to stand up for their own autonomy and teaching them to be mindful of predators, or even innocent friends, without infusing them with the fear of stranger danger (more on that for another video).It’s important that children know that only their parents, or health care practitioner (with parent’s full knowledge), may see or touch their private parts (with consent) in order to keep them healthy.
  8. Don’t Allow Others to Demand Physical Affection (7:08)
    We do not have to make a big deal when uncles, aunts, grandparents or friends (etc) bribe, demand, or emotionally manipulate our children into giving them physical affection. Just respond as lightly as possible, but be prepared to stand firm when necessary.In our house, this is even true between little siblings (as young as 1 and 3!) – we teach our kids that “It’s his body, he’ll decide.” or “Look at her face, she doesn’t want to be touched”.

    Do not allow others to bribe or guilt your child into sitting on their laps or giving a kiss/pinching their cheeks, here are some sentences you could use:

    “Let’s not push her into kissing you.”
    “Let’s not push him into sitting on your lap.”
    “I really don’t think he enjoys his cheeks being pinched.”
    “Looks like she’s not in a hugging mood right now, but I’d love to give you a hug!”
    “Awww, Grandpa you’re so sweet – I’m sorry to disappoint but Greg isn’t much of a lap-sitter these days. He usually loves a good car race though!”
    “Hey! Auntie Alice, we do NOT offer lollipops for hugs in this family! (said in a jokey tone) – I’m sure the type of hug you really want will come from the heart if she feels so inclined.”
    “Whoah! Hands off the little ones, careful we bite if we’re touched without permission.”

  9. Do Not Force Feed (8:50)
    If there’s no (real) medical indication to do so, let’s refrain from pushing, bribing, cajoling, manipulating or threatening our children into eating any type of food. Provide the food you want to offer and let them decide how much and if at all they dig in. It’s so much healthier, less stressful and more respectful of their bodies.
    We practice the division of responsibility. If you look at my video on Stress Free Meal Times you’ll see that our parental responsibility lies in the what, when, and where of food and the rest is left up to your child to determine – how much and whether to eat what you provide.
  10. Use Your Body to Set Limits Physically (9:37)
    All this talk of body autonomy might have you feeling like you can't touch your child! But children, especially the young ones, need physical parenting.via @ParentingJunkieTweet This All of this talk of body autonomy might have you feeling like you can’t touch your child! But children, especially the young ones, need physical parenting.They need parents who will grab them away from the stove, who will pull them away from the road, who will buckle them in – even if they scream, who will pick them up and remove them from the park, because it’s Time. To. Go.

    They need parents who DO give medicines, DO brush their teeth and who DO keep them clean.

    They need parents who WILL stop them from hitting, who WON’T allow them to grab, destroy, or hurt others.

    They need parents who feel totally unapologetic about picking them up and taking them to another room – and shutting the door (with the parent on the inside, hopefully, in most cases) when they are out of control.

    Sure, our physical limit setting should happen as gently and communicatively as possible. And with empathy and kindness. But also a lot of confidence and firmness.

Children Deserve Respect

I’m very passionate about promoting the voice of a child, because children are one of the last groups of people who are not recognized as autonomous, free beings – evidence for which is the fact that HITTING THEM is still legal in many countries, including (I believe) all 50 STATES in the USA.

Us intentional parents are on a mission to change that – so if you believe children deserve respect and body autonomy – give this video a thumbs up, tweet it out and share this post on social so it can get discovered by the people who need to see it.

 

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COME FIND ME ON INSTAGRAM!

Imagine that instead of brushing your kid’s teeth every day, you decided to wait until they’re 16. ⁣

The side effects of this choice would be…⁣
😝 Bad breath⁣
😬 Plaque build-up and discoloration⁣
🦷 Toothaches and cavities… ⁣
and eventually, BIG $$$$$ at the dentist for treatment.⁣

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!⁣
Of course, this is not a good plan!⁣

I'm going to assume you would rather create a small, manageable daily habit that invests in our child’s oral hygiene to last a lifetime.⁣

Because we know: ⁣
It might be a pain to get started and stay consistent, but over the long haul, it will save you so much pain, $$$, and grossness.🤢⁣

And it's the same with, independence.⁣

If you invest a little bit in your child’s independent play right now - taking small, manageable steps every day to maintain and establish healthy habits - you will reap the benefits over time.⁣

A tough-love moment here - it’s not realistic to wait until your child is 16 and then suddenly expect them to be independent enough to drive or get their first job or figure out a plan for the summer.⁣

These are skills you’ve got to build slowly and gradually.⁣

It’s also not desirable to spend the next decade suffering through burnout, exhaustion, clinginess - because you’re not making the little investment that it takes to establish healthy independent play habits (just as it’s not awesome to endure cavities, toothache, and bad breath for years - rather than invest in establishing healthy brushing habits early on).⁣

So I guess my message is: Don’t wait with this. ⁣
When we neglect our child’s need for independence - it gets worse, not better.⁣

But when you take the time to follow along with the small, daily, doable actions that are outlined in the Reclaim Play Challenge - it will pay off in spades years later! ⁣

That’s why you’re here.⁣

You can do this. 💪⁣

It’s SO worth it. The small actions you’re taking now are going to pay back dividends... forever.⁣

Reclaim Play is all unlocked! Link in bio
...

“𝗗𝗿𝗮𝘄 𝗺𝗲 𝗮 𝗵𝗼𝗿𝘀𝗲!” my daughter said. Not gonna lie, I draw a mean horse. 🐎 So I did. She watched me, wide-eyed, so impressed. So excited. So grateful! A beautiful moment, right?⁣

I thought so. “𝘎𝘰𝘰𝘥 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘈𝘷𝘪𝘵𝘢𝘭!” I thought, patting myself on the back.⁣

After she colored it in she said: “𝗖𝗮𝗻 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗱𝗿𝗮𝘄 𝗺𝗲 𝗮 𝗺𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗱 𝗻𝗼𝘄?” 🧜‍♀️ ⁣

“𝘞𝘩𝘺 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘳𝘢𝘸 𝘪𝘵, 𝘮𝘺 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦?”⁣

“𝗜 𝗰𝗮𝗻’𝘁 𝗱𝗿𝗮𝘄 𝗮𝘀 𝗽𝗿𝗲𝘁𝘁𝘆 𝗮𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂.”⁣

oomph.⁣

My heart sunk just a little bit. 😟⁣

In my well-meaning attempt to answer my daughter’s sweet request - I had undermined her own creativity. ⁣

I had shown her that I, the adult, was more developed, more skilled, more capable - so much so that she might as well not even try. ⁣

Why try when she could never measure up to the mermaid that I can produce? ⁣

Look, it’s not a big deal. I’ll still draw for my kids from time to time - but I really try not to. ⁣

I try to say, 'No', to playing with them or for them - because I want to say, 'Yes', to something else...⁣

I want to say YES to their: ⁣
❤ Creativity⁣
❤ Independence⁣
❤ Personal Satisfaction⁣
❤ Development⁣
❤ Resilience⁣
❤ Problem-solving⁣
❤ Focus⁣
❤ Attention⁣
❤ Concentration⁣
❤ Inner World⁣

I want to step out of the way of THEIR self-expression, curiosity, exploration. And as an adult, if I interject myself (even if they’re begging me to!), I’m totally likely to overshadow and overpower - even with all my best intentions!⁣

So, my friend, if you ever feel guilty for letting your kids play independently, for saying “no”, stepping away, or becoming less involved, know this:⁣

𝗜𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝘆 𝗶𝘀 𝗸𝗶𝗱𝘀 𝗯𝗶𝗿𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁!⁣

We owe it to them.⁣

I hope this is a liberating thought for you, as it was for me. ⁣

#reclaimplay #independentplay⁣
#childhoodunplugged #motherhoodthroughinstagram #letthembelittle #playpandemic #presentplay #intentionalmotherhood #intentionalparenting #loveparenting #enjoyparenting #parenthood #parentingwisdom #childdevelopment #playisimportant #playislearning #playisachildswork #independencebaby #toddlerdrawings #toddlerdrawing
...

Want results like Stephanie? Want to look back in a few years and think: I did it! I became the parent I knew I could be and showed up for my kids’ childhood.

Then I hope you’re taking the first (tiny, easy, doable!) baby step and follow along with Week 1 of the challenge! *Simplify*

Do you believe your kids are capable? Do you believe you’re capable?

Remember: “Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t: you’re right.” (FREE www.theparentingjunkie.com/challenge) #reclaimplay #presentplay
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2 comments

2 Replies to “It’s My Body, My Decision”

  1. Thank-you, Evital……your comments are a breath of fresh air. Can we see this on mainstream TV? Wouldn’t that be wonderful! Cheer and solidarity……Nancy Mc/ Gran-Nan

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