My friend Abby is bright, intelligent and amazing, I secretly think there may be two of her… She’s a High School English teacher and mother of two who has in dominating online media with her TedX Talk and articles for Huffington Post.
Her passion for healthy sexuality and consent based parenting is contagious. Today she is not only sharing a piece of that but giving away three copies of her book, Consent Based Parenting (which is on .99, come on!)
When it comes to bodies, and what we teach about them, our house has one rule that trumps everything else. Everyone is in charge of their own bodies. The exceptions are few and far between. If someone is making choices that will cause them harm, then we intervene. Otherwise the rule stands.
Everyone is in charge of their own bodies.
This is not always the easiest way to parent. Because everyone is in charge of their own body, I do not always get to choose what my kids wear, even to church. I sometimes cringe when my wild girls in their rain boots and rainbow tights sit next to their perfectly coiffed peers. Would it kill them to want to wear shoes and hair bows that coordinate with tasteful dresses? It has been difficult to explain to long-distance relatives why my girls are not necessarily going to “Come give aunt-Pheobe a HUG!!” But the rule stands. Everyone is in charge of their own body. If my kid doesn’t want to hug you, I am not going to make her. Period.
We have this rule, that everyone is in charge of their own body, because we want to be as clear as possible with our four and five year old girls about their own bodies and what is and is not expected from them.
The unspoken expectations on women’s bodies can be overwhelming and confusing. Look good, not too good. Be assertive, but not bitchy. Don’t be a prude, but never put yourself in a compromising position. Do flirt, but not too much. There is no way to win. This game is set up for my girls to lose.
The game is set up, really for everyone to lose. If our bodies are seen as pieces in some kind of power game where the object is for each person is only playing for themselves, then someone is going to get hurt. It is guaranteed. I don’t think that is what God intended. In fact, I am sure of it.
God calls us to mutual submission, and you can’t have mutual submission if someone isn’t in charge of themselves. Submission is something you choose. Not because you owe it to someone else, and certainly not because someone is forcing something on you.
In order for us to interact with each other as sexual, bodily beings, we must recognize the image of God in each person, and respect them accordingly. This starts from the beginning. It starts with our kids first interactions with their bodies and the world. It starts with teaching our kids that they are in the image of God in word and deed. I show my kids that they are made in the image of God by allowing them as much autonomy as I can. And, I want to teach them that everyone else is made in the image of God as well. If mommy is made in the image of God, then that means you can’t hit her just because you are mad, or hang on her when she is tired and hurting. If your sister is made in the image of God, you can’t force her to play with you just because you are bored. You can’t hit your friends, and if they don’t want a hug you need to respect them.
My kids are far from dating age, but as a high school teacher, it is very clear to me that those days are coming. Before we start talking about sexual feelings, and restraint, and making responsible decisions in very heated situations, I want them to have a strong sense of respect and autonomy. I want them to be comfortable and in control of their own bodies. I want them to be able to recognize their feelings and decide whether or not to act on those feelings. I want their choices to be THEIR choices.
I hope that my girls are comfortable in their bodies. And I hope that comfort comes from respecting the image of God in themselves. I can model this for them by respecting the image of God in them. For my house, that means everyone is in charge of their own body.
Abby lives in the city of Atlanta with her husband and two feisty girls. She has been teaching English for the last ten years and blogging for the last five. She swears a lot for a teacher and mother, but she just likes all the words. She is currently working on a manuscript about her first year of teaching in an inner-city school. She is also working on teaching her four-year-old how to feed herself. She blogs about education, mothering and spirituality at Accidental Devotional.
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