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We Need to Teach Both Our Sons and Daughters About Harassment

With all of the information regarding sexual harassment in the news these days, it’s a wonder that we focus so much time on teaching our children the importance of respect when it comes to each other.  

What has been highlighted by the media is the harassment charges that many men face.  

It is important however that though harassment happens mainly to females at any age, we don’t ignore the fact that it can come from both men and women, or boys and girls, and can also be experienced by both genders.

harassmentMy nephew just turned 16 years-old. He is no stranger to having girls touch his body without his consent. While at the mall with a friend of his one day, he bent down to tie his friend’s shoe. As he was bent over, a young girl decided that it would be okay to pinch his butt as she walked by. Why was this okay? Was she feeling brave? Brazen? Was it a dare from a friend? Did she think he had a cute butt and thought the way to show him her appreciation or attraction was to touch it? As my sister relayed this story to me, she also told me how uncomfortable it made him feel, and that it wasn’t the first time this happened. Another time, they were traveling and were in a gift shop.  Once again, as he was browsing the souvenirs, another young girl grabbed his butt.

Sexual harassment can come in many different forms.  

I asked my sister if it was okay to share these stories in a blog post and write it from the perspective that boys can be victims of sexual harassment. You see, I know my sister and I know that like me, she works very hard to teach her son the importance of treating others with respect, and respecting boundaries and when people say no.

As a kindergarten teacher, I know that it is developmentally appropriate for young children to want to hug and kiss each other.  

harrassment

I have had children claim love and propose marriage at the ripe age of five, which always lends itself to a teachable moment of what is appropriate for this age. Can you marry your friend? “Nooooooo,” they always answer. Is it okay to kiss a friend even if you really like them? “Noooooo,” they always answer. But they are young and they are learning, and their actions are not sexual harassment at this age.

However, it is important to begin teaching respect and consent at this age (and even younger) and emphasizing that we need to ask for hugs, and kisses are for our family. And, if a friend says no to a hug, we need to respect that answer. So many rules to remember when you are young and you just love your friends! But these rules and the respect they convey are so important.

What we practice when we are young turns into habit when we are older.  

The message we need to send to our sons and daughters is that it isn’t okay to grab someone’s bottom in the mall. That is harassment. It’s not okay to violate someone’s body. When someone says no, it is no, no matter what the age or sex or how the person identifies. If you have not been explicitly invited to touch someone, please do not violate their space or security.  

If we can teach our sons and daughters to be strong and stand up for themselves as well as to respect the wishes of others, then we are headed in the right direction.

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