As soon as little kiddos start to talk and socialize with others, caregivers work to steward good behavior and manners in their children. While manners are appropriate and helpful to learn, they are not about saying yes to everything.
Imagine this scenario, your young one is playing and Grandma asks for a hug. Your little one says no. Now, Grandma may be sad and adults may try to fix this sadness by overly encouraging the little one to give Grandma a hug. Ultimately, the little one gives Grandma a hug and is then praised for her behavior.
This very small interaction, which can happen over and over, and over time, enforces that saying ‘no’ is bad, and making others happy by doing something she doesn’t want to do, is good.
Likely, none of this is intentional. But these small interactions, from toddlerhood to adolescents, and even adulthood, can transform girls’ confidence to follow their own hearts, with kindness and boundaries.
Instead of encouraging her to hug Grandma, you can encourage her to communicate that she doesn’t want to hug right now, or give her options of how she wants to say goodbye. For example, “would you like to hug, give a high-five, or wave to say goodbye to Grandma?” Then thank Grandma for understanding her needs. This will ultimately teach her that she is in charge of her own body and builds mutual respect and boundaries.
In adolescents, girls may feel pressure to say yes to things and activities they otherwise wouldn’t want to do. This sort of pressure could be built up over time, so addressing consent
at any age can be helpful.