I want to post about my panels even though I don't remember enough to make writeups that are useful to anyone but me.
Teaching Consent had two panelists with parenting experience and two with experience in sex education, but one of the sex educators dropped out at the last minute.
Most of what I remember about this panel are the weird tangents that can be summarized as Don't Be Creepy. Don't Be Creepy is a very important part of talking to kids about sex, but it is not the only thing.
The most important thing is to teach children that they have the right to decide what happens to their own bodies by respecting their right to decide what happens to their own bodies. Really. Seriously. Even when they are very young. Even when they make bad decisions. Even when it is hard. Especially when it is hard. I think the most useful thing I did to protect my children from sexual predators was to let them see someone who loved them, and was in a position of power over them, and really really wanted them to eat their vegetables, and did the work to make the vegetables palatable, and explained how eating vegetables would make you feel better and be healthier, and still honored their decision not to eat the vegetables at this time. Because their body, their decision. Really.
I draw the line where my duty to protect overrides their autonomy between "Is their decision going to hurt them?" and "Is their decision going to harm them?" Because every time I violate their autonomy, I may keep them from getting hurt but I am also causing harm. So, I decide whether they get vaccinated (yes) but I don't decide what or how much they eat.
Teaching kids to respect other people's rights seems to me to flow naturally from respecting their rights. Do you get to cut your hair? That's your decision: it's your
hair. Do you get to pull my hair? Not unless I say okay: it's my
That leaves the third part of Ed Lane's anti-bullying injunction: "Don't be a perp, don't be a victim, and for God's sake, don't be a bystander." This is not as straightforward. It requires empathy. A useful tool is to talk about stories and imagine yourself into them from each person's point of view. So, I don't want you to be a victim, but I'd like you to imagine getting bullied in front of a bunch of kids who stand there staring: the bystander may be thinking "I cannot believe this is happening" or "I don't know how to stop this," but what the victim sees is a ring of people who are all letting this happen. Or, I don't want you to be a bully, but I'd like you to try to imagine what the bully is thinking. What makes you think this is okay? What could make you see that it is not okay?
As kids approach the age when they're going to put this knowledge to use, they stop wanting to talk to their parents about it. Don't try to override this. It is an important step on the road to independence. It's good to make good books available (on the shelf with all the other Books About Interesting Facts. Do not put the book on their bed. That is creepy.) It's good to tell them about http://www.scarleteen.com/
and other people who want them to have good information, and want them to make good decisions, but will not freak out or take it personally if they disclose that they have made a not-so-good decision. It's good to talk to your kids about these issues as long as you don't personalize it: talk about stories you've heard from other people, news stories, movies, books. Tell them your whole truth, what you believe and why, and be willing to listen to what they think, but don't demand that they tell you: that is creepy.
Nixie attended this panel and my next one. I worried that she might be uncomfortable, but she was curious and said that she'd be fine as long as I didn't point to her to say, "Behold the proof of my excellent theories!"
(Nixie and Mungo are my proof though.)