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Being Small but Fierce is the Key to Defending Freedom

by Linda Rivenbark about a month ago in children
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Learning Self Assertion and Autonomy

Being Small but Fierce is the Key to Defending Freedom
Photo by Rochelle Brown on Unsplash

In every place and time in history, it has been important for women to stand up for themselves and teach the same to their daughters, granddaughters, and other young girls…Never more than right here (in the good ole’ USA) and right now (in the 21st century).

In some past generations, the maxim used to describe the place of children in the home and community was “be seen, not heard”. The children were expected to put on their “company manners” when guests came for dinner or a Sunday afternoon visit.

By mana5280 on Unsplash

They might have been told to always respect all adults and “not talk back”.

While teaching children respect for adults as well as well other children, there must be a balance between proper respect and accepting abuse from someone just because they are grown up or are considered a friend.

Unwanted attention from a peer or playmate can be stressful for a toddler or young child. Sometimes adults dismiss the encounter as "cute" or "sweet", but that does not give adequate respect to the discomfort of the child receiving unwanted physical contact.

Talking to both children kindly and lovingly about respecting each other's feelings and the right to say 'no' can help them set healthy boundaries to define friendships going forward.

Unwanted attention and physical contact can be between the child and an adult in their life - even a relative. As a parent, it may be necessary to discuss the situation with the adult involved and let them know you are trying to teach your children how to set boundaries that will help them in all their future relationships and assure them that they are still important in the child's life.

Your daughters (and sons) need to know that you will support them in their right to say “No!” to encounters that make them feel uncomfortable. Being spontaneous with affection comes naturally to some children, but a parent can quietly and gently teach them to ask permission before they hug or kiss another person.

By Ekaterina Shakharova on Unsplash

This can lead to a discussion with your child that others who wish to share physical affection with them (hug or kiss, for example) must likewise accept and respect their “yes” or “no”.

Teach all of your children to come to you and tell you if anyone insists on physical contact or threatens them in any way.

By Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash

Go to your public library and look for children’s books that can help reinforce the concept of physical and emotional autonomy on a level your child can understand.

If the library does not have what you are looking for, visit a bookstore and peruse the children's book section or ask a store associate for help in locating helpful books on the topic. Online bookstore websites are a great source of helpful books as well.

Allowing choices in practical life activities like choosing their clothing for school or at-home activities, deciding which games and activities to engage in and what friends they want to socialize with will help them learn autonomy.

Let your children know you will always be there to talk and that they can tell you anything. Listen to their concerns objectively and lovingly with the goal of helping them learn to make wise decisions and grow into strong, happy, responsible adults.


The above was originally published on Medium.com on August 7, 2022. I want to share it on Vocal as well, in hopes that it will encourage parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, and all adults close to children to offer encouragement and support to all children whose lives they touch.

Children today face challenges that are unprecedented and mind-boggling in their scope and gravity. Learning to take ownership of their own bodies and minds will be essential to their health, happiness, and success throughout their lifetimes.


About the author

Linda Rivenbark

“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Make some light.” –  Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

Writing and loving it since I was a third grader.

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  • Maryam Pardesiabout a month ago

    Coming from a similar background, I still face issues with boundaries. And it's not just me, it's everyone around me. It's like listening to a "no" triggers a huge reaction, even if it's to something very ordinary. We really need to work on this!

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