Alissa, a 32-year-old from Chicago, who works as an elementary school teacher, recently uploaded a video to the platform showing how she models “consent while parenting”.
In the clip, Alissa, who goes by the username @once.upon.a.mama, shared a few examples of situations where she would ask her two sons, ages two and four, for their consent, such as when she is getting them dressed in the morning or when she wants to hug them.
“Okay bud time to pick out your clothes. Do you want to do it yourself?” Alissa asks in the video, before following up with another question: “Do you need help getting dressed?”
The mother-of-two also portrays how she asks her children if they need her help during tasks such as hair brushing, with Alissa showing how she poses the question: “I noticed your hair needs some brushing. May I brush it for you?”
While tickling her sons, Alissa shows how she concludes the activity immediately after her children say that they want her to stop, while the video also shows the school teacher asking her child for permission before giving him a hug.
Alissa followed up the clip, which has been viewed more than 7.4m times, with another one where she informed her followers how to build “body autonomy and consent in babies and tots,” during a task such as a diaper change.
In the clip, Alissa explained that “young toddlers and babies cannot consent to diaper changes” but they must be done as a “necessary task”.
So, to ensure that she has the consent of her children, including her two-year-old son, the mother-of-two said that she interacts with her son while changing his diaper and explains what she is doing step-by-step as she does it “so he at least feels part of the process”.
“The goal is to make him feel involved and not like a passive observer having his body manipulated,” Alissa continued. “I want to be building the foundation for his body autonomy and consensual interactions later in his life.”
In addition to explaining to the child why you have to change their diaper and interacting with them throughout the process, Alissa also offered parents two options if their child does not want to be changed, with the mother-of-two suggesting telling the baby why exactly they need to be changed, or offering them a “structured choice”.
According to Alissa, asking the child a question such as: “Would you like to be changed now or in two minutes?” allows them to feel “empowered over their body” and the task gets accomplished.
The clips have prompted a conversation about the importance of gaining a child’s consent in the comments, with many of Alissa’s followers revealing that they wished their own parents had gotten their consent for things such as tickling or hugs.
“Okay the tickling thing is real, like, I know my family didn’t mean to but I’m now at the point where I get intense anxiety when being tickled because it’s hard to trust that the person tickling me will stop when I ask,” one person commented.
Others said that they would be using the methods in their own parenting, with another person writing: “I have never thought about consent in this context, my mind is blown. I can’t wait to do this with my son.”
According to Alissa, she first learned the technique while studyingearly childhood education at Illinois State University and decided to implement it into her own parenting.
“It made sense to me to carry over the same methods to my own children,” she told BuzzFeed. “I believe teaching children consent and body boundaries should be one of the very first things they learn in the world.”
The mother-of-two also shared her advice for parents who find that their children say no even after five minutes, with Alissa explaining that she reminds her children of the deal they made and “why it’s important for their body to do the task”.
If that doesn’t work, she recommends parents rely on their go-to disciplines or “redirection”.
“For my sons, I may just redirect them and distract them with a different activity for a few minutes and then take them to brush their teeth,” she said. “It may be loss of a privilege, it may be brushing your teeth together to motivate them, or it may be a ‘time in’ for a few minutes.
“Lots of options, but you have to do what’s effective for your child, since all are unique.”