Bodily Autonomy and Personal Hygiene

Welcome to the April 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Personal Care

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles relating to their children’s personal care choices.

Innocent Child Protected By Arms

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

More than 30% of children in the United States will be sexually abused, few of which will be reported. In most of those cases, the perpetrator will not be a stranger. It will be someone you and your child know: a trusted babysitter or neighbor, a friend, a coach or teacher, your beloved Uncle Charlie, or another person whom you thought would never do that to your child.

Knowing the warning signs of sexual abuse is important. It allows you to quickly assess possible telling behaviors and take action to prevent possible further abuse. However, as parents, our goal is to prevent the abuse before it happens. There are many ways to do this. We can be honest with our kids about sex and bodies, answering questions as they come up in age appropriate ways. We can teach our children the proper terminology of their body parts and cultivate an atmophere in which our children feel comfortable talking with us about anything. We can talk to them about tricky people and how to get help. We can also empower them by honoring their personal bodily autonomy.

Individual should be allowed to have control over what happens to their bodies. In our family, we have made it clear to our children that it is not acceptable for anyone to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable or without permission. This includes well meaning relatives who expect children to give hugs and kisses on demand (check out the great discussion at Vibrant Wanderings about this). It includes other children (who pass on abuse in a large percentage of cases). It includes doctors and even my husband and myself. We believe that if there is a valid reason for touching a child, in the event that a doctor or parent must aid in personal or medical care, that reason should be able to be explained to the child and permission given.

To that end, our children own their own bodies. We don’t force diaper changes, teeth brushing, baths (although the only problem our children have ever had with baths or showers is getting out), nail cutting, hair brushing, or anything else. This doesn’t mean that we have the dirty children on the block , walking around with uncombed hair, dirty teeth and diapers sagging with excrement. It just means that we talk to our children about why we believe it is implortant to do various aspects of personal hygiene. We give choices to honor their individuality. We are open and direct. We model personal hygiene and let them do as much as they can on their own.

Forcing a child to do something to their body against their will does not only destroy the trust they have in us. It also destroys the trust they have in their own bodily autonomy.

Learn more about the sexual abuse of children and what you can do to prevent it at Stop It Now! and Safely Ever After

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon April 10 with all the carnival links.)

Driveway Painting

When we were pendulum painting, some of the paint went off of the paper onto the driveway. After looking at it for a few days, I decided there was really only one thing taht made any sense – paint the driveway! My kids loved the suggestion, and we set to work watering down some more tempera paint (washable so it isn’t permanent). It was nice, messy fun and watching the different techniques was a blast. My one year old decided that her belly button was feeling left out and promptly remedied that. After cleaning up our painting supplies outside, the kids piled into the bathtub to get cleaned up, giving me some downtime as I sat there supervising and knitting some of their holiday gifts.

Pendulum Painting

Lovely weather at the end of Septmeber had us spending a lot of time outside. We decided to improvise with a couple of saw horses, an extra board, some string, a water bottle out of the recycling bin, and watered down tempera paint. Walla! Pendulum painting!

Balance

Photo by Murray Barnes

Balance is a continual process. In order to stay balanced, we must be constantly shifting and adapting to even small changes in the environment or situation. When something changes, we must also change in order to maintain our balance. If we don’t, then not only do we lose our previous balance, but we tend to topple down the other side. This is true not only in regard to our activities and the busyness of our lives but with our relationships, including those relationships with our children. When our children are out of balance, we need to step over and help regain that balance rather than spiralling down, out of control.

Composition Notebooks

Though our unschooling family doesn’t go back to school, we do hit up the back to school sales in order to stock up on various supplies. Composition books, surprisingly, have been one of the most sought after supplies. My children do all sorts of things in their composition books and go through numerous ones each year.

There has been no need for me to sit down with them and explain how to write properly. They are quite capable of learning how to write without tedious instruction from someone else’s agenda. I’m sometimes asked how to spell certain words, but unless they want to show me something in their notebooks, I stay out of it.

Free Range Learning

Free Range Learning: How Home-Schooling Changes Everything by Laura Grace Weldon: Book Cover

If I could only recommend one book about homeschooling to someone, it would be Laura Grace Weldon’s Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. There is something for everyone in this book, whether a homeschooling veteran or someone who is contemplating whether or not to homeschool their children. While the book is unschooling-lite, families of all styles will find value in the book. Free Range Learning is not merely about homeschooling; it’s about the way people learn and interact with others, about what we take from life, and about what we make of life.

Weldon’s eloquent writing is backed by numerous studies and research. The book is not a fluff read. Readers will want to take their time, pondering and digesting the information, whether the information presented is new to them or something they have long believed. With numerous personal anecdotes from homeschooling families of all styles and experiences allowing glimpses into the lives of homeschoolers, the bulk of the book relies on sound research. While I would reccomend the book to anyone with even a passing interest in homeschooling, I would not reccomend it to anyone not open to homeschooling unless they are willing to challenge their current assumptions.

Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything promises to be a valuable research for new homeschoolers everywhere for many years to come.

Disclaimer: A copy of the book was provided by the author.

Does My Child Have a Speech Problem?

Does My Child Have a Speech Problem by Katherine L. Martin: Book Cover

Learning language is a natural process for children. However, the rate at which that process is mastered varies with each individual. In a society which is increasingly focused on end products, parents often feel pressured to push their children to attend speech therapy. While such programs may be beneficial for some children, it seems odd that an entire society suddenly needs help in order to accomplish what was once a naturally occurring learning process. People have disassociated from an integrated society to the extent that we no longer recognize what is developmentally appropriate for children any longer.

That is where certified speech-language pathologist Katherine L. Martin’s book, Does My Child Have a Speech Problem?, can help. Martin answers parents’ 50 top questions concerning speech issues and language development. By understanding what is developmentally appropriate, parents and educators can better assess whether or not there is a true need for speech help. Helpfully indexed, the book not only covers normal language development and speech issues, but provides greater information about when and where to seek help, and gives fun exercises to incorporate into daily life when needed. This quick read will give assurance to the many parents whose children are developing normally while helping others to find the help their children may need.