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How to Teach Children Not to Force (or Rape) Others

Photo Credit: HortongrouI just shared two days ago that I am on sabbatical. I didn’t switch off the computer soon enough, though, and it’s a bit difficult to rest when I have something to say. I feel I must write about something: rape – and specifically, how to teach children how not to force others. I am allowing myself thirty minutes to write about some ways we can help our children learn to honor their bodies and the bodies of others. Consider this your trigger warning.

Check yourself and root out all forms of force from your being. Become acutely aware of your own potential for force and violence. No, it’s not an easy task. It’s huge. And it’s worth it. Not only do our children deserve it, they need it. Rape begins with the idea it is somehow okay to force ourselves on another person in some form or fashion. It is not okay. This is different from protective use of force which I will address at another time.

The world around us isn’t changing; it’s intensifying. We have to change from the inside and for our children to know they are not to force others or to accept being forced as part of life, they need to experience life with adults who are willing to look at their stuff and stop forcing the children around them. Don’t worry, I include myself in this and hopefully my forthcoming book Force Free Parenting will help us all. We shall see.

If you have an issue forcing your child or others, get help. Sure, we live in a world where it’s seen as weak to get help, but come on. If we have a problem, we need some help. We didn’t get like this by ourselves. We need the assistance of someone (or maybe more than one) who is truly compassionate and effective in helping another work through their stuff so they can see the light of their soul and live from it. This is possible, I assure you. Don’t wait. Stop reading and seek it out now (here are some links to help). Our children are watching and one of the best ways we can teach them how not to force others is through not doing it ourselves.

Define clear boundaries for yourself as you respect your child’s. What do I mean by boundaries? Declarations of how you want to be treated, in a sense. You can only determine them for yourself. You can, though, respect the boundaries of another person, such as your child, by noticing how your child responds to how you are being and check yourself when they show signs of not wanting you to touch or be with them in a certain way. Quite possibly if your child is resistant, you have a thread of force alive in you and can benefit from looking within to discover your true intentions.

I am not asking you to guilt yourself into some sort of quintessential submission; I am just asking you to really look inside and choose how you are being with yourself and those around you as it pertains to boundaries. Again, I do the same with myself and it is quite liberating as I realize again and again that force is not where I want to come from and that there is an endless flow of love, compassion, peace, certainty, and strength from which I can choose to live from in any moment.

Notice how you handle anger and teach your children how to be emotionally responsible. Okay, I could totally separate these two but they really go hand in hand. I could also write about them all day as there is a whole lot of unbridled anger circulating our planet today. Here’s a way to look at anger. It is a thwarted sense of personal power. Our personal power is the ability to direct our lives, or at least feel like we can in some way. Certainly we always have a choice about how we can view our experience of life, even if we cannot control all aspects of it. Personal power that feels it has no space to express turns into anger.

How do you handle anger? How do you handle it when things don’t go your way? How do you handle it when you feel someone else has power over your life? Does that anger fester? Does it jump and shout about how it is someone else’s fault (even in your head)? Do you take it out on others? Do you find yourself tempted to force another person when you feel anger? Is it possible that unmet anger could even manifest in some other seemingly unrelated event where you “displace” the anger onto someone or some other situation?

What does anger have to do with rape? Underlying both is the issue of personal power. Do I get it from someone else or something outside of me or is it inside of me at all times, waiting for me to exercise it consciously, responsibly? True, pure personal power comes from harnessing the power inside of us to choose how we respond to and direct our lives. We need to know this so we can share it with our children. We need to delve into this so deeply that we have no doubt where our power is. It is not in our children behaving a certain way. It is not in our partner behaving a certain way. It is in our ability to choose.

Yes, ish hits the fan. Life isn’t perfect or pretty. Often times it is downright messy. We can still choose. Maybe through helping our children to experience their ability to choose and that their power is inside of them inherently we can reduce eliminate the transition from anger, delusions about where power comes from, and rape to a collaborative, enjoyable, empowering experience of life for everyone. Call me idealistic, I do not mind. I’m holding to my vision regardless.

Emotional responsibility starts with becoming comfortable feeling without acting. We need to know what we are actually feeling while we meet the physical and mental components of anger so we can transition any movement to force into using our personal power to bring about what we really want in our lives. No, this is not easy. I don’t really write about what’s easy. Simple, yes. Easy, no. I will share, though, that it is our own resistance which puts up the front and that’s okay, we’re human. We can still choose to start feeling fully and then choose what we do with what we feel.

Listen to our children and teach them to listen to others. I wasn’t going to write about rape; it’s too close to home. I was going to read the stories and feel what I feel and move on. Then a friend, Amy of Anktangle, wrote Teaching Kids About Consent (and How Not to Rape) and I at least wanted to share her very well written piece about how to respect kids and teach them the simple act of getting consent before touching someone through listening, noticing gestures, and modeling how to do this so our children can grow up with the ability to respect another person’s body. Yes, this is helpful and necessary. Does this mean we can never touch someone we are close to without explicitly getting permission? This depends completely on the context of the relationship and how each person feels – at the time. I am not going to give you a blanket statement; I am imploring you to lift the veil and figure this one out – really figure it out from within – moment by moment if necessary.

See human beings as deserving of dignity – all human beings – and share this with children. That’s why I always start with us and how we are being with those around us so we can pull force out by the roots. (I even suggest parents use Parent Talk with themselves before using it with children). We can talk all day about values, but talk really meets action with kids. They’re watching us all of the time. Henry Rollins wrote some pertinent thoughts about this in response to a recent teen rape case… “education, truth, respect, equality—these are the things that can get you from a to b very efficiently.” Yes, yes these things can bring about a change so that our children do not see each other as pieces of property – or less – to use and abuse in any situation. We can get from where we are – in a world with people who harm each other regularly – to a world where people honor one another, starting with ourselves.

Lastly, for now, if it has already happened – start the healing process. If you have forced your child, heal the past and start anew. If you know a child who is experiencing force or rape, stand up and do something. We need to be there for each other in this world. As one mom writes to her sons, there are helpers in the world. Be one. Start now.

Are you struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something with you: a story and some hope.