September 07, 2013

Bodily Integrity and Children

Bodily Integrity is most often mentioned when debating abortion, but it has a major place in how I choose to parent my child.

Bodily integrity (or bodily autonomy/body autonomy) is the concept that each individual has rights to his or her own body. They have the right to choose what to do with it and who will touch it and when.

This is one of the reasons I don't believe in circumcision. It's also why I'm against piercing a baby's ears before they are old enough to ask for it themselves. By all means, if my son would like to alter his body with tattoos, piercings or even cut off his right pinky finger, he's free to do so once he's old enough to consent. As it is NOT my body, I do not have the right to alter his body unless it is a serious medical necessity.

What I want to focus on is where it concerns ALL children: expressions of affection. Often you will see parents say things like, "go give Grandma a kiss!" Whether the child wants it or not, they are usually scooped up and covered in kisses. This is extremely disrespectful and sets a precedent for abuse because it disregards the child's feelings. It tells the child that whether they like it or not, sometimes they have to accept being kissed, hugged and held by people they don't want. When you tell them they don't have a choice, that their "no" is ignored, they learn that there are times when they must ignore their true feelings and let certain things happen.

When someone tries to molest them, do you think they are good at saying "no?" It wasn't listened to before, so why would anyone listen to it now?

When they are teenagers and a boy starts trying to kiss or grope them and they don't like it - do you think they will say, "no" or will they accept that sometimes you just have to put up with these things?

This is why I always ask my son if he would like a hug or a kiss. This is why if he says, "no" I respect that and leave him alone. It doesn't matter that I'm his mom. It doesn't matter I don't have bad intentions. What matters is that he is given complete control over his own body and has the confidence to say "no" if he doesn't want someone in his space.

As a mother, it means sometimes I do not get a kiss goodnight. As a mother, it means I may go months or even years without a hug or kiss from my son, if he chooses. Because it's not about me or my body.

When it comes to parenting an Autistic child, it means he is allowed to jump, spin, flap, hum or do whatever he wants to do with his body, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. Because it's his body. And by hurt, I mean actually make contact with another person's body, because then that affects their bodily autonomy. Otherwise, if you don't like looking at it, don't look!

Forcing someone else to change for your benefit is not respect, and that includes forced hugs and kisses. A child, in fact any person, is able to express love, emotions and even respect without touching anyone or being touched. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to hear from readers. Thanks for your comments!