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Have You Got a Minute?

by JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton

To more capably handle how to say "no" to sexual advances, letís broaden this discussion to learning to cope in todayís world. The ability to say "no" is the only way we can maintain our own personal values as well as protect ourselves. Saying "no" has to be taught.

We might start when our children are going to start school. Perhaps we can use a family home evening to teach them that there are good and bad pictures in the world.

"When someone approaches you, Johnny, with a bad picture, how might you respond?" Explore with the child why it is important to say "no" and walk away from that situation?

Sometimes I have used puppets with young children. A puppet we called Terrible Tiger always came tempting everyone with wrong things or wrong actions. Raggedy Ann and Andy always made good decisions, walked away from bad situations and said "No" to others. Another puppet called Tweety Bird might always give in. It is important to let the children play the part of the one who is strong and says "No." Then during the week when you are busy in the kitchen, you might stop and say, "I have a bad picture. Do you want to see it?" When they sense it is a game and say "No" and walk away, reassure them that they are wonderful to be able to do that. You can play this game with cigarettes, alcohol or anything else you want them to say "no" to.

James J. Jones in his book called "Letís Fix the Kids" states that boundaries are a feeling or sense that we have about ourselves regarding where we "stop" and other people "begin". All children need to be taught that they need boundaries. Boundaries are clear limits where no one may cross without permission. Unwelcome and unauthorized crossing of a boundary is abuse and violence upon that person. With children you can say that hitting crosses boundaries. No one has a right to cross this boundary. Now we need to include teaching what parts of our bodies are private parts. We need to teach that NO ONE has a right to touch these parts without permission and we donít give permission. With older children and young teens you can add to that sentence that we donít give permission until we are married. I would not do that with young children.

We need to ask our children/teens if they are afraid to say "Stop!" because they will offend someone? James J. Jones states, "We sometimes feel uncomfortable when someone gets too close to our face and talks to us." We feel like they are encroaching on us and "in our space." This is natural and good. When we feel someone is encroaching on our boundaries and we feel this discomfort, we have the right to say, "Stop, youíre encroaching on my boundaries. Please step back. You are too close to me." When we have a poor sense of boundaries this is hard because we feel we shouldnít say it. Help your children understand this, role play it and/or use puppets to teach it.

If we do a good job of teaching and our daughter is on a date, she will not hesitate to say, "No Bill, I like you, but I donít feel comfortable having you kiss me or touch me in that way."

Emotional boundaries are important, too. A child has a right to feel what he feels. We know how we feel. As parents we need to acknowledge their feelings. They own them. Having emotional boundaries will help them say "no" to sexual advances because their feelings will tell them this is wrong. If we have squashed these feelings and told them how they should feel in lots of circumstances, they will relinquish control of their emotional boundaries in a difficult situation. These ideas come from Jones, "Letís Fix the Kids," p. 315.

Other situations need to be handled at home. It is important to set children up so they understand that "everyone gets teased." That is part of growing up. So many youth are crushed as teenagers because no one taught them this as children.They believed the teasing and took it as rejection rather than just a part of growing up.

Teaching children/teens that there are alternative ways to react besides just feeling bad is healthy. They need to learn to compliment themselves on how strong they are when they walk away from the school bully. Prepare them to roll with situations where friends forget to come over, etc.

It is important to watch when children rightly say "no" and give them positive reinforcement with perhaps a hug and praise. Glenn Latham reminds us that "behavior is strengthened or weakened by its consequences" (p. 17) and they ultimately respond better to positive consequences. It is also important to teach them that they are wonderful, worthwhile people, unique in every sense so they feel strong enough to say "no."

The B-Safe Video helps children ages four to eleven learn to say "No." It can be obtained from Citadel Broadcasting, 434 Bearcat Dr., Salt Lake City, Utah 84114, $7.00. It teaches children how to avoid being picked up by a stranger and encourages them to "tell" if there has ever been any form of sexual abuse.

Sources: Smart Parenting, Dr. Peter Favaro, p. 109.
The Power of Positive Parenting, Glenn I. Latham, p. 183.
Let's Fix the Kids, James P. Jones, p. 314, 315.

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