Right before I had kids friends of mine gave me “From Diapers To Dating” which gave me the best piece of advice ever: the No rule.
This rule is that if someone says no, you must stop. There are exceptions, of course, if the child’s life in is in danger, but the most practical use of the No rule is during every day interactions.
If the child does not want to be tickled anymore and says No, even in jest as you think they like it, you must stop. You must get explicit consent before resuming tickling.
If your kid is doing something you do not like to you or to the house, you say No. Chances are that if you follow the No rule for your child, your child follows the No rule for you.
If you are putting clothes on the kid and they say No, I do not like that outfit, then do not put that outfit on them. If you ask them to kiss grandma and they say No, then you tell grandma your child doesn’t want to kiss. Any touch at all the child says No to, you should obey most of the time. (Exception for me personally was when my son was getting his vaccination shots. Also, my daughter wanted to give up Tae Kwon Do we had to talk about commitment and follow-through, which is pretty tricky. Sometimes they don’t want to wash their face and hands, but I explain to them why it’s important, I don’t forcibly wash their face and hands.) If your child starts annoying their sibling through teasing and the sibling says No or Stop then the other child must stop. If another kid starts some sort of ‘harmless’ agression like copying another kid or trying to peer pressure them into something they don’t want to do and the kid says Stop or No or I Don’t Want To then you as the adult must stop the peer pressure.
This is so important for many reasons. It teaches children that their words have power. That they have a right to their bodies and a say in how their bodies can be touched. It teaches that their words have power even over adults, as you, the parent, do not touch your child when they say no. It teaches them that they can not be bullies and that they have to stop when someone else says no. It shows that they can depend on you to stop peer pressure and that their happiness is more important that what other think of them. It stops bullying, teasing, and other forms of ‘harmless’ agression. If someone does make them feel uncomfortable, they know that they should talk about it.
If you work in a school, are a parent, or in another setting where you’re responsible for kids, start out by telling them the No rule. It will decrease bickering, teasing, and bullying and make it a more safe space for the kids to be in.
My house isn’t a perfect house of peace after practicing in this rule, by no means! My kids still argue. We still roughhouse, tickle, and chide each other. We just stop when someone asks us to. If someone does not want to eat peas they do not have to eat peas. Outside of our family, we ask before we touch anyone else - “Can I give you a hug?” It teaches respect. The No rule has taught me to respect my children, which is the biggest gift I can give them for later in life, when they are being pressured to do something they do not want to, when they see they can take advantage of someone but they don’t because that person said No, or when they see someone else being hurt that needs their help. If someone says Stop You Must Stop.