With sexual assault stories dominating the headlines in recent weeks—over the last couple of years, in fact— "consent" is a topic that must be addressed with children. But how do you explain sexual awareness to a child when they're too young to understand what it all means?
Liz Kleinrock, founder of Teach and Transform, is a social justice advocate and anti-bias educator in Los Angeles, California. She's also an elementary school teacher (for third grade) with a knack for simplifying life's most difficult lessons.
Recently, after rolling out a one-page, easy-to-follow "consent" chart to her class, Kleinrock shared it on Instagram.
"Everything about (recently confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett) Kavanaugh in the news has been making me HEATED," she wrote. "So whenever I get frustrated about the state of our country, it inspires me to proactively teach my kids to DO BETTER."
Kleinrock said that she and her students even explored some of the gray areas, "like if someone says 'yes' but their tone and body language really says 'no.'"
The diagram, which begins by defining consent, explains what "giving permission" sounds like to a kid—"Yes!" "Sure!" "Yes, please!" "Of course!" "Yaaass!" "I'll allow that"—adding that it must sound "positive and enthusiastic."
Kleinrock also clarified when you should ask for consent, such as when you touch another person or want to borrow something, followed by the "what ifs."
"What if you really want a hug but the other person doesn't?" Or "What if the other person says 'no,' but they're smiling?"
At the bottom, underneath all the “what ifs,” written in bold red ink, are the words "NOT consent."
The chart ends with advice on what to say if you do not give consent, but Kleinrock’s viral message is only the beginning.
“It’s been affirming to receive so many messages from parents and caregivers who now feel equipped with the language to discuss setting physical boundaries with their children,” she told Mom.me. “Teaching this concept does not have to involve sex; it’s simply about understanding what is comfortable for you, and respecting the bodies of others.”
Kleinrock, whose work is mostly centered on anti-racism, said she was surprised that this particular piece went viral.
“I will say that no matter your political beliefs, I want to believe that all parents and caregivers want their children to be safe, and to be able to come to them if someone makes them feel uncomfortable,” she said. “Despite being labeled as a ‘liberal educator,’ I strive to teach lessons that transcend partisanship. They’re not just for liberal children. All people deserve to feel safe and heard.”