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I'm teaching my 6- and 7-year-old boys about consent. Here's how it's gone so far.

parenting, consent, education, sexuality, community
Photo by saeed karimi on Unsplash

The scenarios of parenting have many hurdles in order to offer a healthy way of approaching life.

The second week of first grade, my 6-year-old son came home and told me, very seriously, "Mama, I have a girlfriend, and I love her."

I didn't laugh at him or tell him he is too young to have a girlfriend, and I didn't minimize his feelings. We had a very serious conversation about his girlfriend: what he likes about her, what they talk about at lunch, and what games they play on the playground at recess. I asked questions about her; some he knew the answers to, and some he didn't.

Nearly every day after that for some time, we talked about his girlfriend, and in every conversation, in some way, we talked about consent — what it means, what it looks like, and how I expect him to act.


I didn't objectify the little girl by referring to her as "your little girlfriend" as I've heard other adults tease their own children. I didn't make jokes about him being a heartbreaker or tell him that the girls will be falling all over him by high school. I didn't tell him his feelings don't matter — and I definitely didn't tell him her feelings don't matter. I think the seeds of misogyny are planted with words as much as behavior, and I treated his emotions seriously because, for him, being in love for the first time is the most serious thing in the world. He will remember this little girl just as I remember my first boyfriend, and how I handle things now is setting the tone for the future.

I wasn't expecting to have these conversations in the context of a relationship quite so soon.

His older brother is more introverted, with the exception of the occasional fleeting crush. But I have been talking about consent and modeling it since my sons were babies.

The idea that young men need to learn about consent in high school or college goes hand-in-hand with the idea that sex education shouldn't be taught before then, either. Consent is an ongoing conversation in our home, framed to suit the situation. But now that my son has a girlfriend, I'm finding ways to introduce the concept of consent within a relationship on a level that he can understand.

From the time my sons were very little — before they could even talk — I started teaching them about body autonomy and consent.

"Do you want me to tickle you?" "Can I pick you up?" "Do you want me to brush your hair?"

I would ask whenever I could, waiting for their response before proceeding. Yes, of course, there are times when a young child needs to be picked up or hair needs to be brushed whether they want it or not, but there are just as many times when children can be given — and deserve — the right to choose. And so I let them decide whenever I can.

Teaching them that no one can touch them without permission was the first step in teaching them about respecting the boundaries of others.

I model the respect I expect them to extend to others. It is an ongoing lesson, as the most important lessons always are.

Of course they fight — what siblings don't? But I teach them that, whatever the game or activity, if someone says "Stop!" or "No!" they are to stop what they are doing.

To that end, I try to stay out of their squabbles and give them time to sort them out. If they don't stop, there are consequences. We talk about how it feels to have someone keep chasing, tickling, or bothering you when you've told them to stop. I watch their empathy for others grow as they consider how it feels to be little and have grownups want to touch their faces or hug them without permission. They're learning, and it gives me hope.

But now I'm having daily conversations with my youngest son about girlfriends and what is — and isn't — OK.

He knows he has to ask if she wants a hug before he touches her. He knows that it's rude to refer to her as "my girlfriend" when talking about her and that it's better, and more respectful, to use her name.

He knows that if he gives her a gift, he should give her a chance to respond instead of inundating her with more gifts. "Let's wait and see how she feels about this lovely picture you made her before you draw another one," I tell him, explaining how overwhelming it can be to have someone give you gifts when you're not ready for them or haven't had a chance to return the affection. Of course, I'm thinking about the boy I knew my junior year of high school who would constantly leave me trinkets of his affection at my locker — affection that wasn't reciprocated and made me uncomfortable, especially after I asked him to stop.

I don't know if I'm doing this right, honestly.

There are times when I think to myself, "But he's only 6! Why are we even having this conversation?" And then I remind myself, "If not now, when?"

I know what it means to be a girl in this world, and my sons are starting to hear my #MeToo stories, the ones they're old enough to understand. How do I talk about what's wrong in the world if I'm not willing to talk about the right behaviors, the right way to treat women?

I know my sons have a good role model in their father and in our marriage. I know they watch how my husband interacts with me, and I see it reflected in how they treat me. It's a start, but I know it's not enough in a world that sends mixed messages to boys about girls and how to treat them.

It's been eye-opening, seeing how my children regard consent.

I've seen how those early lessons in teaching them about their own right to say no have gone a long way in teaching them the empathy and respect they show for others now.

I know we're not done; we're only just starting. I know it's only going to get more complicated as they get older.

But at the end of the day, no matter their age, the core lesson is the same: respect people, care about how they are feeling in your interactions with them, and remember that others have a right to feel differently than you do and to set boundaries for what is OK with them. The situations will change, but those words will be repeated again and again.

Teaching consent is not a one-time discussion. It's something I want my sons to think about every single day.

This story originally appeared on Ravishly and is reprinted here with permission. More from Ravishly:

    Sponsored

    3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

    O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

    A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

    Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

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    O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

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    Prep time: 2 minutes

    Cook time: 20 minutes

    Total time: 22 minutes

    Ingredients:

    1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

    1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

    O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

    O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

    O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

    1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

    Instructions:

    1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

    2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

    3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

    4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

    tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

    O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

    Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

    Prep time: 15 minutes

    Cook time: 7 hours

    Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

    Servings: 4

    Ingredients:

    1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

    1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

    3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

    1 tsp onion powder

    I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

    2 cups water

    1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

    1 clove garlic ($.50)

    1 tsp salt

    1/4 tsp pepper

    2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

    Instructions:

    1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

    2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

    3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

    4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

    5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

    potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


    O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

    This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

    Prep time: 2 minutes

    Cook time: 25 minutes

    Total time: 27 minutes

    Servings: 4

    Ingredients:

    1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

    1 tbsp. olive oil

    2 tsp dried basil

    1 tsp garlic powder

    1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

    1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

    1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

    2 1/4 cups water

    2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

    1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

    Instructions:

    1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

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    4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

    o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

    Science

    Americans see gardening changes as 'plant hardiness zones' shift across half the U.S.

    Here's a quick tool to find out if your zone has changed due to warmer temperatures.

    Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash, Map by USDA-ARS and Oregon State University (Public Domain)

    The USDA has issued a new Plant Hardiness Zone Map

    Millions of American households have a garden of some sort, whether they grow vegetables, fruits flowers or other plants. Gardening has always been a popular hobby, but more Americans turned to tending plants during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic for both stress relief and to grow their own food so they could make less trips to the store. For many people, it's a seasonal ritual that's therapeutic and rewarding.

    But a shift is occurring in the gardening world. Now, due to rising temperature data, half the country find themselves in a different "plant hardiness zone"—the zones that indicate what plants work well in an area and when to plant them. Gardeners rely on knowing their hardiness zone to determine what to plant and when, but they haven't been updated since 2012.


    The U.S. Department of Agriculture updated its Plant Hardiness Zone Map in late 2023, months before people in most of the country start planning their planting. We saw the 10 hottest summers ever recorded in 174 years of climate data between 2014 and 2023, but hardiness zones are actually determined by the coldest winter temperatures each year. Winters are warming at an even faster pace than summers, according to nonpartisan research and communications group Climate Central, but that may or may not be the entire reason behind the zone changes.

    The USDA acknowledges that some of the zone shifts could be due to climate change but cautions against using them as hard evidence for it since factors such as improved data collection also contribute to changes in the map.

    people planting flowers

    Gardening can be a solo or community endeavor.

    Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

    "Temperature updates to plant hardiness zones are not necessarily reflective of global climate change because of the highly variable nature of the extreme minimum temperature of the year, as well as the use of increasingly sophisticated mapping methods and the inclusion of data from more weather stations," the USDA wrote in November 2023. "Consequently, map developers involved in the project cautioned against attributing temperature updates made to some zones as reliable and accurate indicators of global climate change (which is usually based on trends in overall average temperatures recorded over long time periods)."

    At the same time, Chris Daly, director of the PRISM Climate Group at Oregon State University that developed the map with the USDA, told NPR, "Over the long run, we will expect to see a slow shifting northward of zones as climate change takes hold."

    As an example of zone shifting, Dallas, Texas, was classified as Zone 8a in 2012, when data showed the coldest winter temperature in the city was between 10 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit on average. In 2023, with data showing the coldest winter temps falling between 15 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it's been shifted to Zone 8b.

    Some zone shifts resulted in moving to an entirely new zone number, such as Seattle shifting from Zone 8b to Zone 9a. The overall trend was for zones to be pushed northward, but not all areas saw a shift. NPR has a helpful tool here in which you can enter your zip code, see what zone your city was previously in, what zone it's in now, and the temperature changes that caused the shift.

    The bottom line is if you have a gardening book with a hardiness zones map printed before 2024, it's time for an updated map. Or check online to see what zone you fall in now to give your garden the best chance of thriving this year.

    Images provided by P&G

    Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

    True

    Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

    The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

    Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

    We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

    While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

    That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

    Strengthen their community

    Make a tangible and unique impact

    Go above and beyond day-to-day work

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    Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

    Science

    Artist creates amazing inflatable shower curtain to help save water

    If you take long showers you’re in for a rude awakening.

    Image via elisabethbuecher.com

    Singing in the shower.

    Are you the type of person who is always waiting on someone in the shower, or are you the one holding everyone up with your epic shower songs? Either way, Elisabeth Buecher has the perfect shower curtain for you. The London-based artist created an inflatable shower curtain that fills soft spikes with air if the shower is on too long. After four minutes of running water, a sensor on the tap triggers an inflator for the spikes, and the bather is immediately reminded that it's time to get out.

    Buecher created the installation to raise awareness about water conservation.


    "They aim at provoking a debate around water issues and making people more aware of their consumption," the artist said on her website.

    Check out the steps from peaceful showering to an alarming wake-up call below.

    bathroom, saving water, room design

    Getting the hair wet.

    Image via elisabethbuecher.com

    artist, environmentalist, going green

    My other chosen career.

    Image via elisabethbuecher.com

    Inflatable shower curtain in dramatic action.

    Image via elisabethbuecher.com

    protection, responsibility, guardianship

    The shower curtain has won.

    Image via elisabethbuecher.com


    This article originally appeared on 09.23.17

    All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

    I have plenty of space.


    It's hard to truly describe the amazing bond between dads and their daughters.

    Being a dad is an amazing job no matter the gender of the tiny humans we're raising. But there's something unique about the bond between fathers and daughters.

    Most dads know what it's like to struggle with braiding hair, but we also know that bonding time provides immense value to our daughters. In fact, studies have shown that women with actively involved fathers are more confident and more successful in school and business.


    You know how a picture is worth a thousand words? I'll just let these images sum up the daddy-daughter bond.

    A 37-year-old Ukrainian artist affectionately known as Soosh, recently created some ridiculously heartwarming illustrations of the bond between a dad and his daughter, and put them on her Instagram feed. Sadly, her father wasn't involved in her life when she was a kid. But she wants to be sure her 9-year-old son doesn't follow in those footsteps.

    "Part of the education for my kiddo who I want to grow up to be a good man is to understand what it's like to be one," Soosh told Upworthy.

    There are so many different ways that fathers demonstrate their love for their little girls, and Soosh pretty much nails all of them.

    Get ready to run the full gamut of the feels.

    1. Dads can do it all. Including hair.

    relationships, fathers, dads

    I’ve got this.

    All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

    2. They also make pretty great game opponents.

    daughters, daughter, father

    Sharing life strategy.

    All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

    3. And the Hula-Hoop skills? Legendary.

    bonding, dad, child

    Tight fitting hula-hoop.

    All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

    4. Dads know there's always time for a tea party regardless of the mountain of work in front of them.

    family bond, parent, child-bond

    Dad makes time.

    All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

    5. And their puppeteer skills totally belong on Broadway.

    love, guidance, play

    Let’s play.

    All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

    6. Dads help us see the world from different views.

    sociology, psychology,  world views

    Good shoulders.

    All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

    7. So much so that we never want them to leave.

    travel, inspiration, guidance

    More dad time please.

    All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

    8. They can make us feel protected, valued, and loved.

    protectors, responsibilities, home

    Always the protector.

    All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

    9. Especially when there are monsters hiding in places they shouldn't.

    superhero, monsters, sleeping

    Dad is superman.

    All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

    daddy-daughter bond, leadership, kids

    Never a big enough bed.

    All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

    Seeing the daddy-daughter bond as art perfectly shows how beautiful fatherhood can be.


    This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


    Asexuality is often misunderstood.

    In general, it's believed to be the absence of any romantic interest, but asexual identity actually means that a person is not sexually attracted to anyone. Romantic feelings and the strength of those feelings can vary from person to person.

    Currently, about 1% of adults have no interest in sex, though some experts believe that number could be higher. For a long time, information on asexuality was limited, but researchers recently have found information that gives us more knowledge about asexuality.

    Being asexual can be tough, though — just ask the artists from Empathize This.

    To demonstrate, they put together a comic on asexuality, defining it as a sexual orientation, not a dysfunction:


    This article originally appeared on 5.16.16


    Identity

    Homosexuality in the Bible: Here's what six passages say and how to interpret them.

    The video does a really great job of contextualizing each reference.

    Image from YouTube video.

    Looking into the text of the Bible.


    Matthew Vines' "God and the Gay Christian” video at the bottom of this article analyses six passages related to homosexuality in the Bible. It does a really great job of contextualizing each reference (because we all know that Scriptures out of context can cause misinterpretation at best and d-r-a-m-a at worst).

    We've also broken down each reference to homosexuality in the Bible here:



    The Story of Sodom & Gomorrah (Genesis 19)

    This story in Genesis 19 is probably the most popular passage used to condemn homosexuality. Here is how Vines explains it:

    "God sends two angels disguised as men into the City of Sodom where the men of Sodom threatened to rape them. The angels blind the men, and God destroys the city. For centuries, this story was interpreted as God's judgment on same-sex relations, but the only form of same-sex behavior described is a threatened gang rape."

    So gang rape = not good (also not the same thing as homosexuality). But the recap of Sodom and Gomorrah found in Ezekial 16:49 highlights what Vines believes is the real point of the story:

    "Now, this was the sin of your sister, Sodom. She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned, they did not help the poor and needy."

    In other words, everyone using this story as evidence of the sin of homosexuality, might be missing the point entirely.

    When God calls homosexuality an abomination(Leviticus 18:22) (Leviticus 20:13)

    Yep. We've all heard that Leviticus is where the Bible straight-up says that homosexual behavior is an abomination. And yes, it does. It also says that homosexuals should receive the death penalty (!!!). It also says the same thing about eating pork or shellfish, charging interest on loans, and a whole bunch of other restrictions that were a part of the Old Testament Law Code. But for Christians, the Old Testament doesn't (dare I say "shouldn't?") settle any issue because Romans 10:4 says that Christ is the end of the law. Which is probably why most Christians today eat meat, use credit cards, wear makeup, and support equality for women. Because, as Hebrews 8:13 says, the old law is obsolete and aging.

    When people turn away from God (Romans 1:26-27)

    "Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones; in the same way, men committed shameful acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error."

    This is where Vines really digs in on the the cultural context angle. In Biblical times, same-sex behavior was primarily seen as happening between adult men and adolescent boys (masters and servants — yikes), via prostitution, and by men who were married to women. In all of those cases, we can see why it would have been viewed as sinful, excessive, lustful, and against God's law. But he makes no mention of love, commitment, faithfulness, or the type of same-sex relationships that are at question in the debate around marriage. (By the way, Paul also says that men having long hair is "unnatural" and that women shouldn't speak in church, so it's clear Paul himself may have had some issues of his own.)

    Uses of the Greek works "Malakoi" and "Arsenokoitai"(1 Corinthians 6:9-10) (1 Timothy 1:10)

    These words are included in the New Testament's lists of people who will not inherit God's kingdom. And there has been much debate over their original meaning. (Translating ancient words is hard, guys.) Some believe them to mean homosexuality and sodomy, whereas others have said that the closest modern translation would be "dirty old men." Ha! Here's how Vines explains it:

    Many modern translators have rendered these terms as sweeping statements about gay people, but the concept of sexual orientation didn't even exist in the ancient world. Yes, Paul did not take a positive view of same-sex relations (nor did he support women speaking in church...), but the context he was writing in is worlds apart from gay people in committed, monogamous relationships. The Bible never addresses the issues of sexual orientation or same-sex marriage, so there's no reason why faithful Christians can't support their gay brothers and sisters.

    Fascinating, right? If you'd like to learn more about homosexuality in the Bible or hear Matthew Vines' personal story check out his book "God and the Gay Christian."


    This article originally appeared on 06.27.14