Small Children and Personal Boundaries

My two-year-old niece Klubnikis is a very fortunate little girl. Since the day she was born, everybody respected her boundaries. Nobody tried to hug or kiss her if she didn’t feel like it. When Klubnikis’s Mommy and Grandma want to take a bath with her, they put on swimsuits. Nobody exhorts her to eat and nobody ever tells her “You will not leave the table until you finish this” when she doesn’t feel like eating.

When Klubnikis grows up, she will know that the only normal situation is one where nobody breaches her boundaries without her express consent, nobody unilaterally decides to get naked around her or to initiate tactile contact with her. This is not a lesson that it makes sense to teach in adolescence. You can exhort teenagers to “just say no” until you are hoarse, but if since early childhood they have been getting the message that nobody cares about their consent or lack thereof, it will be way too late to start delivering that message.

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59 thoughts on “Small Children and Personal Boundaries”

  1. The idea of putting on a swimsuit to bathe with a toddler is weird. How can they learn to wash themselves all over carefully? Children are well-served by learning that there is nothing shameful about their bodies. This seems to convey the opposite message. But you are absolutely correct about respecting a child’s personal boundaries and the right to say no and to refuse a hug, a kiss, etc.

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    1. “The idea of putting on a swimsuit to bathe with a toddler is weird. How can they learn to wash themselves all over carefully”

      – The grownup puts on a swimsuit, not the kid.

      “Children are well-served by learning that there is nothing shameful about their bodies.”

      – Who said anything about shame?

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  2. The idea of putting on a swimsuit to bathe with a toddler is weird.(David)

    I do find it interesting how some families think that would be “normal”. VERY interesting. 🙂

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    1. “I do find it interesting how some families think”

      – Families don’t think. People do. But I realize why you can’t separate an individual and the all-consuming “family” that does all the thinking, breathing and existing for the individual.

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      1. Ah Clarissa, semantics. Families do share there thoughts and tend to apply them as a collective. You obviously think that certain behaviours are normal and I on the other hand, dont.

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  3. I REALLY hope that nobody comes to this thread to defend adults who run around naked in the presence of small children. I also REALLY hope that nobody comes here to defend the kind of vicious, disgusting abuse of small children when naked adults get into crowded spaces (e.g. bathtub) with them.

    Like I haven’t had enough with the freakazoids who drag children into their bed and then have the gall to defend their insane, disgusting practices.

    Child abusers have tons of spaces online where they can gush over their successful abuse of kids. My blog will not be one of those places.

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  4. I lost a lot of my sense of modesty when I had children. I think this comes from the fact that I breastfed both of my sons for their first year of life — and the first one for a bit longer than that. Nudity really isn’t abusive. It’s natural. Just like breastfeeding.

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      1. That, to me, is an absurd comparison, as you don’t live with your colleagues. Nudity in one’s own home is not abusive. We have laws against sexual harassment at work places, which would include walking around naked. While one could, I suppose, try to argue that being naked around your children is the same, I would counter argue that it isn’t abusive when natural boundaries are maintained — ie, nothing sexual going on in front of kids.

        To me, it’s the same as showering in front of others at the gym, which men have no choice about if they want to shower. Many women’s locker rooms have curtained showers, but not all do. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to shower in front of strangers. At first, it was uncomfortable because of my body image issues. But if my family had encouraged me not to have body image issues by making nudity no big deal, I think I would have adjusted better to the gym environment. I did adjust after a time, but it took a whole of being around a lot of naked women who didn’t care about showering in front of others for me to recognize how silly my embarrassment was. We were there to shower — not to stare at each other or start some weird orgy. And I found the experience of showering around a bunch of other showering women to be NOT abusive at all.

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        1. “Nudity in one’s own home is not abusive. ”

          – So parents who strut around naked in front of their children are perfectly normal?

          “To me, it’s the same as showering in front of others at the gym, which men have no choice about if they want to shower. Many women’s locker rooms have curtained showers, but not all do. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to shower in front of strangers. ”

          – Homoeroticism is a defining trait of all patriarchal societies.

          ” But if my family had encouraged me not to have body image issues by making nudity no big deal, I think I would have adjusted better to the gym environment.”

          – There is an ocean of difference between any nudity and parental nudity. And it shocks me that there are people who don’t see that.

          “And I found the experience of showering around a bunch of other showering women to be NOT abusive at all.”

          – You seem very fixated on this experience. I suggest you consider why that is.

          The case with a naked colleague is actually a lot less abusive than the case pf a parent who gets naked into a kid’s bathtub because the adult has a choice of leaving the situation. The child has absolutely no choice at all.

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  5. You and I might disagree a bit about what the exact boundaries are, but I am definitely on the same page about kids having theirs respected early on. How do you know you’re full or hungry if you’re not taught to respect your appetite? How do you know to refuse unwelcome physical contact if you’ve been pressured to ‘give uncle a kiss’ even if you don’t feel like it or don’t know him well at all? These things need to start early to be meaningful.

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  6. I think there are conditions in which nudity can be okay with children and still respect their boundaries.

    For example, when I was growing up we had a hot tub that my parents and sister and I would sit around in naked. It’s not that we would flaunt our nakedness around each other, but it seemed perfectly normal to me. We never did so with strangers, and it was perfectly clear that the boundary for naked hot-tubbing was only when everyone present was comfortable with it. And eventually when I was about 10 or so, I decided it did make me uncomfortable, and we switched to clothed hot tubbing. No big hub-bub or anything, I was just growing up, and starting to realize the differences between men and women and was learning about sex, and I decided naked hot-tubbing with my parents is awkward. My new boundaries were respected.

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        1. “It pretty generally is the first penis a little girl sees.”

          – Geez, people. I’m just hoping you are trying to be collectively funny. I have an amazing and a very close relationship with my father but it’s not that close. Thank God in heaven.

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      1. I honestly don’t even remember if the first penis I saw was my dad’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was, but I don’t even remember. It may also depend if you think photos or illustrations count. But it’s not like I got up and personal with it or anything. It didn’t even register in my brain that my dad had a penis until about the same time I decided I no longer wanted to participate in naked hot tubbing.

        So far I don’t have an opinion on what the first penis a girl should see is, as long as her first exposure is not a sexual encounter.

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  7. I really hated the way my relatives would treat me like some sort of cute, huggable doll. I think it’s one of the reasons I grew into such a misanthrope. 😉 Seriously, though, at least none of my older relatives paraded around naked in front of me and there were no communal naked baths in my house. (For one thing, the tub wasn’t exactly roomy — it was a normal bathtub that had been installed probably in the Fifties, which is before gigantic huge bathtubs in middle-class family homes became fashionable.) And frankly, the idea of my parents naked is a *DO NOT WANT* image in my head. And no, I never had the idea that my body was something to be “ashamed” of — actually I think that idea forms in the heads of people who are taught to be obsessed with their body in any way, whether its the traditional prudish idea that showing your body is bad, or the more modern pro-nudity, let-it-all-hang-out way. The point is you shouldn’t fixate and obsess about your kid’s body and what he or she thinks about it at all. That’s the problem — not the lack of exposure to everyone’s skin.

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  8. By mutual mistake, I caught my father in the shower when I was four and he thought it was an error, made sure it didn’t happen again, although I was not shocked. And yet he thought baths with my brother when we were 6 and 4 should be normal, whereas we did not and demanded to use double amounts of water, hang the cost. Who knows, really.

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  9. ““And I found the experience of showering around a bunch of other showering women to be NOT abusive at all.”

    – You seem very fixated on this experience. I suggest you consider why that is.”

    Fixated?? because of one example used by this commenter, in one comment (a very common situation and obvious example I might add) you get “fixated”??

    “And yet he thought baths with my brother when we were 6 and 4 should be normal, whereas we did not and demanded to use double amounts of water, hang the cost”

    Cost to the environment as well. Great. You guys question and criticize the money/cheating connection study on the other thread, but I still haven’t seen ONE study showing any harm from *very young* kids bathing or sleeping with adults (or siblings). Not ONE. And I have asked repeatedly.

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  10. ONE study showing any harm from *very young* kids bathing or sleeping with adults (or siblings). Not ONE. And I have asked repeatedly.(Isabel)

    I have a sneaky suspicion Clarissa IS the study.

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    1. The study of what?

      It’s sad when intelligent people make such unintelligent comments. How do you imagine such a study? This is not something that falls within the realm of sociology. Or are you envisioning some kind of a collective psychoanalytical “study” of 10,000 people?

      Have I posted too few posts about silly “studies” that the pseudo-science of sociology uses to “prove” any bias of the researcher?

      It must be avitaminosis that makes people demand “studies”, on my blog of all places.

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      1. So what is your evidence? Please provide one single scrap of evidence. All you have come up with so far involves extreme situations. Where is the evidence that a two year old will be harmed by seeing her mothers naked body in the tub?

        You can come up with anything you want I guess. And from there denounce people as horrible child abusers. Nice.

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      2. “Or are you envisioning some kind of a collective psychoanalytical “study” of 10,000 people?”

        Why not? There are studies of criminal behavior that show influence of various background experiences, or show that sadistic criminals were more likely than average to have tortured animals as kids, etc. Why not studies that attempt to show correlations (yeah we know it isn’t always causation but at least it would be something) between adult dysfunction and childhood experiences.

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      3. bloggerclarissa :
        “Why not?”
        – This has already been answered: “This is not something that falls within the realm of sociology.”

        Yes Clarissa, this is why its easy to call your opinion on this matter bullshit. Ultimately it is your own personal opinion but its still bullshit. I still do love “most” of your writing though, just not this bullshit. 🙂

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        1. How very convenient it is to hide behind a newfound worship of sociology to dismiss this particular issue.

          A joke: A cannibal is speaking in his own defense at a trial: “You can say that eating people is wrong, immoral, unacceptable. But please don’t tell me that it isn’t delicious.”

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      4. A joke: A cannibal is speaking in his own defense at a trial: “You can say that eating people is wrong, immoral, unacceptable. But please don’t tell me that it isn’t delicious.”

        I feel the same way about beef. I am a cow. Now you know my secret.

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      5. “So what is your evidence? Please provide one single scrap of evidence.”

        What is YOUR evidence that the practice is harmful, as practiced almost universally?

        Your examples of parents sleeping with TEENAGERS is not even close to relevant. What are you basing this idea that nearly all human parents are vile child abusers?

        Do you have at least a psychoanalysis paper we could read that compiles anecdotal evidence that children under age 4-6 are harmed by these common practices? Anything at all?

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        1. You want the names of psychoanalysts who discussed the deeply erotic nature of the relationship between children and parents and how important it is to start the process of separation between the mother and the infant? Start with Freud and work your way up.

          “A psychoanalysis paper.” The ignorance is daunting.

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      6. “Read all the phychoanalysts ever Dumbass isabel” Well, you posted you teacher’s insults-maybe you need to act this out by being abusive and insulting to other people.

        Again, why don’t you just explain it. Not “don’t you know that men wake up with boners blah blah”. What will happen to that child who bathes with their parents when young? To the infant or toddler who sees her mother’s breasts? Don’t you think it is pretty whacked to assume that the vast majority of people on earth have been sexually abused by their ignorant parents, without showing any evidence of harm? All your specific horror stories are about obviously fucked-up people. Most people are not this way.

        You also talk a lot about child agency, but you insist that a two or three year old child who begs to sleep with his parents is being “dragged” into their bed. I think you are nuts.

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        1. “You also talk a lot about child agency, but you insist that a two or three year old child who begs to sleep with his parents is being “dragged” into their bed.”

          – If you read anything on the subject you are trying to discuss as a self-diagnosed dumbass, you will discover that a child begins to develop agency precisely after the age of 3.

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      7. You are not even close to rational on this subject. I can’t begin to imagine what happened to you (or what guilt you are carrying) that you would project in this way. The entire world is completely made up of horrible, sick, vile child abusers according to Clarissa.

        I truly hope you resolve your problem eventually and manage to stop being abusive toward others.

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        1. ” The entire world is completely made up of horrible, sick, vile child abusers.”

          – The only person who said this on this blog is you. This is called projection. Look it up. Learning a new word a day will allow you to improve your intellectual level. Good luck!

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      8. “If you read anything on the subject you are trying to discuss as a self-diagnosed dumbass”

        Do you even understand what quotation marks are? I “self-diagnosed” nothing, and it isn’t even a clever joke. Stop trying so hard. You are so worked up you aren’t even reading clearly. I have a lot more experience in this area than you, believe me.

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        1. ” I have a lot more experience in this area than you, believe me.”

          – In the area of being a dumbass? I know you do.

          “You are so worked up you aren’t even reading clearly.”

          – Still projecting.

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      9. “- The only person who said this on this blog is you. ”

        Nope, you said many times that the practice is child abuse, and it is absolutely a fact that it is nearly universally practiced.

        This defense you jump to (I never used those exact words!) is ridiculous.

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      10. “- I know you need to believe that. I even know why you need to believe that.”

        Oh don’t hold back, dear projecting, abusive Clarissa.

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      11. “” I have a lot more experience in this area than you, believe me.”

        – In the area of being a dumbass? I know you do.”

        OMG that is so hilarious! What a clever joke!

        ““You are so worked up you aren’t even reading clearly.”

        – Still projecting.””

        No you’re projecting. So there.

        I just love these intellectual conversations on Clarissa’s blog. As soon as someone gets the better of her she starts flailing and attacking like a ten-year-old.

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      12. “Back to the dictionary, Isabel. The meaning of the word “projection” still escapes you. Just try reading slowly and don’t let long words confuse you.”

        Your obvious deep need to abuse people is very revealing, especially in the context of this thread. I think we are finally getting to the crux of the matter.

        It’s obvious to everyone by this point, Clarissa, that you are the fixated one, and you are the one with the deep need to project. I hope you are able to get help.

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      13. Like I said, good luck.

        Oh and I have a dictionary: let me help you.

        projection • the unconscious transfer of one’s own desires or emotions to another person

        Think about it. Why are you so obsessed with claiming that *other people* are abusive, why do you keep insisting that *other people* are a danger to children?

        I hope you find the help with your abusive nature that you seem to be crying out for.

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    1. I hit myself on the head in so much frustration over my article yesterday that I actually have a bump right now. 🙂

      As I tell my husband, you can;t expect me to be passionate in one sense but not in others. I’m passionate about everything, even the garbage collection practices. 🙂

      Like

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