Sexuality expert says parents should ask their babies for consent before changing their diaper

Korin Miller
Yahoo Lifestyle
Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Consent (i.e., giving permission for something to happen) is a big topic now, with many arguing that it’s a principle on which all people should be educated. But one sexuality expert says that it’s important to teach children as young as infants about consent.

In an interview with Australia’s Nine Network, sexuality expert Deanne Carson said that it’s important to teach a child that “their response matters.” The example she then gave was that of parent asking a baby for consent before change their diaper. “Of course a baby’s not going to respond, ‘Yes, Mum, that’s awesome. I’d love to have my nappy changed,’” she said. “But if you leave a space and wait for body language and wait to make eye contact, then you’re letting that child know that their response matters.”

Scroll to continue with content

People slammed Carson on Twitter, arguing that babies can’t give consent, and pointing out that toddlers often say “no” to everything anyway.

But Carson isn’t the only person who is arguing that babies should be asked to give consent. Last year, mom Nisha Moodley drew national attention after she revealed on Instagram that “since the moment he was born,” she has asked her son, Raven, if it’s OK for her to pick him up before she actually does it. “I always feel for his ‘yes.’ Why? Because we want him to know that his body is his, and that others’ bodies are theirs, and no one gets to make choices about someone else’s body,” she wrote. (She was also criticized for her comments.)

Since the moment he was born, we’ve always asked before we pick him up. I always feel for his “yes”. Why? Because we want him to know that his body is his, and that others’ bodies are theirs, and no one gets to make choices about someone else’s body. . #lessonsinsovereignty #bornfree #endrapeculture . Sidenote: If you ever want to hold someone else’s baby, my suggestion is to ask the parent, then ask the kid. It always touches my heart when someone takes a moment to connect with him and says “Can I hold you, dude?” . ADDENDUM: Thanks to everyone who has shared support & also those who don’t agree, but are thoughtful & respectful. Unfortunately, hundreds of people have come here to call me nasty names & wish terrible things upon myself & my child. I’m not interested in engaging with that kind of immature, thoughtless vitriol; if you bring it, I will report + delete. I pray we learn to meet our fellow humans w/ curiosity & kindness. . This short post was followed by a 10 min interview with a very kind reporter, which was turned into a short article. It wasn’t designed to be a piece of in-depth journalism. Most media isn’t. A whole bunch of other media spun-off from that. I have spoken w/ no other reporters; no one has asked me questions or checked facts. . Some have assumed that I’d never touch my baby w/out his explicit consent. That’s not what I’m saying. I love my son – I would never sit back & leave him in harm’s way. It’s my honor & responsibility to care for him in all the ways a mother would. . I also talk to him, ask him questions, and “attune” to him in the way that I think the majority of mothers do, intuitively. This is the beginning of a lifelong conversation about choice & consent. I believe that when children feel that they have *some appropriate* choice, it leads to a greater sense of healthy autonomy. I want him to make healthy choices with his body & respects others’ as well. . I am by no means saying that people are bad parents for not doing what I do. So long as we’re not harming or neglecting our children, to each their own. I’m not a perfect parent. I’m simply working at being as loving & conscientious as I can be, every day.

A post shared by Nisha Moodley (@nishamoodley) on Jun 9, 2017 at 10:09am PDT


Here’s the thing: Babies really can’t understand the concept of consent, Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist and program coordinator for intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health services at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Consent requires being able to understand a cause and effect relationship,” she says. “That comes with cognitive development.”

Consent is even a little vague for children between the ages of 1 and 2, she says. But by the time children are 2 years old, they can better process what they do and don’t like. “When they say ‘no,’ you can absolutely trust that they mean it,” Mendez says.

But consent is a little tricky with children, and there’s a point where it’s not applicable. A child may not want to get a bath or understand why they need it, Mendez points out, but allowing your child to go unbathed could have negative health consequences for them. The same is true when it comes to changing a diaper, she says. “If your child says no to a diaper change, you’re not going to leave them dirty,” Mendez says. “It’s not healthy, and it’s not teaching them about how to navigate situations in life where there may be things you don’t want to do.”

This doesn’t mean that parents can’t teach their children about consent — there are just situations where it is and isn’t appropriate, Mendez says. And diaper-changing is not up for debate.

Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: 

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for nonstop inspiration delivered fresh to your feed, every day.

What to Read Next