Google+ Authentic Parenting: Bodily Autonomy?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bodily Autonomy?

I have been blogging a lot lately about physical authenticity, bodily autonomy and the general right of the individual to make choices for himself where s/he is concerned. I have been having a lot of discussions o the topic too, and this strange recurrence strikes me:
In the natural parenting/unschooling/peaceful community, the large majority is pro bodily autonomy and is willing to postpone bodily modifications and life choices until the child can make them for himself.

However, and here is the can of worms, even though most claim to adhere to bodily autonomy, when push comes to shove, a number of refutations are uttered: the child is too young, what about bullying, sometimes you just need to say no!

Isn't that a bit hypocrite? Saying your child must make a choice for himself and when they do want something, refusing? Not allowing a choice is a choice too. Bodily autonomy is not just about not doing stuff, it is also about helping your child make an informed decision when they do so.

Indeed, the parent is there to make sure the child is not just acting on impulse and that s/he understands the ramifications. Just saying no on account of age, bullying or any other artificial reason isn't supportive of bodily autonomy.



  1. Tough one, this! I would like to be consulted when my teen decides to get a tattoo, but I would not forbid her to do it! (A bit of a hypocrit?)

  2. Ha, the tattoo question... I like to think that when my daughter comes to that age, we'll still be close and she would like to share about that... But maybe she'll grow up to be a more private person and would prefer to keep that in the realm of the private... I cannot know this now.
    We must accept as parents, however, that their bodies are theirs and theirs alone, and what they do to it is up to them.
    We are delusional to think that a person's body can belong to the parent, albeit just for the time they live in their house... We have been raised to think this, because mostly our parents behaved that way. Many adults still struggle with bodily autonomy (I know I do), but it is such an important thing. If a girl knows her body is her own, she won't be easily manipulated into doing things beyond her will, for example.

  3. Very well said. I find the whole thing of bodily autonomy for my kids to be kind of hard to get my head around. I think when you're brought up in the belief that children are not capable of making decisions pertaining to their own bodies/appearance it's hard to change that mindset. I try very hard to allow my preschooler to make choices for himself, but sometimes find myself reverting to The Old Way - for example, we went to a family wedding last weekend and after we put on his smart clothes he told me he didn't want to wear them. I didn't berate him but just explained that when we go to weddings it's nice to wear smart clothes and he agreed. I felt awful afterwards, like I had taken away his choice. :(

  4. Elias just asked to have his hair cut at the hairdresser, but not right now, in two weeks, because a boy at school told him he looks like a girl. What a wonderful opportunity to talk about bullying, physical appearances, choices ! So after discussing it on and off for two weeks, he decided he still wants to go to the haidresser, but mainly to get the hair on his forhead trimmed, and to keep it long everywhere else. I took an appointement with the haidresser on the exact day he wanted to go, and that is next Saturday :-)


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