Google+ Authentic Parenting: Their Bodies Are Their Own, Debunking Society's Claims on Children

Friday, March 29, 2013

Their Bodies Are Their Own, Debunking Society's Claims on Children

Welcome to the March 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Self-Expression and Conformity This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about authenticity through self-expression. We hope you enjoy this month's posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Peaceful Parenting Applied.


I set the topic for this carnival ‘Self-expression and conformity’ a while back, because I tend to think and write about this topic now and again and because I find that we don’t read about this topic very often.
In the light of the Steubenville rape case, and many other horrid acts towards people that taint the news these days, I think this is a very pertinent question.

Self expression in children s something that parents do seem to struggle with. Not a day goes by without reading some call for help: “my daughter wants to dye her hair purple.” “My son wants to pierce his ears.” “My child dresses inappropriately.” On the kinds of forums where I linger, these parents have mostly made the choice to respect their children’s wishes and now seek a way to help them navigate the terrain. Yet time and again, commenters will attack the original poster for the mere choice to follow their children, to grant their children physical autonomy.

Image: New Hair

Yet physical autonomy is what this is all about, specifically the Steubenville case. Children who do not learn that their body is their own, that their choice is to be respected do not stand up when they see other people’s bodies being violated. They do not understand the impact of violating others and they can’t fend for themselves when they are being violated.
Children who are molded and pushed and shaped into what we adults, what we as a society want them to be, lose the respect for the self and others.
Now how on earth does dying your hair lead to raping intoxicated girls?

It may not be a straight line from purple hairdye, but not respecting children’s bodily autonomy on a regular, institutionalized basis, does lead to these horrid situations.
Society has institutionalized disrespect for children. It’s everywhere. From the simple comment: “Is that what you’re going to wear?”, to physically holding your child down at the doctor’s office, to not being able to use the bathroom at school when you feel the need. Children's bodies are constatly being invaded, abused and controlled, and most often by the ones they love and trust.
Body shaming, style shaming and the repression of self-expression leads to these beliefs in the child: “I am not worthy. I am ugly. I can’t make choices for myself. I’m stupid. I don’t deserve anything. Nobody loves me. I’m just strange. I don’t fit in.”
Children who think that way grow into young adults who think that way…

How many of us thought all of these thoughts at least one time during adolescence. I’m raising my hands here. Both hands and some feet too! It’s not very hard to imagine that young adults, repeating these beliefs to themselves like a damning mantra, will make all the wrong choices.

It’s time for us, adults, society at large, to give our children their bodies back to their rightful owner. To themselves.
Freedom means your body is yours to govern. Let’s at least give our children the freedom, let’s abolish the slavery in our homes. Let’s stop acting like we know what’s best for them and instead guide them through the choices they want to make.

Your child want to dye his hair purple. Great, help him find out where he can find a non-toxic dye. Try some temporary dyes, if you want him to find out what it'll be like before he goes for something more permanent. If he goes to school and that’s not tolerated, explain the rules and maybe suggest he dyes his hair during the summer holidays.
Mostly parents want torestrict physical self expression for the way others might react, for the sake of social conformity, the "what will other people think"-mindset. Yu should care less about what 'others' think. They don't live in your house, you're not raising them. It doesn't matter if you get strange looks. You should explain this to your child, yes, but you don't need to decide for them.
Children need to feel social borders. In a way, they do certain things to create a reaction from society. Let them. Guide them through it.

Allowing your child to make choices of his own does not mean ‘unparenting’. It does not mean you're being permissive. You are still there to help, to offer guidance, to steer the water, to explain social consequences…

APBC - Authentic ParentingVisit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month's Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!   Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: (This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 29 with all the carnival links.)



  1. I think you raise a very good point about how society pressures children to conform so much that they will do whatever they can to feel as though they are worthy, rather than being supported for who they are, knowing that they are worthy.

  2. So beautifully put! I want to be here, to guide my children, but not to own them. It has, at times, been an effort - but I do pretty well these days to remember this: my children's style or self expression is not a reflection upon me (no matter what anyone else thinks).

    In hindsight, I think my mother was probably a lot more open about my fashion choices than her mother probably was of hers. We both battled bouts of depression in our lives, but I suffered through fewer bouts than she did. I think supporting our children on THEIR paths is the correct first step to help reduce depression.

  3. Very excellent point! By owning our children's bodies we are telling them that others can own them too - or that they can own another persons body.
    My husband doesn't like our 13 year old's hair and nags him about cutting it constantly. I get very irate at this and stick up for the boy, telling his dad basically to go suck an egg.

    It's his hair - he can wear it how he likes. This is very important to me as a parent, and I have stopped my husband from outright forcing our son to cut it off (he was getting our son a phone and my husband was considering making a hair cut a condition).

    Once our son begins conforming to our standards and trying to please us, it makes it much more likely that he will do the same with his peers. I don't want my son looking to anybody to tell him how he should be. Once this starts at home and the child learns that it is important to live up to other peoples standards, it's only a matter of time before they dye turns and they begin looking to other sources to tell them what is acceptable and this would be their friends and the media. I'm pretty sure no parent wants their child taking direction from them.

  4. My son likes to wear shirts backwards. I used to get a little uptight about it, because people would comment, but now I just give him words and tools to use if comments arise, and tell him his style is his and therefore good.

  5. sooo refreshing to read this. thank you for articulating the rant i constantly have going on in my own head! i look forward to reading the other contributions to the carnival on this awesome topic.


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