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14 Mar 2021


Jo Emmerson

Every woman knows that there is a problem in our society. We have all - all - felt unsafe at some point in our lives.

Some of us have been 'luckier' than others, having 'only' felt scared. We 'only' had to hold our keys between our fingers on the walk home, 'only' had to avoid some teachers in the corridor, 'only' had to move class/course/job/home to avoid unwanted attention, 'only' had to speed walk through our home town, 'only' had to pretend to call someone, 'only' had to move to a different part of the bus, 'only' found ourselves being filmed in public by a stranger, 'only' had to make up a boyfriend, 'only' had our concerns brushed off by bouncers, police officers, security guards, train conductors, friends, family, strangers... some of us were 'lucky'.

The outragous and tragic events in the last couple of weeks have shone a light on a problem that we've lived with for our whole lives - and don't get me started on why (with every respect and love to all of Sarah's friends and family) it took the dissapearance of a beautiful, young, white woman to spark this wave of unrest.

And there is a lot of conversation about how #notallmen are to blame. We know they're not. Really, we do. We all know good men, decent men, men we love as friends, partners, family. But you don't know my brother. I don't know yours. And until we can trust that the men WE DONT KNOW are as safe as the ones we do, we continue to have an issue.

Parents - this is our time. This is our chance to change things, so that our daughters are safe and our sons are not suspects.

It starts the day our babies are born. It starts with respect. It starts with understanding that respect must be learnt through experience. Children, even babies, need to know that we respect them, and they need to learn how to respect us.

(**Trigger warning, for anyone who has suffered assult or abuse**)

Try This:
Respectful parenting with your baby:
Let's take the highly personal act of changing a nappy as the example. First of all, put yourself in your little one's position. You're having a lovely time watching the world, learning how to control your hands, thinking all kinds of profound thoughts when suddenly someone picks you up, takes you to a different place, undresses you, wipes you with a cold cloth. Would you feel safe? Protected? Respected? Probably not.

So let's make some changes to the scene. Let's start by remembering that, no matter how small they are, they are a person, in their own right.

1) tell your baby before you pick them up, that you are going for a nappy change. Tell them three to five times, make sure you get their eye contact. Make sure they register that you are communicating with them.
2) as you carry them to the change mat, tell them again what you're about to do, at least three times. Really make sure they know something is happening.
3) as you start undressing them, tell them what you're doing. More repetition. More checking in that they know what's happening. ('we're going to pop your trousers off, ready? we need to change your nappy').
4) before you come at them with a cold cloth, touch the cloth to their hand or face and tell them you need to wipe them, but it might be a bit cold. Tell them again that you are changing their nappy.
5) tell them that the nappy change is finished, and that you're going to get them dressed again.
6) as you pick them up, tell them that you've finished the nappy change.

Take these steps everytime you change a nappy, and you will find that your little one cooperates much more on the changing mat - why? because they feel safe. They are learning. They are being shown respectful care.

Showing baby how to respect you:
The key here is to set and hold boundaries, without appology.

If your baby or toddler - or preschooler - or teenager - is doing something you don't like, tell them. Tell them that it's not ok and that you're not going to let them do it. Children cannot control their impulses. We need to show them how.

I will let the fantastic Janet Lansbury explain this one - here's a great example of that horrible feeling when little ones grab, bite and pull when we are breast feeding, and how to handle it in a way which teaches respect. HOW TO TEACH PERSONAL BOUNDARIES.

We need to teach our kids respect.

I don't mean fear, I don't mean punishment, I don't mean beating and shouting and authoritarianism.
I mean mutual respect, care and understanding of boundaries. It needs to start with parents and carers. And it needs to start from birth.

Be strong, call out BS, and #reclaimthestreets.

Jo x

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