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How to say YES and NO

One of the most important things about consent is learning how to express it.

Introduction

What do ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ look and sound like?

We all communicate in different ways, so it can be useful to think about how people may communicate about consent. Have a look below and see if any of these sound familiar:

Consent IS:Consent is NOT:
YesNo
I’m sureI’m not sure
I knowI don’t know
GoStop
I want toI want to, but…
I’m not worriedI feel worried about
I want to do this right nowI don’t know how I feel about this
I feel good about thisI don’t want to do this anymore

Non-verbal communication is something that everyone uses whether we know we are doing it or not. Also known as body-language, non-verbal communication can be a great tool for understanding and expressing how we feel.

Have a look below and see if these are familiar:

Non-verbal consent could be:Non-verbal consent IS NOT:
Initiating an activityAvoiding an activity or actively withdrawing
Pulling someone closerPushing someone away
Actively touching someoneAvoiding touch
Nodding yesShaking head no
Laughter or smilingCrying and/or looking sad or fearful
“Open” body language: relaxed, loose and open expressions, turning toward someone“Closed” body language: tense, stiff, or closed expressions, turning away from someone
Sounds of enjoyment or enthusiasm, for example laughter or clappingSilence or fearful/negative sounds, for example screaming or yelling
Active participationExcessive compliance or resignation

As a parent or carer, you can probably understand your child’s verbal and non-verbal ways of saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’. However, for them to be able to become more independent and make decisions for themselves, it is important to support your child to practice saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in different situations and with different people. This is also an important skill to practice to help keep them safe. For more information on how to support your child to learn consent, go to Consent.

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Conversation Starters

Can you show/tell me what you do when you don’t like something?
How do you react if someone wants to hug you and you don’t like it?
I’m crossing my arms, do you think this is a YES or a NO?

Strategies for you to try

Learn your child’s cues:

Think of how your child commonly tells you they like or dislike something. You can encourage your child to express these signs and behaviours (verbal and/or non-verbal) when they are out in the community. You might even write a list of common non-verbal behaviours that your child uses for new people in their life or support workers.
This could look like:
• a thumbs up or thumbs down
• creating your own physical signs e.g. Arms up crossed in front for a confident NO and hands up waving for a confident YES!
• saying YES! Or NO! in a loud and confident voice
• making flashcards with a happy/sad face for your child to carry with them
If your child sees a speech pathologist, they may be able to help your child develop these communication skills as well.

Involve family in support:

It’s important to involve people close to your child (like family and friends) in learning how your child communicates ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Encouraging family and friends to stop and ask before hugging, kissing or touching your child shows your child that you are there to protect them while also supporting them to enforce their boundaries. Your friends and family might find this a bit awkward. That’s OK. Reassure them that they are playing an important part in supporting your child to build their skills and stay safe.

Give your child opportunities to say NO!

Having your child practice decision making is a great way for them to learn what they like and how they want to express themselves. Give your child opportunities to choose things like their outfit, what they want to watch and what they want to eat to encourage them to say/sign YES and NO.

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Introduction to puberty for girls
How to say YES and NO

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