'How I explained consent to my four year old son.'

A few weeks ago Little Man came home from daycare and he was super excited. The source? He had a girlfriend.

Me: How do you know she is your girlfriend?

LM: Because we played Mummy and Daddy together.

Me: Who was the Mummy?

LM: Poppy was.

Me: Were you the Daddy then?

LM: No, Charlie was.

Me: So who were you?


I have to add that his face was beaming so hard and his chest was puffed up with pride! Oh how joyful and innocent the conversation was. Over the subsequent days, it made the people I told laugh out loud and tilt their head that way where the eyes say “ahhhh.”

Earlier this week, Little Man once again came home and declared he had a girlfriend. Hubby asked his son a question.

Holly’s son Billy got an achievement award for having the right school shoes. Is this getting out of control?

How do you know she is your girlfriend?”

His reply was quick and blunt.

“You just tell her.”


At the time I joked that we should probably have a conversation about consent. As Hubby and I sat there while the giggles slowly died down, it became awkwardly obvious that yes, we did have to.

It wasn’t a big thing because we didn’t make it that way. We just explained to our boy that you can’t make a girl your girlfriend unless she wants to be.

I can hear the disbelieving cries from here. Yes Little Man is only four. Yes he still has innocence and yes he doesn’t fully grasp what the word consent actually means. But isn’t childhood where we lay the groundwork for relationships and how we should treat others and want to be treated ourselves?

If we had simply laughed it off I feel like we would have missed an opportunity to teach him a basic societal rule.

We easily (and frequently) tell our children not to hit or push and we want them to be respectful and use manners. I personally don’t think being open about this kind of thing is any different. I’m also not oblivious to my own trigger points around this topic.

I would like my boy to grow into a man that knows how to behave appropriately around a potential partner. I will expect the exact same of the girls too.

You can read more from Katie McVie at her blog According to Katie here.