Much of my life—especially the first 25 years—has been spent having people not listen to my “No”s when they mattered the most.
Showing respect is a very easy thing to do, but you have to believe you are equal to the other person to show it.
Believe the other person’s wishes are important, valid.
Every time I was devalued by the many people who wouldn’t stop what they were doing when I said, “No,” I had to remind myself that they were treating me in a way that was all about them—their flaws, not mine—and I was being victimized. It took a sturdy mindset to not let that fray me, it took deliberate effort to constantly fight those battles to keep myself mentally and physically safe.
I wasn’t always successful.
I have no respect for any of the people who ignored a single one of my “No”s to their violating words and actions over the past 40+ years.
I have no respect for any of the people who ignored the fact that I am a human being worthy respect and personal boundaries, thus caused me to have to say “No” to their violating words and actions over the past 40+ years.
This is why I take deliberate measures to raise a son and a daughter who not only hear it when they are told, “No. Stop.” but also listen to it and respond accordingly. Who respect other people’s wishes, and see value in their boundaries. Who see value in their own wishes and boundaries, too.
Who know better than to do or say things in the first place that will likely result in a “No. Stop.” from the other person.
This is why we have a mantra around here, and since they were very young if one of my kids was having a stubborn day, a day when they forgot that they are a member of the human race, not above it in a place where the rules of decency do not apply to them, I had no problem with making them repeat that mantra, write that mantra down until it was hammered back into their heads.
“No means no. Stop means stop. I will stop when someone tells me no.”
We need to see each other as deserving of respect, safety, and boundaries, both physical and emotional.
Yes, I make sure to remind them to be kind to themselves and others each day, and help point out social cues so they learn how to read people better, but this takes it a step further.
Everybody is going to slip up (especially kids), and whether it’s a big-deal slip-up or an annoying little thing that the kid just refuses to acknowledge, the reminders help.
Many parents publicly ponder how they can fight to suppress the rape culture environment we live in now, worry about how ingrained it has become, thinking that it’s too huge to wrestle, intimidated by its breadth and depth. I’ve always found that the little steps, quiet reminders, the modeling of displays of unwavering belief that hammer home messages, that create change.
As parents, we are put in a powerful position to incorporate those things into our homes to ensure the next generation is a safer one, a more respectful and decent one.
I have noticed that as my kids got older, my need for making them repeat this mantra, write this down, has decreased exponentially. It has become a part of them.
I’ve seen it in action when people cross their boundaries, when they’ve accidentally crossed someone else’s boundaries, and while standing up for others whose boundaries were crossed.
It might seem a silly act, this verbal review or repeated writing of a mantra on whatever piece of paper is nearby, but it’s something. And we all need to do SOMETHING to change how “No” and “Stop” are viewed, heard, responded to. We need to do something about making our communities, our country, our world, a safer one for us all, and my experience has been that it can start at home in the littlest of ways, like a message whispered in their ears as they scribble it down into something permanent.