What ‘No’ Sounds like

Stop. Slow down. Not now. I’m not sure.What No Sounds Like

All of these words and phrases have the same meaning behind them, “No”. Every day the news reminds us of the important role that consent plays in our lives. But how do we help our young students understand? These articles in Teaching Tolerance “Teaching Consent Doesn’t Have to be Hard” and “How My Third Graders and I Address Consent” are helpful guides in teaching the difficult subject. But what if our students don’t know they’ve been declined consent?

Sometimes ‘no’ isn’t as simple as a 2-lettered word. We must teach our students the sound and sight of ‘no’.

At Power Up, Speak Out! we teach that in a healthy relationship we can say no to anything without fear of scary consequences, without pressure, without being put down or made to feel bad. We deserve to be heard and respected.

Enhance your message on consent by adding this mini-lesson to help students recognize and respect being told no.

15 Minute lesson:

Gather your students in a circle.

            Today we’re going to be talking about the word ‘no’. What kind of things can we say no to? [playing games, giving hugs, tickling, kisses, high-fives]

Explain that there are some things we cannot decline.

There are some things we can’t say no to like homework or bedtime, or eating our vegetables.

            But when we’re talking about our bodies we are each in charge of ourselves. We can say no to anything that makes us feel uncomfortable, uneasy, embarrassed or hurt.

Tell your students there are a lot of ways to say no.

We can say no with our words and with our actions. Today we’re going to think of as many ways as we can to say no.

Have a student volunteer ask you for a hug. Answer with, “no”. Have the student ask again. This time say, “not right now”.

            Did both of my answers mean the same thing? [Yes]

Next, have the students get into pairs.

            There are many ways to say no without using the word. See if you can come up with an example.

Each pair should think of a word, phrase or body language that expresses “no”.

            One of you will ask for consent. Say, “Can I have a hug”. The other will say ‘no’ without using the word. Take turns until you run out of ways to say no.

Bring the class back together. Each pair will present one example to the class, continue until all pairs have presented a different way to say no or keep going until the whole class runs out of ideas.

If they haven’t already, help them discover these ideas:

‘No means no’ but so does: “I’d rather not, uh-uh, ‘shaking head’, I’m not into that, what are you doing, um…, please don’t, slow down, stop, not now,  I’m not sure, I have somewhere to be, I don’t want to, that doesn’t work for me, ‘walks away’, maybe later,  I’m not okay with that, you’re crossing my boundaries, ‘silence’”.

Some of these ideas are harder for students (and quite frankly adults) to understand-spend some time brainstorming why someone might ‘freeze’ or be silent when they are uncomfortable.

Why might someone be silent or freeze instead of just saying no if they don’t want to do something? [Fear of scary consequences, power dynamics, unsure how to respond, they are surprised/caught off guard, physical reaction to fear]

Body language can be difficult for kids to understand, especially when facial expressions don’t match our words. For example someone who is nervous might say no while giggling or smiling. Help your students navigate these more difficult situations.

Close by talking about how we can respect being told no after we recognize hearing (or seeing) it.

How could you respond if your friend says no? [Okay, that’s alright, maybe next time, sounds good]

Stress to your students that when it comes to our bodies, anything other than ‘yes’ is ‘no’. Let’s work together to change the culture by teaching our children how they deserve to be treated in all their relationships.

For more lessons about consent, boundaries, power dynamics, and healthy relationships visit https://powerupspeakout.org/toolkit/.