It’s a favourite fairytale from way back. But Sleeping Beauty may be put to bed for good if a UK mum gets her way.
The mum wants her son’s school to ban Sleeping Beauty because she says it sends the wrong message to kids about sexual behaviour and consent.
Mum-of-two, Sarah Hall, was reading the book with her six-year-old son when she noticed something wasn’t quite right. She contacted his school to request a ban on the classroom reader for younger kids.
— Sarah Hall (@Hallmeister) November 19, 2017
Speaking to the Newcastle Chronicle, she said: “I think it’s a specific issue in the Sleeping Beauty story about sexual behaviour and consent.
“It isn’t appropriate”
“In today’s society, it isn’t appropriate – my son is only six, he absorbs everything he sees, and it isn’t as if I can turn it into a constructive conversation.”
Hall received some pretty harsh feedback from people saying her reaction is over-the-top.
But we get it. Like any mum, she just wants to protect her children. But does banning books work? In the scary world of parenting, how do we know what’s right and wrong when it comes to teaching kids about sex and consent?
Should we ban fairy tales?
Mum Central asked child safety expert, Professor Kerryann Walsh, from Queensland University of Technology and Jayneen Sanders, teacher and author of Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect for their views. Here’s what they said.
Prof Walsh says it’s more valuable for parents to use books as “teaching moments” rather than trying to ban them.
“I don’t think these kind of things should be banned because then we get rid of those teachable moments. And if children have a sanitised kind of experience of the world, they’ll never get to problem solve about these things,” she says.
“A really powerful approach parents can use is the ‘I wonder?’ question. Not putting words into children’s mouths, but asking things like ‘I wonder why he did that?’, ‘I wonder what else he might do?’, ‘I wonder what the princess thought of that?’ The ‘I wonder?’ and ‘What if?’ questions can lead to so much deep discussion my capturing those teachable moments.
Jayneen suggests parents read books first before sharing them with the kids. “In any place they think that something is not going to be of 2017, they need to change the text themselves,” she suggests.
How to teach kids about consent without it being weird
Jayneen says the Sleeping Beauty story is a good chance to teach children about “body boundaries“.
“It is a good time to stop and say, ‘should the prince just be coming into her body boundary’? We have to tell children that they have a body boundary and it’s an invisible space, but just because it’s invisible, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there,” she says. “She’s [the princess] obviously not awake and it’s a good time to say, ‘is that really correct what he’s doing?’.”
“We’re teaching children different lessons now. We’re teaching them to be empowered, to own their bodies, to say no when they don’t like things. Most parents get a free pass, but especially over Christmas, relatives should ask; ‘Can I have a hug? Can I have a kiss?’. We need young people growing up knowing what consent and respect is.”
Keen to keep your kids safe at home and online? Read this Snapchat app warning and make sure you’re in the know.