***Possible trigger warning: discussion of power, choice and consent in childhood and adulthood, no explicit references***

Have you ever done something and thought ‘why on Earth did I do that?!’. Maybe you said something that you really wish you hadn’t. Maybe you did something that people might label as ‘mean’. I wonder how powerful you were feeling in that situation.

Quite often, my experience is that we do things that seem ‘mean’ or ‘thoughtless’ when we are feeling powerless. Those actions are usually an (often misguided) attempt at regaining some sense of power or control.

How does this sound to you? If you look back on that situation (and, I know, it can be really painful to do), can you see what you did as being a reaction to feeling powerless?

How does powerlessness feel?

What are you likely to think about yourself and others when you’re feeling powerless? What are you more likely to do?

When you were a child, what was your experience of power? How did that feel for you? What did it make you do? What did you learn from that?

Choice: The ultimate answer to powerlessness?

If powerlessness is about feeling as though we are trapped or forced into doing something that we don’t want to do, surely choice is the remedy?

And yes, it is… to a point. When we feel as though we have to do something, it’s hard to feel motivated and excited about it. If we remind ourselves that every action we take is a choice, it can feel much easier.

However, have you ever decided you wanted to try a new cereal? I have. I walked down the cereal aisle and looked at all of the choice. And I felt totally overwhelmed so left with nothing – not even my usual option.

How about going to a restaurant with menus that have 8 pages of foods to choose from – helpful or too much to consider?

Those of you who have had babies are likely to have met the daunting prospect of buying a carseat, pram or well… anything for them… Google is great but Google is full of reviews and opinions that can make lots of choice overwhelming.

Choosing a holiday can often be the same.

So what’s the optimum level of choice for you?

Enough to feel as though you have free will, not so much you feel suffocated. How do you strike that balance?

And for your children? How do they respond when they have no choice? What about when they have too much choice? What are the signs that the balance of power is not quite right for your child?


When we’re talking about power and choice, it’s impossible not to think about consent.

Have you ever played the tickle game? Where you tickle a child (or you are tickled) until they are pleading for mercy? It’s so much fun isn’t it? And they seem to be having fun too. But what are we teaching them? That ‘no’ actually only means ‘no’ if it seems really serious. If we are desperate.

How about when you’re waving goodbye and you say ‘can I have a hug?’ and they say ‘no’ and you go in for one anyway? Or you say ‘oh no, that makes me really sad. I’m sad now, please can I have a hug?’. What are we teaching our children about their right to say no?

I find it easiest to think about this if I extrapolate the relationship into an adult one. Because, after all, childhood is where we learn what to expect as adults.

At what age can we start offering our children the option to consent?

Ideally, from the beginning (and, I admit, this is something I can forget with my own child). Of course, there are some things that aren’t optional, but we can be courteous about them.

For example, we can’t offer our children the option of whether their nappy gets changed if it really needs changing. But we can say ‘hey! you’re nappy is really full, I need to change it. Do you want to bring your toy or leave it here for when you get back?’

Of course, young babies, won’t understand but you’re setting the foundation early. If there’s one thing we know about habits, they take a while to form!

How does this sound to you? What comes up when you think about power, choice and consent?

How about with your child?

Are there areas that you find it easy to ask for consent? Which are those? Maybe you didn’t even realise you were doing it.

And there areas that are harder? Why do you think that is?