Consent & Empowerment: Why Santa’s Message Went Viral

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When Steve came into the room and said The Today Show called, I was waiting for the goofy punchline I knew had to be coming. But he was 100% serious.

Miami mom Katie Love took her toddler-aged daughter to a Sunday evening event at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne where my husband, Steve–aka @therevsanta–was Santa Claus. And the reel she created and shared on TikTok went viral. Like crazy viral.

@katielovesocial

This response was 🔥Thank you Santa for respecting my daughter’s choice & even applauding her for it!🎄🎅 #toddlersoftiktok #santaclaus #christmastiktok #toddlersbelike #adviceforgirls #importantmessage #toddlermom #toddlertok #wholesomemoments #femaleempowerment #girlpower #bodyautonomy

♬ original sound – Katie Love

At the time of this writing, the TikTok reel has over 2 million views in addition to articles written and published by several major news outlets including The Today Show, People, The Independent, Good Morning America, and FOX News. To say that this whole experience has been surreal is an understatement.

It went viral for good reason.

This reel wasn’t planned or staged. Steve didn’t even realize he was being recorded at the time. But when Adley said, “No!” after he asked her if she wanted to sit on his lap (really his knee), he gladly affirmed her the same way we affirm our children. And the best part? This was not something she was hearing for the first time. Consent is something she consistently hears about from her parents. That’s one of the best gifts she could ever receive.

Image: Santa affirms a little girl with a message about consent after she says "No" to sitting on his lap in a TikTok video that went viral
Photo Credit: Katie Love/@katielovesocial, TikTok

The dictionary definition of consent is permission/to give permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. This goes for men, women, boys, girls, the youngest children, and the most senior adults. As parents, we are especially responsible for teaching our kids to respect themselves and others, including their bodies. The problem is, many of us grew up in cultures and/or subcultures that didn’t teach or value personal boundaries and consent. So it can be hard to know where to start or how to teach our children something we didn’t learn until our teens or early adulthood. 

Where and When to Start

It’s always a good time to teach and talk with our kids about consent. And the holidays give us a chance to revisit the topic and help them set and maintain personal boundaries. Children need to know they are never required to hug or kiss anyoneeven family members. Or sit on Santa’s lap for a photo. If someone wants to hug them and it’s not something they want, they can give a high five instead. As parents, we can set the tone and communicate our family policy around forced hugs or expressions of affection to extended family members and friends ahead of time. Then, we can be there to affirm our kids when they say no. 

Image: Two kids sit next to Santa for a Christmas photo
Image: Our kids’ 1st photo with Santa at Dadeland Mall in 2019. We told them they didn’t have to sit on Santa’s lap, and they chose to sit next to him instead.

The truth is, other people may not like it. And that’s okay! They don’t have to like it or be happy about it. But they must respect our kids’ boundaries if they want to be around them. Holidays or not.

Helpful Resources

Here are some tools Steve and I have used with our kids and recommend to reinforce children’s inherent dignity and worth and teach them about consent:

My Body, a song by Peter Alsop
God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies, by Justin S. Holcomb and Lindsey A. Holcomb
How Much Is a Little Girl Worth? by Rachael Denhollander
How Much Is a Little Boy Worth? by Rachael & Jacob Denhollander
Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. by Kristen A. Jenson, MA (ages 3-6)*
Good Pictures Bad Pictures by Kristen A. Jenson, MA (ages 7-12)*

*These books address digital safety and the topic of pornography which fuels sexual entitlement and promotes a lack of consent

It’s never too early or too late to start the conversation about consent with your child(ren). Are there some helpful tools you’d recommend to other parents? Tell me about them below!

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Lynda
Lynda Lantz is originally from Côte d'Ivoire, where she lived until the age of 7 when her family moved to Northern VA. She graduated with a degree in music from George Mason University and went on to work with Cru at four universities in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida. She was living in PA when she met her husband, Steve, on eHarmony and moved to Miami in 2011 just a few days after their wedding. Shortly before becoming SAHM, she was employed as an adoption caseworker and worked part-time with Cru at UM, and later Johnson & Wales University. Since then, she's been heavily involved in BSF which allows her to build relationships, pursue personal growth and develop leadership skills. She loves working with Miami Mom Collective and introducing people to this city she's come to call home, where she lives with her husband and two children. Connect with Lynda @mybalantzedlife on Instagram.

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