"Thank you Grammy, I love it." I leaned over and hugged my grandmother while wondering why she insists on purchasing clothing for me that looks like it belongs to a three year old rather than a 13 year old girl. I had no intention of actually wearing the suit, until my mother raised the bar.
"We will send you a picture of her on the beach in her new suit next week.", rage that I couldn't express without being rude rung in my ears. The unspoken conversation between my mother and I began rolling forward in my head.
Mom, I really don't like it, I would wine. My mother would say something like just one happy picture of you in the suit for Grammy, she went to so much effort..... besides, its cute.
We'd had this conversation a hundred times before over things my Grammie buys for me, and I'd always comply with the demands in the name of being 'polite'.
Sometimes the foundation for abuse starts with a parent trying to teach their children how to be polite or not hurt an adults feelings. Ouch, I'm a parent so I know the double side of this coin. On one hand I don't want my mother who purchased a gift for my daughter to know that she hates it. On the other hand, I don't want my daughter thinking she must do and say whatever adults want to hear. Unfortunately, it is usually easiest to comply with adults expectations than it is to acknowledge the uncomfortable feelings that my child has.
The problem is a child without a voice is simply easier for an adult to prime for abuse. A child who won't say no to a swimsuit, is less likely to say no to unwanted advances from another adult. When we insist that children comply with adults, they don't know how or when it is appropriate to stand up for themselves. Abuse is about control, so children that are trained not to express themselves if it might be uncomfortable for someone else are unfortunately easier for abusers to control.
If we need to teach our children that it is okay to say what they think and believe but keep these statements respectful of others feelings they are more resistant to abusers typical tactics.
It isn't rude for a child to express their thoughts and opinions in a polite way.
How much more might I have felt respected if my mother encouraged me to say something like:
Grammy, thank you for the suit. I might return it, since it is a little childish for my current style. Maybe we can go shopping together sometime? I'd like to show you some of the stores my friends and I shop in now that I'm older.
Something like this would make the point but not be rude or disrespectful of Grammy and the gift she gave, it also might let Grammy know that her precious grandaughter is growing up, but she still wants Grammy involved in the things she enjoys as she is getting older.