According to a recent article in The Telegraph, Sleeping Beauty has been labelled by one mother as a tale that promotes inappropriate behaviour in children. According to Ms Hall, who complained about the centuries-old fairytale, the story of the prince awakening Sleeping Beauty with True Love's Kiss is "a specific issue... about sexual behaviour and consent."
Consent is one of the hottest topics in the playground these days - with parents more aware than ever of the relationship their children have with others. As with many of the traditional fairy stories you'll find - from Goldilocks to Grimm's tales - there are some outdated concepts included within their pages. One way parents and teachers can use these stories are as examples of what not to do, and ways to open informed discussions about consent, personal space and appropriate behaviour.
Here are just a few ways the story of Sleeping Beauty can help you teach children more about how to understand what consent is, and what it means:
Appropriate behaviour - Stories like Sleeping Beauty and other fairy stories can be the perfect springboard to discuss what behaviour is appropriate and inappropriate for a child or person - phrasing questions around feelings and emotions rather than the 'Happily Ever After' of the story.
Examples of this would be 'how would you feel if someone kissed you without asking?', or 'how would your friend feel if you touched them without asking?'. Questions like these provide them with a complete understanding of what is and what isn't appropriate between themselves and others.
Personal space - The actions in this tale also give an opening to talk to a child about personal space, which has many different methods - from circles of space to an invisible bubble. Having a child that is more aware of their entitlement to their own space can help to make them more balanced and have a better understanding of privacy.
Cubbies or school desks are a great place to start talking about personal space, letting the children know they're allowed their own space and are allowed to say no or that they feel uncomfortable when someone enters this space without their permission.
Consent, always - The key message, and one of the more problematic elements, of the story of Sleeping Beauty, is the idea of consent. Understanding that it's not okay to touch another person in any way while they're sleeping can help a younger child to further develop their personal understanding of consent and awareness of others.
Sleeping Beauty is a classic, and much-beloved story, and it's also a fantastic way to show children what not to do - provided you follow up storytime with a discussion of the rights and wrongs.