6-year-old’s ear-piercing experience at American Girl store becomes powerful lesson in consent: ‘You can say no at any time’

Kimberly Corban is used to sharing deeply personal stories with an audience of strangers. As a public speaker, podcaster and victims advocate, she regularly talks about her journey as a survivor of sexual assault and encourages others who have faced the same demons.

But a clip from Corban’s podcast is going viral on TikTok for a very different reason — not for a story from her own past, but for sharing a relatable experience she recently had with her daughter that other parents can learn from.

According to Corban, her family planned a trip to Chicago, where her then-6-year-old daughter was super excited about one thing and one thing only: Getting her ears pierced.

“And not just get her ears pierced,” Corban clarified. “She wanted to get her ears pierced at the American Girl doll store.”

“I always wanted to make sure that any kind of ear piercing was always her choice,” the mother explained. But considering this was all her daughter could talk about for months, she was confident that the 6-year-old definitely wanted this.

Once they got there, her daughter was overwhelmed with excitement. As she skipped happily through the store with her American Girl doll under one arm, the family went to the ear-piercing station.

But after picking out the earrings she wanted, Corban’s usually bubbly 6-year-old suddenly went quiet.

“You just sort of see her start to stare off and check out,” Corban said, which caused her to lean over and ask her daughter if everything was OK.

“I’m just really nervous,” the 6-year-old replied. Her mom reassured her that it was OK to be nervous and to ask any questions she had that might settle her fears.

“I don’t know,” her daughter admitted. “I don’t know if I want to do it now.”

Corban could have told her daughter that she would feel better when the piercing was over or reminded her that they’d come all this way for something she’d specifically asked for.

But instead, she leaned over and said, “Honey, you can say no at any time.”

“But you already paid,” her daughter replied.

“Doesn’t matter — I will crumple this paper up right now and get rid of it,” Corban told her.

That’s when Corban’s husband stepped in to back her up.

“You know what?” he told their daughter. “It’s really brave to get your ears pierced, but it’s also really brave to say that you don’t wanna get your ears pierced.”

Corban’s daughter immediately welled up with tears and told her parents, “I don’t think I want to.”

“I’m like, ‘OK, that’s great!'” the podcaster said before they left the ear-piercing station to walk around the store.

Once they did, she could tell that her little girl’s fear and anxiety disappeared. The experience was as much a teachable moment for her daughter as it was for Corban.

“She needed someone to give her permission to have her voice,” Corban shared. “And it’s over her own body.”

“It was one of those parenting moments where I’m like, ‘We’ve been doing something right,'” Corban recalled, adding that her daughter’s decision not to get her ears pierced was “such a win” in her book.

“I have been so so proud of her speaking up for herself in that way ever since,” the mom shared.

Fast-forward a year, and Corban’s daughter warmed up to the idea of getting her ears pierced again — mostly because a lot of her friends were getting theirs done, too.

So, once again they booked an appointment, traveled to Chicago and told the little girl that if she changed her mind at any point, that would be OK.

“I cannot think of a better way to reinforce what consent is than that sort of story,” Corban told her listeners. “It’s not just ear piercing, it can be anything — anything at all. If you put that power of making that choice in their hands, it’s going to matter a whole hell of a lot more when they’re older and when it’s potentially dangerous to their bodies.”

“This is about autonomy, confidence, and maturity”

In the comments, hundreds of people applauded Corban for handling the situation the way that she did.

“This isn’t just about consent,” one person noted. “This is about autonomy, confidence, and maturity. You are teaching her to be brave and strong.”

Others shared similar experiences.

“My daughter backed out after one ear. I let her walk out,” wrote another mom. “The woman did ‘you’re really going to let her only get one ear pierced’ yup.”

“I’ll never forget my mom letting me just walk out of college orientation.. we just left,” someone else recalled. “Took the bus home. Threw the papers in the trash.”

There were also plenty of responses from people working in ear-piercing stores.

“I work at an AG store and do ear piercing and nothing makes me angrier than parents that won’t let their child change their mind,” one person confessed.

“I once had a woman scream at me for not piercing her kids ears when I worked at Claire’s,” someone else shared. “If ur kid is crying and pushing me away, I’m not doing it.”

Others simply got emotional over what this entire story represented.

“Makes me teary, so happy for her and so sad for myself at the same time,” one person wrote. “Thanks for teaching her that her voice matters.”

In The Know by Yahoo is now available on Apple News — follow us here!

More from In The Know:

Family comes up with brilliant trick to avoid paying for food at amusement and water parks

These $15 earrings look just like Bottega Veneta's popular $1,300 teardrop style celebs love

6 stylish spring sandals under $50 to buy at Nordstrom now and wear all season long

TikTokers are encouraging their friends and themselves to move on with the ‘he is not the love of your life’ sound bite: ‘He is literally just a guy!’

Listen to the latest episode of our pop culture podcast, We Should Talk: