Teaching our boys to respect girls and women and themselves.
Updated: Jun 23, 2020
When my young son, came home and told me how he didn’t like a girl in his class who kept following him, touching him and kept wanting to kiss him. I didn't know what to say at first.
“Normally at this age, any parent would find it cute, and shrug it off as its OK to be chased, touched or kissed, even if you’re not comfortable as they are only kids, its harmless….. or is it?"
If we do not teach our children now about the importance of consent, boundaries and have the confidence to say no, then what is the point in trying to implement this when they are older? What age is appropriate 10, 15, 20?
No ones son should feel uncomfortable to stay in class or sit in the same table as another child who acted this way, even if that child was a female, image if this was the other way around?
When we are in a state of discomfort and feel unsafe, it demotivates us, we feel it is wrong, our circumstance is out of control, it allows our tolerance threshold to become more tolerant. We shut down. We freeze in time. Eventually, we tolerate more of this behaviour, normalising the discomfort, maybe in the future this can lead to normalising domestic abuse? our failure to not protect or set boundaries in the earlier stage in life maybe?
Teaching boys to respect women and themselves.
In the world of domestic abuse most perpetrators are men, victims are majority women and a fraction men. So many times have I heard perpetrators of abuse justifying their behaviours. They will use any excuse that fits into their value and belief system. If that belief system says men are superior, they are the dominant ones and the powerful, any sort of affection, calmness within a man is seen to be weak, and feminine, that school of thought may create danger later on.
Men are almost always the perpetrators according to the statistics.
Yes, women can – and do – offend violently, however statistic paints males as mainly the perpetrators. Researchers who argue that a far more nuanced (and gender-balanced) are not accurate in my opinion as they don’t take into consideration the type of Domestic abuse, for example IPV vs Situational violence. However we cannot run away from patriarchy, misogyny and as a result of the notion of ‘it’s a man’s world’, the notion of superiority and objectification of women we are in fact, preventing men to be decent men and preventing women to be safe in this so called ‘Man‘s world’, all indirectly, fostering a world that reeks of toxic masculinity, perfect breeding ground for Domestic Abuse to thrive in And that cycle to be passed on from generation to generation.
But whether the statistics are on the money or are missing the mark a little, there would be few who would argue that there is significant room for improvement with respect for one self and respect for others. Disrespect– in my opinion where it was once called ‘innocent fun’ and ‘harmless acts’ should be nipped in the bud very early in childhood.
Self respect, boundaries and respect for girls and women is so important to learn at a young age. Emotional regulation is another.
Teaching boys under 5
Children learn by example. They watch adults, and adsorb their environment like a sponge, we need to be so careful on how we treat our partners, men or women, shouting, harmless fun that makes the other partner, scream ‘stop it’, even in times of joking and fun, should be respected and action stopped. Stop means stop, no means no.
I always teach my boys, “your pleasure shouldn’t be someone else's pain“. I teach them the ripple effect of actions. I teach them personally responsibility, If someone says stop it, it is an indication they are uncomfortable, and you do not want to be the reason for anyone's discomfort, because you wouldn’t like it If you switched positions!”
If we show respect we will teach respect. This means we respect our children, we respect other adults, and we especially respect women. In a world of gender inequality we must give females that extra support, because they need it. It means that we do not call girls or women names, “Comment like don’t be such a girl”, creates the belief that women are less than, girls are less than. We do not ever hit or threaten to hit girls or women nor do we ourself as men or boys tolerate physical violence. It means we listen to girls and women and respect their opinions and we also set boundaries so we don’t fall victim of abuse either.
Speak kindly and calmly
Communication is the key to life, this idea is pretty basic, but at this age, it is all it takes to show respect. Say please and thank you. Never say things like ‘shut-up’ or ‘get lost’ (or anything worse), whether to a child, or an adult, and regardless of gender. Respectful speaking teaches respect. Remember child learn by example, not from advice or words.
Teach children, boys and girls to recognise when someone needs help or feels sad, and show them how to help. It helps build empathy from a young age, that it isn’t about ‘me’ but ‘we’.
Teaching boys from age 5-12
Above applies and also the the additional below.
Monitor what they absorb, ears, eyes MEDIA!! Youtube etc.
The younger generation, learn so much from social media, they are raised on youtube. Youtube isn’t monitored and can use Abusive language. The other day I noticed my 6 year old watching kissing, which turned into soft porn.
Violent media is the norm online, and on TV, Music etc. As a parent monitor screen time.
While most 5 year-olds don’t enjoy violence, however if its what they are absorbing and normalising by the age of 9 plus they’re all over it. Sitting down with your 6 year-old (or any child) to watch WWF fights on pay tv exacerbate violent attitudes and model aggression is very toxic and later will bite you in the butt. Allowing kids to watch Game of Thrones and similar gratuitous sex and violence does nothing to help the cause. Games like Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Counter Strike, and many more glorify violence (including violence against women).
Some studies have shown that after playing violent games or viewing violent ‘entertainment’, people are less likely to show empathy or kindness. Less exposure to games and movies or tv shows that promote disrespect and inhumanity is the best way. It is dangerous, be very mindful of what your child is feeding their mind.
The average age of boys’ exposure to pornography is 11. And we’re not talking the 1980’s Playboy style pornography. We’re talking hardcore, violent, disgusting content that teaches boys that women exist to be violently and sexually disrespected. This also shows many other things, so be very strict and monitor now and again what your children are watching. Have that conversation. If your child is curious about sex, have that dialogue, be your childs teacher where they feel they can come to you for answers instead of others.
At around the age of 8 or 9, we must start pre-arming our boys. Sex education is mandatory in school now, encourage your schools to teach children about sex, consent, healthy relationship if you feel uncomfortable, what does a healthy relationship look like?
Let boys know that pornography exists, that people might want to show it to them, that others might think it’s funny, and that it teaches bad things. Let them know it’s not real. It’s not reflective of what people want in healthy, functional relationships. Let them know they can and should talk to us if anyone tries to show it to them.
Keep them away and do not normalise exposure to porn as something ‘all the boys do’. Such attitudes are part of the domestic abuse and disrespect problem.
Talk about the issues
When you see disrespect, talk about it. Ask your child how it leaves them feeling. How does it make the victims feel? What are better ways of responding to it? Such conversations promote empathy and perspective, and help our boys develop social awareness and conscience.
Teaching boys 11 plus.
Our young people should be learning about healthy relationships where people love one another and express that love in healthy, functional ways. They need to understand more than the mechanics of sex. They need to understand context and commitment. When there is no real commitment, we are taught that there are no feelings involved. When we separate physical and emotional intimacy from one another, we provide fertile soil for sexual miscommunication and sexual coercion.
So make sure your son / daughter challenges locker room talk, build a strong relationship with your child so they aren’t influenced by the bad apples out there. Teach your young person to question everything.
Your young adult should absolutely not be intimate with anyone without the other persons consent. Try to teach your young person about the law of actions, every action creates a consequence or equal action or opposite reaction. Teach your your person about the law of ecology. That your action will effect others in your life, positively or negatively. Teach your young person that they are not just one person, however a person connected with so many others, (connected to your mum, dad, friend, sister, brother, you might be a niece to someone, a nephew to someone etc)
Our children and young people must understand that no means no. T-shirts and slogans that promote the idea that “no means yes, and yes means anal” demean not just the wearer, but our society as a whole. We are too casual about sex, and not that serious about consent. Never joke about this sort of language. Otherwise we create a culture of “I didn’t mean to” and a lack of personal responsibility. "he/she was asking for it"...
I remember when the perpetrator of my abuse, stole a large amount of money from work and blamed this on me when he went to prison, in his head, he held a belief that it is always someone else’s fault.
"if you didn't criticise my little car, I wouldn't have to steal money to buy a bigger car"
We can make our self believe anything. So it’s important for us to own our actions, teach our children to do the same and learn to deal with the consequences at their young age, so they don’t grow up blaming the world for their behaviour.
We should talk to our children about scenarios where they find themselves at a party with a girl or boy who is drunk and all over them. Is she / he capable of providing consent? What are the risks involved? What if she / he is only a little drunk, she gives consent, and then she changes her mind even though her pants are down and so are yours? Consent is a conversation that must be had – repeatedly.. throughout.
Role-plays and visulising scenarios is how I teach my children.
Set clear boundaries and remind your children Porn is fake.
Let your children know that porn is not real. Teach them why it is toxic and dangerous..
I remember catching my young son watch YouTube which turned into soft porn, this happens without any intention, adverts come on, with a few clicks different videos come on. Who is monitoring the content? Not YouTube.
Currently, statistics suggest 100% of boys have viewed violent pornography by age 15, this will influence their relationships later on in life, girls who watch porn later on believe that is how they are suppose to act and it creates mental health issues and they are likely to be prey to predators. We must challenge Porn.
Call out sexism
Boys and men, regularly hear jokes about how “women should get back in the kitchen” and other derogatory remarks along similar lines. My partner keeps joking about this, the few times he jokes, I remind him this is unacceptable every time. My children see my partner in the kitchen, so even though during his upbringing that sort of gender role was the norm, it isn’t today and it needs to be called out. Regardless of the intention I demonstrate to my children that it is OK to call things out, even within home relationships.
When you catch your boys criticising girls or women because of their maths or driving ability, or for any other gendered issue, call them out on it. Let them know sexism is not cool and it is not funny. Same with boys calling other boys a pussy, stop being a girl, call this out too.
Ultimately, regardless of what we say, it is what we do that makes the biggest impact on our Children's ability to respect themselves and others.
(I will write another blog on the importance of emotional regulation)
What the people in your children’s lives do will set the scene for ongoing behaviour from your sons and daughters. If the men in their lives think it’s ok to stare and whistle at women while driving, to abuse women and call them names, to watch porn and objectify the women in their lives, or to hit them, the odds are stacked against your boys because of those poor example and also your girls as they will learn to tolerate abuse and normalise this. Boy or girl, man or woman, teach respect, teach personal responsibility, teach them while they are young. The world is harsher on adult errors.. you have the pain of discipline now, or the pain of regret later. Your choice.