It’s international day of the girl and as a boy mom, I once again feel left out. We need to teach our boys to respect girls. As the mother of two boys, almost 15 and 10 years, I have mostly gotten used to not having the privilege and honor of raising a girl. But what can I do to help shape and uplift the next generation of women? How can I make sure that my boys contribute to that effort? I’ve given it some thought and here’s my take.
1. Teach boys to respect a girl’s privacy and space
This principle is at the core of consent issues and respect of it. Simple things like having boys knock before opening a closed door. Requesting permission to use your phone and laptop. Boys need to know that they do not have automatic rights to access your things. This learned behavior will transfer into other spaces and to other girls.
2. Teach boys to be respectful in speech
Be very careful as moms how we allow our boys to speak to us. If they feel confident disrespecting us, obnoxious behavior towards other women is fair game. Now it’s debatable that most boys respect their moms and sisters, but don’t necessarily do the same for others. These boys learned this behavior was acceptable through other means.
3. Teach boys appropriate contact
It’s funny when dad slaps you playfully on the butt. I learned this the hard way when my son’s kindergarten teacher told me that my four-year-old pats her affectionately on the butt. Was he being rude? No, but he saw daddy repeatedly tapping mommy on the butt. What did he learn? He learned that an appropriate way to show affection was a soft slap on the butt. He loved his teacher, it naturally follows that he could slap his teacher’s butt. We had to explain appropriate touching. We didn’t laugh it off and allow him to progress to touching his female classmates.
4. Teach boys to respect female voices and opinions
It is very easy in our quest to raise confident, outspoken boys that we unintentionally give them the impression that their voice is most important and the only one that matters. We do this by acquiescing to their opinions even when they are wrong and rooted in falsehoods. Teach them that their opinion is just that, an opinion and that others, especially girls, have one too.
5. Teach them to control their anger
Displaying wanton anger is not synonymous with being male. We have to teach boys that being meek isn’t effeminate. Constructive dialogue and appropriate responses are the way to go. Additionally, help them to understand that a girl is allowed to raise her voice when making a point. That in no way emasculates them and it doesn’t make her crazy.
In this new era of female empowerment, we have to help our boys navigate and learn appropriate behavior. No, our boys aren’t under attack. No, our boys aren’t the victims. Instead of bemoaning how our boys are going to defend themselves, just teach them appropriate behavior. As boy moms we can be at the forefront of change. Let’s be the pioneers. Let’s help our girls. Happy International Day of the Girl!
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