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Raising Boys to become Respectful Men

In this Nugget, I’d like to touch upon (if may I dare) a topic that is being discussed a lot lately. Women safety! “Hey!...”, you may say, “that’s not the title of this nugget?” Wait… is it?

You will agree that women can be fully assured of safety if men respect women , is it not? Well, then, when do men start to learn how to respect women; when they are boys, is it not? So whose task is it to teach boys to respect women, parents (and teachers), is it not? Only then will we be able to create a whole generation of respectful gentlemen, is it not?

So here is a 5-fold nugget that will help each of us, entrusted with the bringing up of a precious boy, make sure he ends up becoming a respectful gentleman:

  • 1. Behaviour Modelling: The father and other male family members that your boy looks up to should ensure that they set an example of respecting women in the household. When he sees you actively listening to his mother or grandmother, when he sees you open doors for them and offer to do things that make their lives easier, he will want to model your behavior. Also important, use respectful terms when referring to women. Derogatory terms when talking about women seem to abound in today’s media, and when children observe this, such words may come out in casual conversation. So be careful to avoid name-calling a woman, even if she dresses or acts provocatively. If you have to, talk specifically about the behavior and why it is inappropriate rather than using a derogatory term to describe the behavior. When a little boy learns the value of empathy early on, whether it is empathy towards an old grandparent, towards a scared new kid in his class or a little puppy on the road, his empathy translates into gentlemanly behavior towards everyone as he grows up.

  • 2. Correct popular impressions: If you are watching a movie with your son, or listening to music or he is playing video games that portray women in a disrespectful manner, correct the impressions that he might form. You could say, " I know this actor in the movie talked about women in this way, but we know better, dont we? You know how much I love your mom, right? I would never say something like that about her ." Help your son see that entertainers and game designers sometimes say and do things for shock value that dont reflect the way real people feel or behave. And it is never too early to talk to your son about this (at his level of understanding of course). Even two-year-olds are watching you. Closely.

  • 3. Communicate without violence or threats: Learning to communicate is a crucial part of life. We often forget though, that learning to communicate our feelings and thoughts too is a crucial part of life, especially negative feelings like frustration, anger and jealousy. But while girls are allowed to express their negative feelings through tears, young boys are taught that “ Boys don’t cry ” “ Are you a girl?? ” (like as if being a girl is something horrid). This is dangerous as well as unfair. Boys are people too. Encourage your son to express his feelings, through crying if necessary. Real men do cry. When their expression is subdued, negative (and maybe harmful) expressions, in the form of violence and/or threats come to the surface. And thus we often see that young men have a hard time reacting to things that are going wrong without resorting to violence or threatening language. Also, what might work among friends or on the sporting field does not work with women. So help your son learn to express his feelings and opinions verbally and respectfully. And help him see that violence in a family situation or with women or children is never acceptable.

  • 4. Cultivate positive friendships with girls: When introducing your toddler boy to a girl, refer to the girl as his “ behen/didi/sister ” rather than a “friend”. Both terms are synonymous at this age, but it makes an impression in your son’s mind right in the beginning that this is a relationship that means protection, trust and a feeling of family. As the kids grow up, boys tend to have friendships only with other boys until they start to develop the hormonal attraction to girls. Helping them develop positive friendships with girls at young ages can get them comfortable around girls and help them see through the stereotypes that teenage boys often have about girls. Early and positive friendships between boys and girls can help breed respect later in life.
  • 5. Avoid gender bias like the plague: It is sad that even well-educated parents still practice gender bias in their homes, many times unintentionally. It is just so deeply ingrained in our upbringing. While girls are to help mother with the household chores, the boys get to sit around and expect to be served (by the mother or even sister sometimes). While the girls have to run back home before dark, the boys get to play a little longer. When your son sees that his sister is being treated with a stricter set of rules, he easily deduces that he is superior in some way; and as he grows up, he developing the tendency to subjugate women. I am not suggesting that you allow your girls to play late; this could be dangerous. When you ask your daughter to help out with washing the potatoes, ask your son to peel them. Let your daughter help her father bring the grocery bags in and ask your son to sort the laundry. Dividing chores into boy jobs and girl jobs is clearly giving your children a message that boys and girls are not equal. Basically, I am saying that your family rule (whatever it is) must be the exact same for all children, whether boys or girls .
  • " As a culture, we perceive empathy, nurturance, talent for friendship and relationship as belonging only to women and less valuable than independence and other kinds of strengths traditionally associated with men ," Dr. Silverstein says. " We have to believe that feminine strengths are valuable not just in women but in all humans. Then we wont worry about feminizing boys. "

    Teaching our sons to respect women, particularly within their own families and classrooms, is one of our most important roles. As our sons learn to deal respectfully with the women in their lives, they will develop the needed skills and attitudes that will help them interact effectively with women all through their lives.

    Happy New Year!!

    Priti Srivastava, Founder CEO, Vidyarambh

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