While we’ve come along way when it comes to women’s rights and equality, we’re not quite there yet. Sexism, misogyny, and gender-based stereotypes are still rampant in popular culture, on the Internet, and on social media sites. It’s up to today’s parents to instill respect for women in their sons by setting an example and asking their sons to be critical of what they see, read, and hear. Whether you’re a single mother, single father, or two-parent family, it’s also up to you to set an example for your child. The following are just some of the things you can do to help your sons grow up to treat women with courtesy and respect.
Model Respectful Behavior
No matter what your situation, you should strive to be an example of respectful behavior for your son. This means treating him with respect. Give him the opportunity to explore his personality and express himself without fear. Allow him to find out what his talents are and pursue them in a healthy way. Telling your son that he is a child and should be treated as such will only give him reason to use labels to determine and define how he treats others later on. Instead, encourage him to express his opinions and feelings to get to the root of conflicts. Secondly, you should also treat yourself with respect. The more respectful you are, the more likely your son is to pick up on this behavior.
Positive Male Role Models
Your son should have at least one or two men that he can look up to in his life. This may include his father, uncle, teacher, pastor, or other adult. One of the most difficult aspects of teaching boys how to treat women with respect is actually helping them to overcome the negative male stereotypes they face. Men can be strong and still express themselves emotionally. Shutting down is not a healthy way to cope with feelings, nor is using aggression and violence. Male role models should treat women respectfully by valuing their opinions and feelings, listening to them, and honoring their experiences. Boys should be taught that it’s never okay to use threats or physical violence to express anger or frustration. Teach your son that it’s okay to walk away from a situation when he feels too heated.
One of the most difficult task that today’s parents face is actually monitoring kids’ exposure to misogynistic and sexist images. Now that kids have access to cell phones, tablets, televisions, and computers, it seems impossible to control what they are exposed to. As a parent, you have to do your best to set limits.
While it’s never pleasant to talk about sexual assault and domestic violence, it’s crucial to broach this subject with your kids. Cases in the news are the best way to go about doing this. It’s likely that your kids will hear things at school and amongst their friends pertaining to rape and sexual assault related headlines so it’s better to address these topics with them yourself. Try to help them to identify that being a true gentleman is about more than just treating women with respect. It’s also about standing up to men guilty of taking advantage of women or perpetuating violence and mistreatment of women.
Teaching boys how to be respectful of women is a difficult job, even for today’s parents. Being a role model yourself, ensuring that your son has positive male role models that he can look up to, and monitoring his exposure to media can all help your son grow into a man who respects women.