Raising Boys: The conversation all parents need to have with their sons.
Some people think raising boys is easier than raising girls. But to me, being the mother of a boy comes with a lot of responsibility. I believe it’s our job as parents of boys to teach them to respect women. That’s why I found myself having conversations with my four-year old that I didn’t think I’d have this early on.
“When a girl says she doesn’t want any kisses, you have to stop. You have to respect what a girl says.” My son is four and yet I found myself uttering those words to him. And as I was explaining to him why he couldn’t just keep kissing me (his mother) when I said I didn’t want any more kisses (yes that is actually possible) I thought about why it’s important that we have these conversations with our sons as early as possible and I was happy to be doing so.
At four years old, my son listens to what we say. If I tell him once to not do something and give him a reason why, he understands and will later say “I can’t do ___ because ______.” I’m convinced that we need to have explicit conversations about how boys should act around girls and explain that girls must be respected because this will help them learn how to grow up to be respectful men. This is especially true in a society where rape culture is alive and well. It is our responsibility as parents to put an end to the thinking that boys can do whatever they want, or that girls say no but they really mean yes.
On the particular occasion I had to tell my son to stop kissing me we had been kissing eachother on the cheek back and forth. All was fine and dandy until I decided I had had enough (truthfully his kisses were becoming a little too slobbery for my taste). So I told him to stop it; only he thought I was joking and kept kissing me. Finally I took his hands and looked at him straight in the eyes and said to him
“When a girl tells you to stop kissing her, or touching her you have to listen.” followed by
“You don’t touch or kiss someone if they don’t want to be touched or kissed.” Followed by
“You have to respect other people’s bodies.” and then
“If you don’t want to be touched, you have the right to say so.”
Followed by “No one should be touching you if you don’t want them to, do you understand?”
It may seem too much to handle for a young child, but the truth is that kids are smarter than we think they are. They also listen. One day I told my son that we don’t have secrets in our house, that we only have surprises… this was after reading the Mama Bear Effects’ “5 Body Safety Rules Every Kid Should Know by Age 5.” Well our son listened. When his grandfather gave him a piece of chocolate and he said “Sshhhh don’t tell it’s a secret.” He replied, “No, mama said there are no secrets.”
I want to raise a son who respects girls, who walks them home without expecting sex, but just because he wants to make sure they get home safely. I want to raise a boy who doesn’t expect anything from a girl and doesn’t think of girls or women as objects. I want to raise a boy that is someone who speaks up if his friends are treating a woman unfairly, and not join in on the injustice. I want to raise a boy that is not a bully. I want to raise a boy that thinks of a girl as his equal not inferior.
So to moms (and dads) I say: Let’s have these conversations with our boys as early as possible, because our boys really are listening.
P.S. Raising respectful boys is a very important topic for me, check out my post To Improve Women’s lives we must start with our boys and on Baby Center 10 ways we can raise boys to be respectful men.
Another great resource: Good Men Project