Last month we celebrated International Day for the Elimination of Violence and I noticed on Social Media there were dozens of women posting the following quote:
“I am raising a son that your daughter will be safe with. I PROMISE!
Now I’m the first to agree that we as parents hold a huge responsibility when it comes to changing the pattern of violence against women, children, family, friends, and human beings alike. But for some reason this quote really got me thinking. Upon reading it I felt pressure and honestly I’m still reflecting on why I feel this way.
One idea I have pondered is that I feel so passionately about raising my sons to be gentle, kind, supportive, loving partners. That won’t respond with violence in any situation let alone towards their families and friends. But what I realised is that I’m not sure exactly what I should be doing to prevent this. It’s all well and good to say that us as parents are responsible for raising our children to respond appropriately in every situation they face as teenagers and adults but how are we educating our parents to do this. I don’t have any experience of violence at home, I’m one of the lucky ones and I still am baffled as to how I’m going to raise my boys to be men that your daughters/sons are safe with. My boys are beautiful, intelligent people who are gentle natured and extremely empathetic and caring. It makes me feel so sad for them that they’re growing up in a world where men are to be feared and distrusted and I feel a immense pressure to raise them right and turn that notion around because I can’t imagine that they would be violent towards anyone. We don’t have violence at home so we’re not modelling violent behaviour, they’re not hit ever, and we teach them how to breath and calm down when they’re angry. When they do play too rough or hit each other they’re told off and we say ‘we don’t hit people’ and ‘that’s not the way we act’ but is it enough? are there other things I could be doing?
After a lot of reading one of the main suggestion was to teach young boys about their emotions. Teaching them to express themselves in healthy ways and not to bottle up their emotions. Encourage them to talk and avoid telling them that ‘boys don’t cry’. Ensuring that we don’t teach them in any way that they are smarter or more powerful than girls. This starts with the chores we set them around the house not being stereotypically male and giving them a range of non gender specific toys.
As they get older we need to ensure that we teach appropriate ways to communicate with all people, and model healthy relationships at home. Make sure the programs they are watching are appropriate and watch tv with them so that if a character is behaving inappropriately you can use it as a teaching moment. Focus on keeping your relationship with your son strong, talk regularly, a good relationship will ensure you know what’s happening in their life and you can give them advice when difficult situations in their lives arise.
Ensure they have good male remodels in their lives, this can include family members, coaches, teachers, family friends the more they see adult males responding with gentleness, kindness, calmness the more likely they are to behave that way as adults.
Teach them what inappropriate behaviours look like from a young age. This is very important for keeping them safe as well as others. Tell them who they should tell if they see any inappropriate behaviours. Teach them about consent, this include consenting to hugs and kisses even from family members. Teach them conflict resolution and give them phrases to use when they’re upset of angry “stop I don’t like it when you…” “when you did_______ it made me feel _________”
Call out people if they make sexist comments or jokes. In fact this might be one of the most important things you do especially if its someone your son sees a lot. If a grandparent or uncle is talking about females in a derogatory way even if it is a ‘joke’ use it as at teachable moment for your son and the adults involved.
Avoid comments like ‘you run like a girl’ or ‘that outfit looks too girly’
Not every man that’s been violent towards his family learnt to be that way from a violent upbringing. So we can’t be complacent that just because our households aren’t violent are children won’t be.
There can’t be a perfect equation for how to ensure you raise your kids to be non-violent empathetic adults but every skill you equip them with will make us closer to that goal. It will raise awareness, it will change attitudes and it just may save a life.
Mumma Z xxx