A few days ago, while I was out to have and ice cream with my nephew, we experienced something strange. Very strange! We were standing at the counter and he was trying to decide which flavor to have. Suddenly, a guy pushed us aside and came to the front. He turned around, looked at me and leered. I was immediately uncomfortable, took my nephew’s hand and walked away. My nephew understood that the incident was upsetting to me and asked me innocently “Maasi (Aunt), did you get hurt when he pushed us? He was disrespectful” I thought on how to respond and said: “Yes, but if I would have stayed there, he could have hurt me more.” And the phrase that immediately echoed in my ears was the one casually once made my mother, ‘Here’s how I taught my son to respect girls.”
This caused me to think that there’s a need to teach our sons and nephews, right from a tender age, how they need to respect girls. One of the most important values you can teach your child is how to respect women. Children, especially young children, learn to respect others by modeling behavior.
Children learn appropriate and respectful behavior by observing that of those around them. We need to remember that today’s children will be tomorrow’s adults, and a good upbringing will groom them as responsible and respectable citizens. The recent extreme sexual harassment cases against women have made it more important to sensitize your child towards gender-based inequality and atrocities. It has become the need of the hour to develop a mindset that will not favor such acts. This can be consciously practiced by bringing them up in a gender-neutral environment. That’s when I decided to follow a few simple behavioral rules in the house and especially around my child.
As my mother once said, ‘here’s how I taught my son to respect girls!’…And he did:
1. Be polite… No matter what, even if it seems to be the worst day of your life…
If children witness their parents differentiating between them and a sibling of different sex, or even any other child, they might also begin to behave in similar ways believing it is right.
2. No task distribution based on gender, please!
Parents often distribute tasks, even among themselves, according to gender. This should be avoided. Why should only boys run errands or bring out the garbage, whereas a girl is told to clean the kitchen table or tidy up the room? Or why should the mother cook, while the husband cleans the car? They grow believing that this is how society works. But you, as parents, should be supportive enough to break these stereotypes.
3. Monitor the media your son is exposed to
Most media influences are stereotypical which cast an impression on young minds. Keeping an eye on what your child chooses to watch on television would be a good start. Objectification of women on screen is a bad influence on your little one. Items numbers, vulgar songs, and obscene shows will create a bad image on their minds.
4. Be expressive…Be emotional
Our society labels boys who cry as sissies and girls who indulge in tough activities are tomboys. This differentiation will never allow a child to express his real emotions. Power, strength, domination, rage and all, are qualities that are very male-centric whereas love, nurture, warmth, care, and submissiveness are attributed to a girl. Boys should be taught to be gentle and caring, irrespective of what the society thinks or labels them. I decided to teach my child to express his feelings openly whether it be love or anger, sadness or happiness. This will lead him to treat women with respect and not as objects of gratification.
5. The company your son keeps
The older your child gets, the more he will be influenced by the company he keeps. If he/she has never had a girl as a friend, he will most likely not learn how to behave around her or how to treat her. So, I decided to make him befriend people of all sexes and age groups for him to develop an understanding right from the beginning.
The above incident was just one example of how, we women, are leered at and made to feel cheap. I took my nephew and son aside that day to have the “mature talk”. I asked them three simple questions to make them understand how to treat women.
- How does your father talk to me?
- Do you like it when a stranger stares at you or touches you?
- If someone mistreated your sister or any of your female friends, would you be hurt?
With these simple questions and the responses I got from them, they were able to understand, in their own way, the value of chivalry. I am positive that with these and the above points being followed around them, I have taught my boy to respect not only girls but every human being. Maybe you should try these too. There is a LOT of hope for the world to be a better and safer place for women.
by Manali Desai