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The Boy Child

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 31 October 2018   |   By Tumie Forthright
The Boy Child

For the longest time there has been talk of emancipation of women and the plight of the girl child and a skewed attention on raising a boy (into man). We may want to pause, no, rather step it up and raise these two people with the other in mind because then we're raising a better and more balanced society. The way we raise our sons today will determine the safety of women tomorrow, valued and safe.

Teaching our boy children empathy and respect from a young age will go a long way. Rejecting patriarchal norms that are embedded deep in our society's day to day living including the masculine norms we, intentionally or not, teach our boy children, and these include notions that manhood means and involves non-show of emotion and sadly as well that it is roughing up people, therefore violence is acceptable if you're a boy. Imagine a man growing from a boy taught these. Of course he'll think the world owes him his roughing up women, which leads to a lot of social ills including sexual assault and abuse of women.

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Raising better boys means surrounding them with great role models, and this does not exclude family members. If your son sees norm with that uncle who beats his wife or learns of a cousin who raped the niece and the family protected him, he'll be that. Surround your son with people you would be comfortable leaving your daughter with, not the ones with questionable behaviour. In all of this, also give your sons good women role models. Women achievers in all fields so that they learn at an early age that ambition, careers and success are not gender based. For the longest time boy children have been taught to be tough and this has included not crying or showing emotion. This has lasting negative effects on their relationships.

Boys then start to think other emotions and showing of them makes them vulnerable, and thereby show emotion mostly through anger. When men suppress their emotions; rage, anxiety, depression and unhealthy coping mechanisms manifest. The expectations of masculinity that are taught to boys and reinforced by society could literally kill them. When your boy is scared tell him it's okay to be scared, when he is hurting still, tell him it's alright to hurt and that he can ask for help. A lot of us ready our girl children to take care of themselves and even of others but we do not do the same to our boys. By not teaching them basic survival skills such as cooking, sewing, cleaning after themselves; we are passing our grown boy children as a burden to someone else to take care of them.

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Expectation is he'll marry someone with the necessary life skills who will take care of them. The same way you teach your daughters to be self-reliant, teach your sons the same. Raise boys and girls together as friends. This is very important for later in life. Diminish gender in the playground; dolls aren't for girls only and yes girls can also play with wire cars. When you separate things this way you're teaching them that it is okay to exclude others based on their gender. It also allows for easy relations with the other gender later in life. In teaching these inter gender relations teach boys that no means no. Teach them to respect consent. In the same way when they say ‘no’ respect the ‘no’ too; it's a two way thing. If you notice your son insists even when someone says ‘no’, reprimand them. In addition, teach them to say something when they see harassment or when they see inappropriate, disrespectful or offensive behaviour, whether from family, friends or strangers. Raise boys who know that 'boys will be boys' is no excuse for bad behaviour. Raising a son isn't just about telling boys what not to do. As a parent you have the power to erase gender discrimination altogether. The power dynamics that exist globally will always favour men over women, until men learn to be better humans. And that will only happen if we raise sons who live up to the standards you create from them in relation to how they treat women.  Let's raise better men!



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