How to Raise Boys to Deal With Strong Women
Recently there were reports about some teenage boys using derogatory language and talking about the sexuality of their classmates in a poor light over text messages. This issue brought to light the unfortunate consequence of the patriarchal and misogynistic society we live in. It is also a clarion call for us to introspect and then figure out what can be done to actively discourage this sort of behaviour and encourage kids to be mindful and respectful.
It is not about a solution that parents alone can or need to implement. Sensitisation to gender issues and sexuality should begin at an early age. Parents, teachers as well as counsellors should work together to teach kids about such issues.
Here are some practical steps in the right direction:
Teach life skills If we teach kids skills as a life skill and not a gender based skill, it would help. For example, cooking is an important life skill to have and not something only girls should have to learn to be able to cook later on in life. It doesn’t serve anyone to say that doing the chores or laundry or any such task is only for women and not for men.
It would help if schools integrated this and other life skills in their curriculum. Some schools already teach ethics and such issues as a subject.
Adopt behaviour that kids should model
Parents need to ensure that their own behaviour is mindful. If parents themselves use cuss words or talk down about girls or victim shame while watching the news, it is likely that the kids will pick up on these. Their own behaviour and attitude towards women will then reflect these beliefs. It is important for parents to stop making sexist remarks and say things like boys will be boys.
Gender equality begins at home and as parents you can teach all the kids to handle their own chores.
Have conversations around taboo topics or topics that are stigmatised
Sexuality and sexual orientation are topics that don’t often get spoken about. If we talk about these issues at least it won’t be as much of a taboo. We can gauge what is the understanding of gender and that can start at an early age. For example, at home we have toys which are very gender specific—dolls for girls and tool based toys for boys. It would help to get different types
of toys and leave it at that. This sort of conditioning happens in many households. Even colours like pink for girls or blue for boys are part of the whole gender stereotype.
If the goal is gender equality, then one needs to consciously ensure that there is no disparity between the genders at home.
In schools, kids tend to bully those who are different and having strong anti-bullying measures in place can help deal with kids who bully those who don’t conform to a gender stereotype.
Attend workshops for understanding these issues
We need gender understanding to change our patriarchal mindset and parents alone can only do so much because a kid’s environment also has an impact on shaping their thoughts. It would be great to have workshops on gender issues in buildings and societies to have these conversations outside the home. It would help if parents and other adults educate themselves on these issues so they are better equipped to be a good role model for kids to emulate.
(With inputs from counseling psychologist Vinod Mudliar)