With the aim of reducing the incidence of woman abuse, Rajat Soni shares five steps to inculcate respect for women in boys in their formative years
“Respecting a woman is the best way to tell her how beautiful she is.”
My heart laments with the knowledge that a lady—a mother, a caregiver, a passionate lover, a dutiful wife, an intelligent person—is also a victim of rape, physical abuse, and disrespect.
Female deaths all over the world have increased manifold in the past few years, most of which are due to assault, harassment, and abuse, the perpetrators being men.
Where does this begin? How does a kid, who is blameless and unadulterated, grow up to be an abuser who demonstrates no regard for ladies?
We have been historically living in a society that hails masculinity with a very narrow definition of it. We are concerned about the safety of our daughters, and yet, at some level, we have accepted abuse and disrespect to be part of the game since ages.
Coming back to the question, any behaviour or misbehaviour is, for the most part, observationally learned at home. Kids emulate what they see. Some common factors that have been associated with youngsters who disrespect women are:
Personal experience of being humiliated and forced to do something against their will
Disrespectful father figure
Staunch male stereotypes followed by families
Being in an inappropriate friend circle and indulging in malicious behaviour to gain group conformity.
Randi Chapnik Myers, a famous journalist and blogger, in one of her articles, said that girls get a loud and clear message that they might have their reputation tarnished if they dress inappropriately, talk inappropriately, or get drunk.
But what about the boys? What should our message be for them?
Boys must know that:
‘She’ has feelings
‘She’ is not a sex object
It is a man’s responsibility to protect a woman’s prestige
Showing disrespect is a reflection of who we are
It is never ‘okay’ to force her to do something
Christina Moss, a writer and mental health professional, wrote that we are so engrossed in protecting the victims that we have forgotten to prevent the perpetrators. It is high time we stopped restricting our girls and started teaching our boys to act right. And education is needed for that purpose.
Teaching boys, especially during the teenage years, when instincts and emotions control behaviour, can be a really difficult task. Many turn rebellious or get inclined towards unfair behaviour. But the earlier we start feeding our boys the right values, the faster will they be able to internalise them. Here are five steps that we can follow to teach our young ones how to respect women:
Set a good example
The first way to teach respect to kids is to treat them with respect. Many parents who are harsh on their kids, especially boys, and who think it is a part of disciplining them, fail to understand the example they are setting for the child. A survey of high school boys showed that most of the teenagers who were aggressive and disrespectful have had exposure to abuse themselves.
How to set a good example
Talk politely with your kid, especially if he is a teenager.
Never shout at a woman in front of your child.
Watch out if your kid is misbehaving with his mother. Shouting at his mother is the first sign that your child is disrespecting a woman.
Teach them, but do not be rude.
Never smack or beat your child. No matter what the mistake, sort it out with words.
Monitor media usage
We can’t deny that media plays a big role in exposing kids to realities like sex, violence, and romance. Many teenagers are so attracted to porn that they get addicted to it. The increase of violence in the media and the easy accessibility makes it even more difficult to stop them from going astray. In fact, according to some recent studies, revenge porn has been the reason for the majority of adolescent female suicides. Hence, it is important to keep a check on what the child chooses to see online.
How to monitor media usage
Do not watch violent media when your kids are around.
Do not allow your child to spend more than two hours watching videos and movies if he is below 10 years.
Keep an eye on the friend circle your kid is in and how he is spending time with them.
Do not indulge them by letting them play violent video games.
Have meaningful talks with your child
Curiosity is dangerous when unresolved. Especially in adolescence, when kids are just getting exposed to the realities of life, they are extremely curious to know about the ‘adult issues.’ It is crucial that they get the right information in the right way and from the right person, failing which, the probability of them growing into disrespectful adults increases manifold.
How to go about it
If you ever notice your child misbehaving, ask him why.
If your kid insults any girl, ask him how he is feeling after disrespecting the person.
Teach him better ways of reacting to a situation.
Educate him about healthy sex but not in an awkward way. You can gift him a good book where he gets the information in the right way.
Talk to him about how women are harassed and how a girl feels when she is abused. Give him personal examples that would touch his heart.
Teach him the meaning of consent
This is most important when we are talking about respecting women. Every man must know that saying “no” is the end of the conversation, and it is the woman’s decision a man must follow. The very first thing that a conscious parent should teach his kid is to understand the value of consent. The child must learn at home that he is not at liberty to force any girl for anything if she is unwilling to do it.
How to teach a boy the meaning of consent
Respect his consents. If your child says “no” to something, listen to him as long as it is good for him.
Tell him that he should never force anyone to do anything.
Never try to force your daughter, wife, or mother in front of your boy. It gives the wrong message to him.
You can try playful hacks like wearing T-shirts saying 'NO MEANS NO' or 'RESPECT GIRLS AND BE A MAN.’ It is a friendly way of giving them the good message.
Teach your child that consent is compulsory. Especially if you have an adolescent at home, it is imperative that you teach him the importance of taking consent before he touches a girl.
Be what you want to see in your boy
We cannot expect our boys to show respect if we ourselves don’t. Most of the behaviours that we learn are through observational learning, so be the role model you want your child to follow.
How to be the role model
Do not allow statements like “Girls should go back to the kitchen,” “Men should pay the bills,” or “It is better if moms work from home,” at home.
Say ‘no’ to gender stereotypes. Remember your child is following your footsteps. Try to share the domestic workload with your wife so that your son can see that these roles are not gender specific and do not make the women doing them any less than a man.
Being respectful and empathetic towards others is what a child should learn at home.
Do not tell your girl to be aware of her clothes. Caution her against the brutalists but never encourage victim-blaming.
Respecting women is not an option; it is the only way for a boy to treat any woman he comes across in his life. And parents need to be involved in this. It makes no sense if we keep focusing on how to save our daughters and do not consider raising our sons in the right way. Bacha Khan (a Pashtun independence activist) had so beautifully expressed it saying, “If you wish to know how civilized a culture is, look at how they treat its women.” How true!
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