We are what our parents let us be. For the most part, we represent the best in them, or the worst. There is no escape.
It’s not just the genes. It’s our approach to life that is shaped every day at a subconscious level by those around us. When we are repeatedly exposed to a given stimulus, our minds and bodies learn to adapt. Even if our first impression about it was negative, after repeated exposure, we will not only learn to tolerate it, rather may even adopt it.
It has been this way since forever. Traits and attitudes run in families. Influential families attract followers. When a large group of people espouse something for a reasonably long period of time, it becomes the culture of a given place.
And herein, lies the responsibility. Parents, especially mothers, should tackle minds at the age when impressions are made and etched. To eliminate gender bias and tackle the oppression of women, women themselves must participate in the process.
So please, if you are raising a little boy, don’t make him a sexist, disrespectful, misogynist. Those are harsh labels, I acknowledge, but I know so many people who deserve much worse. If you don’t know where to start, try this:
- Do not treat your sons and daughters differently when offering privileges, showing appreciation or handing out punishment. Be as fair as possible.
- Let your boys handle simple tasks independently. Show them how, remind them when they don’t, but don’t be their personal assistant.
- Ask them to help you sometimes (like setting the dinner table, loading the washing machine) if only to teach them that no job is beneath them.
- Let them celebrate you by saying “thank you” and “love you” when you do something for them, even if it’s something as simple as making them French fries.
- Don’t be a doormat. If they are being ungrateful or insulting, rebuke them, take away privileges, and make sure they understand why. Do not sulk – it’s immature and doesn’t work with children.
- Build up their conscience:
- When dealing with younger kids, keep it simple. Don’t lie, cheat or act spiteful yourself, and hopefully they won’t do it either.
- Teach older kids the value of hard-work, integrity and sportsmanship.
- Above all, teach them respect for those not as strong, advantaged, clever, attractive, wealthy or polished as they are. Show them that real strength lies in protecting and not oppressing the weak.
- Teach your children to interact with other girls respectfully.
- No name-calling and “I-am-smarter-than-thou” attitudes, please.
- It’s a no-brainer, but don’t let them beat up their sisters – of course, discourage vice versa too.
- Let the father lead by example – a good example, that is. If your spouse displays unacceptable behaviour (verbal or physical abuse, for example) don’t make excuses for him! Instead make it clear to your children that while dad does it, they must not consider repeating it – use reason, guilt, sympathy, love, fear of God, fear of you, or whatever it takes. Break the cycle before it becomes intergenerational. When doing this, make sure that the object of criticism is the behaviour and not the person.
Finally, as always, now, is an excellent time to start fixing up things. So ladies, do it out of respect for yourselves. Gentlemen, please don’t dehumanize the women in your life!
- ‘One billion’ to rise against gender-based violence, poverty (bulatlat.com)