My husband and I are blessed with two handsome sons. They're the youngest of our group of five kids, and are full of life, energy, humor, and love. With the continuous stories in media of men abusing women, it is only natural for our family to have full on discussions about these situations.
While we talk to our daughters about how they carry themselves and what they wear to a certain degree, we emphasize our training towards our boys. Yes, we teach our daughters the same values of being respectful, keeping their hands to themselves, etc. However, most of the time we see the strength of grown men compared to some and the havoc that can be caused when they cross a line. Men are just naturally bigger and scarier when they get angry. They tend to be stronger in situations that can scare women. However, growing up Christian, the emphasis has ALWAYS been on women being the enticers because men can't control themselves. We are the reason they get irritated. We tempt them. Heaven forbid men learn the word "no" and not go crazy. We were taught to be modest in dress so we don't get raped or molested. We are told not to hang out with boys because we can't trust them since "you never know" as they are just perverse.
What if we as a society taught our boys that they are not all perverse and that they, just like women are wonderfully made and need to be responsible for protecting others. What if instead of shaming our daughters we build up our sons to be respectful and kind. What if we told them "no" with the idea that their understanding of this word can carry them through life and perhaps save them from self-destruction?
No means STOP.
I take it as my duty as a loving mother to teach my children the word "no" in EVERY aspect, which includes anger and eventually sex. Our boys are only 10 and 8, but we feel it is important to teach them at a young age how to socialize and treat others, and we do our best to teach them to communicate, understand their feelings and figure out how to cope with them. We are to teach our children to be and feel empowered, that they have the right to say no and speak up if they are wronged in any way. Our daughters learn the same things, but given the state of society, we see how important it is for our boys to understand this.
Having three older sisters gives our boys a lot of practice on being respectful and showing physical self control with girls. They both are pretty small compared to their sisters, so handling arguments and physical "tussles" as my son calls it is fairly easy. The typical sibling wresting match that begins innocently ends up being that someone hit too hard or didn't stop when the other person asked. They do have a sister that can whoop them all and she's super strong, but that doesn't mean they should be hitting her either. She is learning that her strength can damage and self control is something that she is working on, too.
Even in the tussles, we teach them all that "No" means STOP. Stop means stop. At this stage in their lives, it revolves around simple playing and banter. If they are playing with someone and the other person says "no" or "stop," you do just that. It means you are about to cross a line if you keep going. That means, you have now disrespected that person's wishes and if they don't understand that at an early age, it can set them up for disaster when they are older.
Our sons will grow up stronger each day; they will still get angry, they will get excited, they will lust. We stress with them the importance of learning and having self control because laying a hand on another person without his or her consent is never allowed. It is a constant conversation. Touching someone inappropriately is not okay. They are not scared to touch people, they are very loving, enjoy hugs and like to have fun. But they understand there is a line and that it shouldn't be crossed.
While they are in our house it will be taught, reminded, stressed. It does help that they have an amazing example of a man in their father. I say the darnedest things sometimes but Jeff treats me like a queen and in the moments that we are frustrated, he never yells at me and never lays a hand on me. This alone speaks to our children even when words do not. I am a strong woman, and my boys know that. They also know that I am full of emotion and love, that while I am a dominant personality, I still love that their Daddy treats me delicately.
We teach the boys that women are special. It's important for them to hear from a woman, from their mommy, on how it makes her feel to be treated with love. We are preparing to give "the talk" to our 10 year old and I will be there. We want them to hear from both of us. Sex isn't one sided and it should NEVER be one sided. It involves the act of two people, so it only makes sense that we discuss it together. Some might frown on that decision and others have said it is too gross to talk about that with their sons. Well, we want our children to know that they can come to either of us with questions, concerns or anything at all. If we teach our kids to love and respect their bodies and others' bodies, giving them the tools to make decisions on their own instead of just forcing them to make them, we will see them grow up and flourish as independent and responsible human beings.
With all things in life comes responsibility, especially with how we treat others. Teaching our kids to take responsibility for their thoughts and actions is important. We focus on the fact that they cannot control other people. Our daughters being older have had more discussion on the subject of sex than our boys, but they know that they should be aware and understand the dangers. However, we also want to empower them to be comfortable in who they are, be comfortable in their dress and feel open to asking questions when they are unsure. We've gone over scenarios with all of the kids, heaven forbid something happen and that there is NO shame on them. That they will never be blamed for someone being inappropriate because that is not their fault, this goes for the girls and boys. That Mommy and Daddy do not care about what people think of them or us. That we are a team and we will always love and protect them to the best of our ability. We are grateful that they are surrounded by people and friends that respect them and their bodies. So help me God and any offender, if that ever proves to not be the case.
It is our goal is to teach them to know their bodies and to know that they have the choice to cross a line or not. They will be become strong men one day and they need to be responsible for their actions. They know that there is a line and that giving into impulsive and inappropriate behavior is not tolerated in our home or in society. They are responsible for their actions and that they will be reprimanded should they cross a line. Self-defense in a physical fight is one thing; Taking advantage of another is totally different and very wrong. They have to learn that there are consequences for negative actions.
Only for a Time
If you consider that you have 18-21 years with your child to raise them before sending them off into society, that's not a lot of time! We want to be proactive in raising and teaching them, not wait until a situation happens. We are so proud of the little men that our boys are becoming. We are equally happy to see our daughters rise up as empowered young women, independent and champions for social justice and change. We hope that when we send them out into the world on their own they have taken to heart what we share and discuss. Enjoy your babies, show them love, teach them love. Then when its time to let them fly, they have a great foundation to move forward in life. We can't protect them forever, and we can't make choices for them. But, we can give them the tools, knowledge and then let them grow up and make their own paths.