Teaching teen boys to respect women
Q: I’m a single mother of two teen boys. I’m proud of them both but it’s been no picnic raising them on my own. I read the other day (it was to do with the whole #MeToo movement) that it’s the role of themumto instil respect for women etc in her boys.
I felt disturbed by this – I’ve worked fulltimemy kids’ entire lives, I’ve been more concerned with getting food on the table and nagging about homework than having deep conversations. I have heard them talk about girls solely in terms of physical attributes, and I told them off, though I consider this fairly normal behaviour for a 14 and 15 year old.
Is it too late for me to talk to them about respecting women and sexual consent? A: It sounds as if you’re doing everything you can to survive these tough years, seemingly without a lot of support. I don’t believe it’s solely the mother’s job to instil respect for women in her sons, but there’s no doubt your actions and thoughts will play a big part in their attitudes. It’s never too late to think about this stuff.
Why don’t you enlist the help of your young sons to get the meal on the table – perhaps a night or two each – and then teach them how to wash out the sauce they slop on their favourite shirt? You’ll teach them how to fend for themselves and not rely on women to run after them. By your actions of not being a servant to your sons, (and the fact that you didn’t remain married to a man who had no respect for women), they’ll learn valuable lessons.
Make the meal prep time enjoyable. Listen to their music and their banter when you’re working alongside, and slip in the occasional pearl of wisdom if it’s required. Ask them about the girls they know and admire so they’re encouraged to discuss them as friends – people. Talk about how it was for you as a girl; the good and the bad.
They will probably shrink from discussing sex with you but some time when you’re having a chat, find a way to say that sex or any kind of sexual contact without full and clear consent from a partner is illegal and wrong. They’re probably fully aware of this fact, but it won’t hurt to have it spelled out by you just once in their lives, even if the conversation is a little uncomfortable. Keep it brief and straightforward and make it clear that you have faith in their good judgment and ability to handle these situations. It’s not something you need to bring up regularly.
One other point is that your sons will be influenced by other adults they interact with; school teachers, sports coaches, parttime employers, friends’ parents. We often underestimate our network, especially teachers. Your son’s teachers see your boys regularly and they’ll know how they’re doing. If you need some reassurance or guidance set up a meeting and ask them.
There are plenty of people who’ve done outstanding jobs parenting their children but for various reasons things go wrong. You can only do the best job you’re capable of and then don’t beat yourself up. The men they become does not rest solely on your shoulders.
Mary-anne Scott has raised four boys and written two novels for young adults including
She has a new book coming in March, called
As one of seven sisters, there aren’t many parenting problems she hasn’t talked over. To send her a question email email@example.com with Dear Mary-anne in the subject line. Your anonymity is assured.
I’ve heard my sons discussing girls solely in terms of their physical attributes.