“You don’t hit girls.”
Words that have been spoken since the beginning of time. We say it on playdates, at grandma’s house, and on the playground. We instill it in our toddlers and we as moms uncomfortably cringe when it happens. Simply put, boys are typically bigger, stronger, and seen as more threatening in situations of both recreation and aggression.
I refuse to allow my boys (13, 11, and 8) to become another headline. This #metoo way of life is not OK, and it must end.
Soon enough, the playground will receive a new name. It will be called Lecture Hall A, Human Resources, Starbucks, or Conference Room 4. Men and women gather literally everywhere. It becomes clearer with each passing day that it is my responsibility to outfit my boys with every tool possible so they can safely and respectfully maneuver a world where most of their encounters will involve women.
Awhile back we received an email from my son’s middle school principal; it was a different kind of email. It included phrases that went something like, “the parties have been dealt with,” “inappropriate touching,” and, “talk to your children.” After some discussion we learned there was an incident that involved a boy and a girl – and a witness, another boy. One boy went too far with this young girl, while another boy stood up and told the right person what was happening.
These three people are not characters on the set of your favorite movie. These are kids that rode the bus to school one morning and just a few hours later their lives abruptly detoured. How does that happen? When does this start? How do we go about raising the hero and not the villain? And, how do we prevent one more #metoo from happening?
From my view, it’s terrifying.
I am not a parenting expert. Parenting is unpredictable, complicated, and full of challenges. That said, we are in a crucial and pivotal era right now with our sons.
I have hope that times really are changing. Too much has happened and too much has been said. So many horrific and potentially preventable stories by so many women have been brought to the forefront of the news. We must ensure that history will not be repeated. As a mom, it’s my responsibility to teach them. I have to make their stand not be in vain. I really do have an important role in all of this. To some degree, it’s the most important role I’ve ever had.
I come from the parenting perspective that kids are on a need-to-know basis. When my boys were little, I never told them about a playdate until it was actually happening. They don’t need to know about our finances or about the private conversation I had with my friend.
At some point though, when the time is right, they do need to know this. I have to look into all of their blue eyes and say:
You will not be that guy. He is a monster. Be the hero.
No always means no. This behavior will not be tolerated. You are better than that.
Look into her eyes and no where else. Accept that she is smarter than you.
A gentle compliment will mean so much more than a vicious cat call.
Her clothes justify nothing. Use your strength to help rather than hurt.
You are not entitled to anything or anyone.
Become something amazing not something you’ll regret.
Become a good man.
As parents, we need to teach our boys, ALL BOYS, that it goes way deeper than, “don’t hit girls!” We must communicate about boundaries, bodies, limits, and control. We must set the foundation of what is right and what is wrong. We need to treat every moment as a teaching moment and make it clear to what and who they should be looking up to, because if we don’t, they will look elsewhere. We have to be honest, even when it’s uncomfortable. We have to make them want to be better.
I don’t have all the answers and I’m learning as I go. But, I know what or who the answer isn’t, so I’m going to work from there. I like to think right now I’m raising the boy that will stand up and tell, instead of being the one that can’t come back the next day. I pray I am.
Let’s make a pact to do this together and intentionally raise them right. Let’s turn our sweet and precious boys into admirable and marvelous men, and prove times really can change. Let’s make the “playground” a safe and fair place . . . for everyone.
What are your fears raising your sons today? If you have daughters, is there anything you wish moms would say to their boys? Finally, what are some tips YOU have for raising little boys into good men?