According to the experts, our emotional health is very much developed by the age of five, which means we learn mega beliefs about other people, the world and ourselves at such tender age.
And if we don’t have any external, educational, religious, or cultural interventions over time, we stay with the same beliefs throughout our lives no matter how much we harm others and ourselves due to these redundant beliefs. The real irony is that we learn these beliefs from our parents who learnt those from their parents at the age of five. We all must have heard that children grow up to be like their parents and this is true to some extent. Children do learn from their parents as they are their primary influencers, but the question is that how many parents know about parenting skills? Parents tend to make more mistakes when they parent their children through trial-and-error method.
Living in an eastern society, we see how families give so much importance to sons in the family. Parents give them extra attention and try to fulfil their every demands without knowing that by doing so, they are not only spoiling their child, but they are raising him on unhealthy patterns that will harm him and people around him eventually. Such kids grow up with false ego, superiority complex and defiance disorder. They feel superior to anyone around them including their siblings, parents and grandparents as they assume they are the center of the family. They tend to disobey authorities and disrespect everyone around them in an effort to maintain their false superiority. Parents need to teach their boys certain things early in order to turn them into respectful, empathetic, kind and thoughtful adults.
1. Act Like a Role Model for Your Child
Parents as we know are the primary influencers and mentors for their children. Every child looks up to their parents for constant love and support. If you want to teach your children especially boys, how to respect others despite the gender, you will have to model the desired behaviors for your child. Your child learns and adapts things from the environment. If you want him to be kind to others, and speak in a gentle way, you will have to model that behavior. If you want him to be helpful to others, you will have to practice that first. You have to set an example for your boys, show respect and teach respect.
2. Educating Boys on Gender Equality
Usually in eastern culture, men are considered to be more dominant than women. Parents need to teach their children equality among all genders. Boys need to learn that they are not the superior beings neither the girls are inferior. Moreover, all humans are equal and deserve respect regardless their positions, social status and choices they make in life. Make it a deliberate effort to teach your child about gender equality through bedtime stories, short conversations, video content, cartoons and role modeling. For example, if a boy sees his father talking to his wife, daughter, or any other women in a gentle and kind manner, the child is going to follow that as a norm to speak to women.
3. Respect Everyone’s Choices
Boys should be taught to respect everyone’s choices. Parents can teach this through an example by trusting their daughters’ ability to pursue their education goals or career paths in case they choose to be a doctor, or an electrical engineer, or marketing professional. This will help them to believe that women can excel in any field and they should be supportive to their choices. Parents should share stories with their children in which a woman plays hero. Moreover, instead of pampering your boys and over-protecting your girls, let them experience the hardships of life that will help them grow into healthy beings. You can do so by encouraging them to take an odd job of being a receptionist, a delivery boy, and volunteer while they are in high school or college. Tell them that no job is a small job, and that every job teaches you unique experience. This experience will not only make them resilient, but also create a sense of responsibility in them, and make them humble.
4. Respecting & Accepting Their Own Emotions
Usually, women are considered as emotional and sensitive individuals. However, boys on the other hand, are considered to be tough. Since at a very young age, parents over emphasize their boys to be strong and brave. They tell them statements such as, “Boys are not supposed to cry,” “Be a brave man,” and “You are my tiger.” Parents don’t realize that feeding such statements in that tiny dude’s mind, might create trouble for himself and others around him. He may act like a strong, fearless, and brave man, while not showing any sensitivity to others. Parents need to teach their boy that it is okay to express their emotions and feelings that they have on certain occasions or situations, and crying is not a sign of weakness, it’s very much okay to feel that feeling and crying your heart out.
5. Open and Honest Conversations
Parents need to encourage open and honest conversations with their children. Creating a sense of intimacy with your child will help him develop healthy skills. Parents should talk about good character ethics, which include honesty, kindness, empathy, truthfulness, faithful, trustworthy, loyal, respectful, keeping promises and they should promote these in both boys and girls. When you praise your boys for their kind heartedness and girls for assertiveness and taking challenges, you are moving towards developing a healthy environment for your family. Most importantly, you need to teach your boys not to categorize women as “good girls” or “bad girls”. When they disrespect someone, you need to talk about it, and tell them such behavior is not acceptable. When they’re going through a rough patch, you should ask them to talk about it and tell you how they actually feel. Also, talking about social and critical issues will help promote empathy and help boys develop social awareness and conscience. Teaching your boys to respect everyone’s privacy and talking in a respectful manner will make them a gentleman.
6. All Chores are Gender Neutral
In our eastern culture, usually, females are considered to be the housemakers, whereas, men are supposed to be the breadwinners. Men in our culture would rarely help women with household chores. Parents need to teach their kids that in a civilized world, both genders merely have traditional roles as women are taking part in bringing more income to a family so men also need to help women at home. Mothers need to teach their boys how to do basic cooking, washing the dishes, doing laundry, cleaning the house as anyone needs these skills to survive in today’s world. More importantly, when a boy sees his father helping his mother with household chores, that son will definitely follow that.
7. Monitor Media
We all are living in the era of technology. Parents should always keep an eye on their children to know about their use of media. They should know what kind of programs their boys watch, what kind of games they play, and check their internet history more often. Movies and games that promote violence, aggression, disrespect, and inhumanity should be minimized gradually and restricted eventually.
Author: Arooba Laraib
Clinical & Counseling Psychologist
Family First Institute