Lots of parents are struggling to raise their sons in today’s society. More and more reports of sexual misconduct get filed and the hashtag #MeToo is more popular than ever.
So what do you teach your son to make sure he grows up being a gentleman who treats all women with respect?
Television network ABC wanted to find the answer to this question and started a conversation with a group of six young boys (ages 12 through 16), their parents and clinical experts on the show ‘Good Morning America’.
The boys were asked about their views on relationships and dating, while their parents were listening in on the conversation. Some of the boys told the interviewer they were comfortable talking to their parents about their relationships and dating, but others thought it was absolutely out of the question.
“You’ve got to keep them out of your business, you know?”, 16-year-old Adam said.
According to Dr. Stephanie Dowd, a clinical psychologist from the Child Mind Institute in New York, it is crucial for parents to proactively start a conversation about healthy relationships and what they look like as soon as their sons start to show an interest in girls and want to start dating.
Dowd says parents should elaborate on subjects like feelings, emotions and above all consent.
“This is specifically how you ask for consent: ‘Are you OK with this? Does this feel comfortable to you?’ It’s as simple as that. Parents just need to model that for your kids.”, Dowd said.
Also, Dowd thinks parents should teach their young sons what it means to ‘be a man’.
Most boys think that it means that you’ve got to be mature, can’t show emotions and just have to be overall ‘manly’. But those beliefs are actually harmful when boys grow up.
“These messages are very rigid for boys and men. And they’re dangerous. Parents have to expand the definition of what it means to be a man.” Dowd explained.
The last thing parents should teach their sons is to have empathy for others and treat them with the same dignity and respect they wish to receive themselves. Dowd suggests that these teenage boys use their own feelings and emotions as a mirror for what others might be feeling and how to act and respond accordingly.
“We want our kids to develop an awareness of how others are feeling and use this as a guide for how to behave,” Dowd said.