When news broke revealing an influential man such as Harvey Weinstein has sexually harassed women around him for years, the society was once again forced to reflect back on its values and the way women in society are treated daily.
With more and more women speaking out against men like Harvey Weinstein, it is apparent that it’s important to raise boys to be men who respect women and treat women as people, not objects.
Clinical psychologist Bobbi Wegner admits that there is no script on how to build conscious and caring young boys but it’s important to try to have the conversation instead of avoiding it. She recommends giving kids something to think and talk about instead of just ‘teaching’ them.
Here are the 7 tips she used to raise feminist boys:
1. Talk to them about personal boundaries
Wegner starts the conversation by telling them it’s not OK to touch someone else in their private parts and respecting the personal boundaries of others as well.
An example she used: “You know it is never OK to touch someone else in their private parts, right? It is also not OK to hug or kiss anyone without asking. Why do you think that is a rule?”
2. Give skills and language on asking for consent
Often problems arise because boys are not given the skills and language to communicate effectively and respectfully. Guide young boys regarding asking for consent by saying something along these lines:
“You have lots of love to give. That is part of what I love about you. It is often OK to give a hug to someone, but make sure you know them and ask beforehand. You can say something like ‘you are the best! Can I give you a hug?'”
3. Compare it to something they’ll be familiar with so they have a reference point
For the message or lesson to drive home, compare it to something they’ll be familiar with so they have a reference point. For example, compare it to how school bullying can hurt others or how they’ll feel if their sister or cousin sister is hurt.
An example she used: “Unwanted touching can make people feel unsafe. Although it is different from hitting or kicking, it can hurt people the same way and is actually one of the worst kinds of bullying.”
4. Connect them with their intuition or gut feeling
Another way to help them understand the magnitude of their actions is to help them relate and to think of others.
An example she used: “Our bodies are very smart and know when something isn’t right. For me, when something feels weird or unsafe, I get butterflies in my belly and feel like I want to leave. Although I might not know exactly why, that is my internal alarm system telling me to act. Have you ever felt this? Where do you feel this in your body? What should you do when you feel this?”
5. Use “noticing and wondering”
Using the words “noticing” and “wondering” help them to be observant on body language and anticipate the response from others.
An example she used: “I noticed our little neighbour hid behind her mother when I went to hug her. I wonder what she was feeling and whether she wanted a hug. What do you think? I assumed not, so I didn’t hug her, and that was OK with me.”
6. Remind them that we are all in charge of our own bodies
Just because we are teaching boys to treat girls well, it doesn’t mean they have no autonomy of their own bodies. They have the same rights as girls and no one is allowed to hurt or touch them inappropriately too.
An example she used: “You are in charge of your body. Nobody is allowed to force you to do something that feels uncomfortable or unsafe, and it is OK to say no. That is actually the law.”
7. Talk about family values and the importance of keeping others safe
Society functions well because there are people out there who will look out or help others in need. The world will be a nastier place if everyone only thinks of themselves first or fear helping another person.
An example she used: “In our family, we are helpers. It is a gift being a helper, just like police, firefighters, and doctors. It is important to us to look out for others and especially people who might need a friend or might need someone to stick up for them. How do you know when you need to help or say something?”
Last but not least, Wegner also believes it’s important to teach her sons the power of healthy, happy touch that’s within respected boundaries.
Read her full article here.