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Enough has been written about the girl child, her rights, her freedoms and the society’s duties towards her. As a mother of a son, I have felt either accused in proxy or warned in advance of all the actions that a boy could take. Mansplaining, misogyny, manterruption were words that we had never heard of before. Now, every action that the boys take is under a microscope and can be labeled as biased, prejudiced, sexist and discriminatory. As a mother of young boy, I feel compelled to wonder about his place in classrooms, boardrooms and society. With an urgent need to prepare him for the future, here are five lessons I intend to teach him:
Teach about sex. It’s always been an uncomfortable topic to discuss between parents and children but your son’s friends, magazines and videos will not give him the correct information that he needs. Only you can! And don’t be theoretical, don’t be metaphorical. Be direct. Use correct terms and be encouraging of questions. This will instil a sense of comfort and openness about the subject. Explain that sex is love, pleasure, fun. But it can be risky and dangerous too. Discuss sexually transmitted diseases. This would protect him from making reckless mistakes. Talk about sexual language and why it is wrong to use it. And lastly, it’s important for your son to know that you approve of short dresses and late nights for girls and that you disapprove of misbehaviour with girls.
Let your son help out at home. Clear the table, fetch a glass of water, clean up his own room, go shopping for groceries with you. It instills a sense of respect for the work that goes into running a house. It instills respect for your work! And it teaches him to be independent and self sufficient. I am sure, you wish for your son to get into a good university. Wouldn’t you want him to be prepared to take care of himself in the hostel? Teach him how to cook a dish or two, and you would have ensured that he would never go hungry. And also impress a girl or two!
In school, girls sit in the same classes, go on the same outdoor trips, complete with boys in exams. They also go to the malls and movies. And sometimes, they go to parties - just like boys do. They work hard in offices and at homes. So you cannot discriminate based on gender. For exams, boys need to work harder than the girls to score more; in offices they need to be more productive to get a promotion. Don’t use unethical illegitimate means to get ahead. Work hard and be better. Success will come based on your achievements not due to who you are! This simple lesson will bring direction and focus to your son’s efforts and help him respect the efforts of others.
Media, magazines and the twisted sense of romanticism may make a few believe that love sometimes leads to pain. Tell your son, 'It never does!' If you love someone, don’t hurt. And giving pain, physical or emotional, is always construed as hate. There is absolutely nothing noble or forgivable about violence against another person - boy or girl. Teach him that giving love is brave and giving pain is cowardly! Have a zero-tolerance policy at home for hitting, pushing, kicking, pinching, abusing etc. Not only will your son learn to treat people with kindness, he will also receive love and praise from teachers, his friends and their moms.
Children imitate their parents more than we realise. So, when you feel it’s alright to slap your son to discipline him, you teach him that violence against the weaker is legitimate. When you shame moms who work or dismiss stay-at-home moms, you teach that he can be disrespectful; when you turn a blind eye to him cheating in a game or test, you teach him that winning by unfair means is okey. Don’t. It will only set him up for bigger falls and tragic losses.
In a world where we, as women, are finally demanding our rightful place is our homes, workplaces and society; a world where we are finally being intolerant to violence, discrimination and dishonesty; our boys are left ill-equipped and unguided to cope with the changing realities. And if they do not evolve with the changing dynamics they might perish like the dinosaurs. Or at least suffer in the long run. Domestic bliss is based on mutual respect and love. Profession success is based on talent and perseverance. Teach that to your son, so that he can grow up and make you proud.