In recent times, “boys will be boys” has become an unacceptable phrase. And to a certain extent, I agree – it should never be used as an excuse for bad behavior, whether age 3 or 33. As we raise our boys, let’s lead by example and remember just how closely our children are watching, listening and replicating our behaviors.
Girl-power is growing (which, of course, is not at all a bad thing), but how can we empower our sons in equal measure? How do we show them their worth? With these thoughts in mind, I spoke to Eirene Heidelberger, parent coach and founder of GIT Mom, about raising boys in the current climate.
Chicago Parent: Should we still be encouraging and talking about chivalry with boys?
Eirene: We absolutely should encourage chivalry. In fact, let’s bring it back because it’s clear our current society has forgotten basic manners towards each other. Chivalry, however, should be for both boys and girls – it’s merely a basic moral compass of kindness and courtesy that everyone needs in their life. Our current society is very relaxed and we spend far too much time staring down at our phones than connecting personally with others.
Respect for the opposite sex is really respect for everyone, and it should start at a young age. Always lead by example by modeling appropriate behavior at home. There are many old-school manners that still go a long way today. For example, holding a door open for someone else, listening, using direct eye contact, asking questions and not interrupting while others talk. Good manners and kindness for others, regardless of gender, will naturally transfer to good manners and kindness towards the opposite sex.
CP: How do we let them explore their physicality, safely? They often need to run, jump, shout and climb. How can they do this without appearing to be threatening?
E: Every child has its own unique personality and you have to be aware of that. If you have a wild child, then you should give them a safe place at home to express themselves. In public, however, your child should exhibit respectful behavior. It’s a parent’s job to teach boundaries to their children with regards to appropriate public behavior, such as controlling their bodies and voices, and being aware of others around them.
CP: Should we talk to our boys and girls differently about consent?
E: No. “The Talk” is the same regardless of sex. Our children know way more about sex these days than we ever did (thanks internet!). However, this doesn’t mean that parents are off the hook for having that uncomfortable talk. It’s important from a young age that we teach our children the value of their own bodies. Saying “you are the boss of your body” to both your daughters and sons teaches physical boundaries. These statements will be carried throughout their lives. It’s incredibly important to teach them the value of consent. A simple mantra like “no” means no, “maybe” means no, and “yes” means to check again will have a profoundly positive effect.
While we’re leading the way, let’s shine a light on positive male characteristics and work on raising young men who are polite, respectful, hardworking and supportive of everyone around them. And let’s do the same for our girls – modeling equality wherever we can, whilst remembering that it is not the job of our children to atone for the mistakes that have gone before them.