Melanie Campbell shares words of wisdom for raising boys.
I don’t believe in the perfect parent, or the perfect child, or the perfect family. But what I do believe in is progress. With our imperfections we navigate through parenthood, making our share of mistakes. It’s in this process of wanting to do better that we are constantly challenging each other to grow and be better versions of ourselves. When we know better, we do better.
As parents of two girls three and thirteen years old, my husband and I have focused on raising confident girls. It is important to us that we teach our girls to be respectful, but more importantly to respect themselves.
Although we do not have any sons, it is equally important to us that parents focus on raising confident boys, to teach their sons to be respectful, and more importantly, to respect themselves.
It’s a terrible shame that we see far too many young boys with low self-esteem who are lacking confidence these days. So many bright young boys are growing up to be polite, respectful, “nice boys” who end up dating “mean girls.” It’s heartbreaking that when it comes to young men, our society seems to be solely focused on teaching boys that they must always respect women and “treat them like princesses.”
We neglect the fact that not all women deserve respect (especially if they’re abusive toward loved ones). There seems to be a disproportionate amount of material about how men should treat women with love and respect and very little equivalent material regarding how women should treat men with equal love and respect.
My husband and I do our best to model equality in the home and out of the home. So I want to be clear that this post isn’t about “woman bashing.”
We are raising our daughters in an environment of parental equality without gender bias, without sexism, without racism. My letter is for parents with boys to consider shifting their views on gender bias in how you raise your sons. It seems like young boys’ emotional well-being somehow got lost over the last several years, in all the pro-girl campaigns and efforts to raise strong and confident young girls. I love that society and mainstream media has embraced and endorsed empowering young girls to be proud, strong, and independent.
We live in a world today where girls can do and be whatever they want. I am thankful that our daughters are growing up in a world of equality. The girl power movement is the best thing that has happened for young girls today. Dove has done a wonderful job with their commercials encouraging girls to love their bodies. Musical artists like Meghan Trainor (“All About That Bass”), Christina Aguilera (“Beautiful”), and India.Arie (“Video”) have made powerful positive messages through their music about self-acceptance and confidence with body image. We are the proud parents of two beautiful self-assured, independent confident, daughters. So don’t get me wrong. I’m the first to jump on the “girl power” bandwagon.
But excuse me, but where’s the positive “boy power” bandwagon? Boys have self-esteem issues, lack confidence, are seeking acceptance, and struggle in silence with body image issues. Where are the commercials, TV ads, music videos that focus on positive body image, confidence, and acceptance for boys? Not every boy can grow up to be a pro NHL hockey player, or have a six pack, and blazing guns for biceps, and earn millions, like every top ten hip-hop rapper or rock star. Young boys are just as inundated by all the pressure in society through media as young girls are. Every music video and magazine ad portrays that the only way a young man can get the girl is if he has a fast sports car, tinted windows, gold chains, and a fat wallet with a luxury yacht. Where is the literature or the campaigns that illustrate how girls should respect boys and treat them like a prince? Aren’t your sons equally important in having a healthy, loving, partner who respects them?
Society should be focusing just as much effort and energy on teaching young boys to love, accept and, respect themselves, just as much as we are teaching our daughters. Your sons need to know they are worthy of being loved, supported and respected. Your sons are relying on you to help instill confidence in them just as much as our daughters do. We must protect the future generations of young men and their emotional well-being so that they grow up knowing and feeling they are deserving of an equally mutual and loving relationship.
Yes, it’s important that you continue to teach your sons how to love, be loyal, and respect the women they date or marry. But it’s just as important to teach them about who “not” to date and what to look out for, and what not to put up with. They need lots of help with confidence, too. They need encouragement, they need to know you are proud of them, and when it comes to girls, they need to know when someone isn’t worthy of their precious heart. They need to know when someone is taking advantage of their kindness. They need to know when someone is using them. They need to know they are not responsible for fixing a girl’s personal problems. They are not responsible for “making” someone else happy. We cannot be happy with someone else unless we are happy with ourselves first.
So where do parents of sons start after you’ve already done a fantastic job in raising a kind, caring, respectful young boy? How about starting with addressing “red flags” with your sons, in teaching them about warning signs, in dating, or being in a relationship as young men with young woman.
Talk to them about who “not” to date. Talk to them about red flags. If we had a son, here are a few things I would say to him as he was approaching dating.
1. Beware of women who display a general contempt or hatred for men (male bashing).
This one seems like it should be obvious, but sometimes the most obvious red flags are the easiest ones to miss. If a woman you’re attracted to brings up what jerks all her ex-boyfriends are, how “all men are the same” or “men only want one thing” or “all men are liars and cheaters,” you need to understand something: She is including you, too!
She may tell you that you’re different or special in the early days of your budding romance, but your exemption card from the “all men are sh*t” belief system has an expiration date. Trust me, you won’t be exempt from her hatred or contempt for anything with a penis for very long. When you inevitably disappoint, anger, or hurt her, you’ll be treated like just another “lying, cheating, controlling, loser, bully, wimp, and user.”
This is especially a red flag if you’re looking for a woman with whom to raise a family. Do you want the potential mother of your potential son to be someone who believes all or most men are duplicitous, douchebag, dead beat, lying creeps? Do you want her to raise your future daughter to hate all men and to believe that no man can be trusted, including her own father? Do you want your sons growing up thinking they aren’t deserving enough of a loving partner? What happens if they fall into the unfortunate statistic of divorce? Will their ex-wife interfere with their parental rights and find themselves fighting for equal parenting time?
If you don’t think this can happen, just read through the comments on The Father’s Rights Movement page or contact (Thomas Fidler) on Facebook and many other father’s rights websites. It happens all too frequently.
2. Beware of women who wear their victimhood like a designer gown.
Professional victims play upon your sympathy and other caring qualities. Eventually, they will use your compassion and sympathy against you. If a woman tells you on the first date, conversation, email, or text about her abuse history, put your guard up. I don’t care how hot she is or how sorry you feel for her, put your guard up. “My dad and/or brother molested me” or “My ex-husbands/ex-boyfriends used to beat me/cheat on me” is not first date material. It shows an utter lack of boundaries. You want a woman with healthy boundaries and that means no inappropriate early disclosures.
If a woman has truly suffered these events, they’re incredibly painful memories loaded with shame, anger, and sadness. A healthy woman doesn’t bring these issues up with some guy she just met in the early getting-to-know-you stage. Think about it. If you had suffered similar trauma, would this be the first thing you’d want a potential girlfriend to know? Of course not.
If a woman tells you about her alleged abuse history within minutes or days of meeting her, you should be alarmed. Healthy people focus on the present and future; not the past and how their lives have been ruined and will be forever ruined. Here’s the thing: once you disappoint someone like this, which is inevitable, you’ll be the villain and she’ll ceremoniously don her victim mantle. This isn’t a potential relationship candidate—it’s a potential life sentence.
I have close friends who have been victims of abuse as children. So let me be clear: I do not condone “any” form of abuse. Abuse victims need a lot of support and understanding from loved ones whom they can trust. It takes time for them to work through their emotions, and to heal and move past their trauma. An individual who was truly abused and has done the hard work to heal them does not want to be seen as a victim. They don’t bask in their past trauma. They don’t use their past trauma as date bait. They don’t use their past victimization to avoid taking responsibility for their bad behavior. They don’t use their experiences as an excuse to hurt, control, or abuse others because they know firsthand what it’s like to be hurt. It’s the last thing they want to do to someone else and they certainly don’t want their abuse history be the first thing people know about them.
I’m no expert, but the people I personally know who were in fact victims of childhood abuse, have sought help as adults through years of counseling, and are the strongest, most honest individuals I know, love, and respect. They never ever identify themselves as “victims” as they see themselves as Survivors and focus on personal growth.
3. Beware of women who live the high life without any visible means to finance their lifestyle or women who always expect you to pick up the tab.
This denotes a basic sense of entitlement and selfishness.
No healthy, self-respecting adult expects others to pay his or her way through life without contributing something in return. When we truly love someone, we want to put our best effort into making each other feel appreciated, respected, and loved. When I started dating my husband there were times he paid for our date, and other times I paid for the date, and sometimes we went Dutch. We are raising our girls to do the same—to treat someone they care about as an equal. You must be equal as a partner and just as important, equal as a parent when children come into the family.
The bottom line is this: if a woman expects you to pay her way just for the privilege of being with her she is simply using you and does not respect you.
4. Beware of women who don’t let you have your own feelings or express your emotions.
This is so important. I can’t tell you how many men I have met who are in relationships or were in relationships with women who do this. Being in a healthy relationship requires two-way communication and you both need to be able to communicate when you’ve hurt one another and be heard.
If you tell your girlfriend she’s hurt your feelings and she responds by: a) denying that you have feelings, b) minimizing your feelings (e.g., you aren’t really hurt/are too sensitive), and/or c) turning the focus onto her feelings and how she’s really the injured party; just break it off. Don’t waste one more second of your precious time on her.
When a girlfriend responds in one or all of these ways, the message is clear: Your feelings don’t matter and you don’t matter. If she can’t acknowledge you as an equal being, that your feelings, beliefs, opinions and rights are just as important as her own, she’s not looking for an intimate relationship; she’s interested in a service relationship. I’ll give you one guess as to who the servant is in this equation.
Society needs to start helping young boys boost their confidence and self-esteem. Young boys need to grow up knowing and feeling they too are worthy of a loving and supportive relationship.
Parents, please set your boys up for success so that they grow up making good choices in dating women who are worthy of their hearts. Break the cycle of broken me, by raising your sons with encouragement, support, love, equality, and build up their self-esteem so that they grow up strong, confident, and secure, knowing they are worthy and deserving of something great.
Your sons matter, boys matter, men matter, and fathers matter.
It’s important that you continue to raise your sons to treat our girls with respect, but please don’t forget to teach your sons they deserve the same respect as our daughters do.
Photo:e r j k . a m e r j k a
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