Parenting today is tougher than ever.
With so much information out there, often conflicting, it can be hard to know where we stand as guardians and teachers, let alone to pass on a clear message to our children.
Before they even hit their teens they will probably be exposed to a plethora of information and experiences in a million different ways, much of which is beyond our control.
Now more than ever, we as parents need to provide them with a rock-solid foundation of understanding and awareness to negotiate the minefield of innuendo, double-meaning and objectification that the media culture we live in serves up to them.
Here is one clear and powerful parenting lesson I came across online today. This is something I can, and will use with my boys. And it applies to all children, regardless of gender:
“A boy and a girl run around on the grass at the park. The boy tackles the girl. The girl laughs. She gets up and runs away. She loves to run. He chases, she turns and they grab each other, tumble and land in a pile, giggling. After a few minutes, he tackles her again and she lands a bit hard. She is bigger and physical, but he more than holds his own in roughhousing. She pauses for a second. Then she laughs again; she’s still having fun.
Dad gets his attention, and says, “If she’s not having fun, you have to stop.”
He is two. He needs to hear this now, and so does she. And again, and again, and again, so that like wearing a helmet on the bike it is ingrained. My kids would not think about riding a bike without a helmet. Wearing a helmet is what you do when you ride a bike. Doing otherwise has not occurred to them, and I need the lesson to stick so that, if their peers make bad choices, they stop and think and decide not to join the bad choices.
What I said will mean a lot of things in a lot of contexts; but it always means the same thing. Regard for one’s partner is a basic component of respect.
At one level it’s an anti-rape lesson. This is “Yes Means Yes” in practice. The mere absence of “no” does not a partnership make; and a real partner wants to participate. Shared activity is wanted by everyone involved; “pushing leaners” is for political polling.
But it’s not just an anti-rape lesson. It’s a life lesson. So I start teaching it now. He doesn’t need to know what sex is or what rape is to know what a partner is. If your partner isn’t having fun, you stop.”
~ Thomas MacAulay Millar.
We are parenting the next generation at a time where so much has become blurred and confused. They need clarity and boundaries even more because of this and one thing we can be sure of, and insist upon, is respect for others.
In teaching this we need to be absolutely plain. Respect is non-negotiable. Consent is crucial. We set the example by the way we treat them and each other.
It all starts with empathy and, of course, it works both ways. By teaching our children respect, we teach them that they are worthy of respect.
Author: Khara-Jade Warren
Editor: Travis May
Image: John Mettraux/ Flickr