5 tips on raising a boy in today's world: a lady boss perspective
Recently, I have found myself wondering how I can make the best impact on my little boy who is being raised in a very different world than I was. For one, there is a women's movement brewing, which is even shaping the things children experience at a very early age.
As an example, I was recently having a conversation with a friend who has a 10 year old boy. I was shocked when I heard that when her son opened a door for his female classmate, she yelled at him in front of the class saying she could do it herself! The boy came home confused and asked his mom why this happened and explained that he was only trying to be thoughtful like his dad. The mom knew this was a defining moment and wanted to think of something that would embrace equality without erasing the things they believed in as parents. She decided to say that in the future it might be better for him to ask before he does this type of thing to be sure that the girl will not feel offended by his actions.
I thought about this for a week after our discussion. On one hand, I genuinely believe in equality and know these experiences are important for shaping the future. On the other hand, I realized I still have an unconscious bias towards how a man should behave towards and how he should treat a lady (i.e. opening up doors, offering his coat when it is cold outside or paying for dinner on a first date).
That is when I started asking myself questions about what I could do to be sure my son is prepared for these moments and my role to support equality while raising Aiden.
Here are the five tips I came up with on how to raise a boy in today's world, from a lady boss perspective!
It is important to teach your child the difference between good and bad touch and what to do if it is a bad touch! I was shocked to read that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18! And what is worse is that according to the US Department of Justice (nsopw.org) only 10% of perpetrators were strangers to the child and 23% of the perpetrators were children themselves!
As a result, the bad touch conversation should happen early and needs to be both ways...meaning no one can bad touch you and you cannot bad touch anyone else! This is very important since it is normal for toddlers to start discovering their body parts and wanting to explore these new discoveries on not just their own body but everyone else's too.
For example, a few months ago Aiden discovered the belly button and wanted to touch everyone's! I spent time talking and showing him his body vs. mine and to not touch what isn't his. Not easy! But with repetition he finally stopped trying to touch everyone's belly button.
Some great articles that shed light on how to have the body touch discussion are:
- B-inspired mama: "10 tips for teaching kids about good touch bad touch"
- Anxious Toddlers: "Do you teach your kids body safety? 10 things every child should know!"
- Baby center: "How do I answer my toddler's questions about genitals?"
Additionally, given the recent social media frenzy of "Me Too," and so many women coming forward regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, I can't help but think about the responsibility I have to ensure that my son sees and treats women as equals, without expecting sexual favors in return.
And need I mention the true stories behind the movie "Wind River?" How can all these young American Indian girls go missing without any resources to support investigations or even worse without any statistics being compiled?
The good news is that this exposure gives us an opportunity to make the necessary changes we need to shift the dynamics and encourage equality, beyond gender, but for all races, nationalities, religions and demographics!
Not that my husband and I need another reason to travel and explore the world, but I was recently reading this article, "The science behind how holidays make your child happier – and smarter" and I became even more convinced that children need to see and experience traveling the world. The article explains some major benefits for children who go on holiday with their parents, including brain development, concentration skills and even IQ!
Actually, my husband and I have always enjoyed travel but not just for "holidays" and getting away but also to learn and experience other cultures which are different from ours. This exposure opens our eyes, gives us new perspective and can even increase our humility. When you are exposed to what others may be going through in different parts of the world which are less fortunate, you count your blessings.
Luckily for Aiden, he already has exposure to a few different cultures without even traveling. My husband is from Finland, our nanny is from El Salvador and I was raised in America.
All our differences are opportunities for us to teach Aiden that differences exist in the world and how to be open and embrace them vs. fear them.
There is still an expectation that boys should be tougher than girls. They are told things like "take it like a man" or "grow some balls!"
As a result, it is our responsibility, as parents, to encourage our boys to share their feelings, starting as young as toddlers. When you start this conversation at a young age, you are helping shape their views on emotions and their ability to effectively communicate how they feel.
How? Here are a few articles with tips that I found very useful:
- Parents.com: "Helping your Toddler Understand Feelings"
- Kiddie Matters: "9 Ways to Teach Children About Feelings"
- Parenting.com: "Three Ways to Help your Toddler Express their Feelings"
Why do we still paint the walls blue for little boys and pink for little girls? Or buy barbie dolls for little girls and trucks for little boys? Or assume that a little boy will grow up to be a fireman and a girl will be more interested in being a fashion designer?
Instead, why not allow our children to choose what they enjoy and have taste for?
Allowing our children to explore without any gender bias is important for them to feel they can express themselves without any judgement.
It is also important so we can help shift the common stereotypes that exist and help break down these barriers of what little girls or boys should or should not be interested in.
We often hear about sensory play and how important it is for our child's development. What is interesting to me, as someone who spent almost a decade in the Fragrance world, is that the sense that is often forgotten in this play, is smell!
Why is this significant? Well compared to the other senses, smell is remarkably developed as of day one when a baby comes out of the womb! Research has shown that a baby can recognize the scent of their mother vs. another women instantly! This is obviously a survival mechanism but smell is important for other reasons too!
Smell is linked to taste. So if you want your child to have a wider palette then exposure to a variety of odors is key.
And did you know that when we are young, we cannot distinguish between good and bad smells. So when we are talking about smells with our children, it can be helpful to not use terms like good or bad. This way your child is forced to use their imagination and interpret smells on their own. Believe it or not this is actually a lot harder than it sounds. Go ahead, try explaining the smell of poop to your toddler without using terms like "icky," "gross," or even "ewwww-ehhh!" Of course, you do want to spend time teaching them dangerous smells, like gas or fire!
When you spend time developing the sense of smell, you are not only helping to develop a larger vocabulary but also building greater awareness and focus for the odors which are all around us that we often take for granted!
As for raising a little boy in today's world, my conclusion is that it shouldn't be that different from raising a little girl! In fact, if we really want equality, then our job is to teach our children how to be good human beings that respect and love one another, regardless of their color, sexual orientation or gender!
What do you think? What would you add?