HomeArticles4 tips for raising boys in the #MeToo era

4 tips for raising boys in the #MeToo era

Child therapist Natasha Daniels has been providing child counseling services since 2005 and is a specialist in anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder in children. She’s also a Chandler mom who produces the podcast and website anxioustoddlerstoteens.com. Daniels shares four tips for raising sons who are less vulnerable to sexual predators and more likely to treat others with respect.

Start early. It’s never too early to start talking to boys about their bodies, Daniels says. They should learn the parts of their anatomy and how they function. They need to understand the difference between “good touching” and “bad touching.” They should know which areas of their bodies are private.

Discuss strategies with sons so they know what they can do if someone makes them uncomfortable or violates their personal space. “As parents, we might feel we need to tell our kids to ‘go hug your uncle,’ even if they don’t feel comfortable doing so,” Daniels says. Instead, allow children to set their own boundaries and let them know their feelings will be respected. “As boys get older, you can talk about how to treat others with that same level of respect,” she says.

Encourage boys to express their feelings. “While girls are allowed to express their emotions, boys are taught to bottle it up in anger,” Daniels explains. Having boys feel heard from a young age is crucial to their emotional development. It also establishes open communication and an environment of mutual respect, which will help them make good choices as they mature.

“Communication is more important than anything else,” Daniels explains. “As kids get older, they are going to do what they want to do. Setting artificial limits is not an effective parenting tool. Kids will just do things behind your back or won’t come to you if they’re in a bad situation.”

Let them know you’re on their side. Let your children know that if they have a problem, you will believe them and help them. Sexual predators are very cagey at playing into kids’ fears that they will “get in trouble” or be accused of “making things up” or “imagining things.”
Let children know that you are there for them no matter what. Children need to hear: “If you get in trouble, it’s OK. If you need to defend yourself, that’s OK. I will support you,” Daniels says.

Boys, especially, need to understand that they can talk to you if they’re confused about what might or might not be appropriate or if they feel something is wrong — no matter what it is. There are so many mixed messages about sexuality, it’s important for them to understand that you will help them sort it all out.

Model appropriate behavior. As important as communication is, sometimes it’s not what you say but what you do that counts. “What kids see day to day is what they tend to repeat in their own lives,” Daniels says. “It’s important to ask yourself: Are you demonstrating love in your relationships? Is anyone being disrespected or demeaned?”

Of course, it’s important to be careful about the messages you send, especially when it comes to girls and dating. Boys learn it’s OK to demean women when we minimize or excuse their behavior by saying things like “He must have a crush” if a boy is mean to a girl or is cracking disrespectful jokes. Be consistent and clear about what is acceptable. How parents treat children, how their father treats their mother, how the mother treats herself — these things are internalized in children. “Family dynamics are powerful,” says Daniels. “So the place to start is often from within.”




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