Since the dawn of democracy in South Africa, much emphasis has been put on empowering the girl-child. As we deal with gender-based violence it is evident that the continued focus of addressing past imbalances should not exclude raising boys better.
Clarity of Purpose
Raising boys should be focused on being a caring brother to his female siblings and friends.
The teaching of this should be intentional and not accidental. For example, the distribution of chores in the household should be non-sexist as that is where unconscious bias that we may not always be aware of as parents breeds.
This can also apply to simple things like the purchasing of toys. When a boy-child cries for a beautiful doll in a toy shop, mummy, daddy, please do get it for him. You can then use it as a teaching aid on how to look after his sisters or friends, that are female.
Team Work Wins
There is an African saying that “it takes a village to raise a child”, parents should therefore not be overwhelmed by the thought of raising boys.
Talk to your immediate and extended family about what you are trying to teach your boy so there is a unified message. The school is another home where children can be well nurtured and where they spend most of their hours.
Find out what the gender dynamics are in the school environment and make suggestions where you see space for improvement, perhaps the school still uses strictly blue for boys and pink for girls.
When your boy tells you, he wants to join the netball team at school, instead of saying to him you are a boy and netball is for girls, encourage him.
This is where he may learn at a practical level that girls are more physically fragile than boys, and therefore need his caring and understanding.
It is also where he may learn that a girl’s fragility is not a weakness waiting to be exploited at leisure and that girls can be just as competitive.
Competition is Healthy
At home, parents should encourage healthy competition between children and not between boys and girls. The children should feel equal before their parents, and no child should be portrayed as more superior than another on the basis of their gender.
As a parent, you need to reflect on your own upbringing and life philosophies in order to ensure that habitual gender bias doesn’t creep up in your language and actions especially where competitiveness is concerned.
Ensure there is a balance between your boy being caring towards females without creating the impression girls are weaker competition or shouldn’t be taken seriously in competitive situations.
Hold genuine conversations with your boy-child, about equality and equity, so he gets it from you as a parent before he goes out there where these concepts may sometimes be deliberately distorted.
Our country has one of the most wonderful constitutions in the world, take the time to introduce your boy child to what it states about gender equality in a language they will understand.
Raising boys by teaching them about women’s rights as much as you would a girl child, is just as important.
Readers are Leaders
There’s plenty that parents can do when raising boys in the area of reading. Good reading can nurture him into an adult who will be a very responsible, respectful, loving and self-aware man, uncle, friend, brother or husband.
Books that you buy for your children, in particular the boy-child, should be motivated by the purpose of grooming them into well-rounded human beings who will make this a more liveable world for all.
Don’t expose them only to literature about boyhood but ensure varied and even what is considered girly reading materials to remove the barrier of foreignness between them and the other sex.
Together We Can
Be encouraged to form social clubs or support groups including involvement by both boys and girls. Have well-structured sessions with the objective of guiding the children into responsible adulthood.
The sessions should, of course, be made fun as children tend to learn and internalise good content in a fun-filled environment.
Written by Mankoana Nhlebela
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