Children are very observant during their developmental years and it is through observation of their surroundings that they learn to be a part of the society. The family then plays a vital role in supporting the development of social skills in children since family members are the first people children interact with. Children often replicate the actions of their parents and aspire to be like them. Young boys can be especially inclined towards mimicking the behaviour exhibited by their fathers. This is when we as parents, especially fathers must try and set an example for them by presenting the behaviour that we would want our children to exhibit. Since the society we live in presents different sets of challenges to both boys and girls, the only way out to bring about a sense of equality in the society is to raise boys and girls a little differently. 


So, here I have curated a list of 5 things that we must teach our boys that will eventually help us in raising them towards becoming conscious, empathetic, and respectful young men. 

  1. Teach Sensitivity
    There remains a constant pressure on boys in our society to adhere to a set standard of masculinity and the process of achieving that essentially works towards dehumanizing boys. We often witness parents telling little boys not to express themselves or show their emotions. Things like "Don't cry like a little girl" can often be heard and this is just not fair. We must teach our boys that it is okay to express themselves and be vulnerable. Being manly does not mean being bottled up and being close to expression. We can teach boys sensitivity by helping them explore their softer, more creative side of themselves. This can be done by encouraging them to indulge in gardening, maintaining a journal, cooking, painting, and even playing games like house-house or doctor-doctor when they are younger. Values like sensitivity are important to instill for sensitive boys eventually grow up to be sensitive men who empathize with family members and colleagues as adults. 
  2. Teach that Physical Power is Not to be Misused
    When we look back, we might realise that misuse of physical strength actually begins with the little things. You might spot your child destroying things around the house for fun, it could be a toy, a flower pot, gadgets or just about anything. It then escalates to them hitting or scaring away animals like cows, dogs, purely for pleasure. Such violent tendencies are never cute and they must be nipped in the bud because they can eventually convert into something much bigger. Physical violence of any kind should be totally discouraged. Toddlers can be often spotted getting into physical fights with their classmates but this can also be stopped with the right amount of counseling and we can always talk them out of indulging in such behaviour. It is important to understand that boys in fact do have a truck-load of energy and we must help them find ways where they can channelize this energy to make something productive. Physical activities like sports can be especially helpful because children can vent out without causing any damage. 
  3. Teach Respect for Women
    It is never too early to teach boys to respect women. It is important to teach children that both parents need to be respected equally and that Mumma's work is as important as Daddy's work. This must also lead them to the realisation that a girl in school can do better than them and that one's gender must never be associated with one's performance or abilities. This knowledge imparted in the early years will affect greatly their perception of women in the workplace and working women in the family as well. Stop little boys from passing seemingly harmless comments at little girls. If left unattended, we might run the risk of creating teenagers who could indulge in cat-calling and eve-teasing. In addition to this, we should teach our boys to be aware of their surroundings and stand up for anyone who might be in need of help. This way, we can possibly prevent some unfortunate events from taking place. 
  4. Teach Independence
    When boys today enjoy more privileges today, such as going out late at night, traveling alone, it is imperative that they are taught how to become independent. Simple things like making their own bed, putting away their dishes, helping out in the kitchen, picking up groceries, cleaning the car, packing for themselves must be made a part of their lives and they must be taught not to rely on their sisters, mothers, grandmothers or other women around them to do these chores for them. Independent boys then grow up to be independent men who play a huge role in contributing to a balanced family environment. 
  5. Teach Self-Acceptance
    Just like girls, boys also go through a series of body image and mental health issues, especially during the developmental years. It could be a real challenge to cope up with all the new changes happening both in the mind and the body. There exists a lot of self-doubt especially regarding one's looks and this can lead to a lower self-esteem. The media has a massive role in this lowered self-esteem because the images that the children are exposed to, feature men in a buffed up, superhero avatar which is far from the reality. It then becomes important to remind little boys that the images in the media and the beefed up bodies are not for everyone, what is important is that we remain fit and healthy. 

So, parents, make the early years count for you have a great shot at raising sensitive and wonderfully cultured men for the future. All the best for that!

October 07, 2020 — Dr. Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi
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