Bringing up boys

(75 Posts)
MmeLindor Thu 25-Oct-12 11:22:06

I have been asked about bringing up boys, and wondered if anyone had experiences or ideas they would like to share.

A blogger asked if she should be doing more than just teaching by example to instil feminist ideas into her young son.

My 8yo already knows about feminism, we chat with his elder sister about women being equal to men, and girls being just as capable as boys etc.

Does anyone know of blogs/articles etc on this topic?

I'd like to write about it, and not sure where to start.

OneMoreChap Thu 25-Oct-12 11:59:06

DS and DD were brought up the same way.
Expected to treat people properly, listen to them and express their views openly.
No gender based division in tasks
No "boys are better at this"/"girls are better at this"

What specific feminist ideas would your friend seek to "instil"?

I'm watching with interest as I have a 3yo DD and a 10mo DS. I intend to bring them up the same way as OneMoreChap describes. How could I do more than bringing them up equally, with the same toys and opportunities, to treat everyone as equal regardless of gender, race, religion etc?

I just have DS's, and we just bring them up to treat people with respect. I counter sexist marketing and images as and when I see fit, and we talk about issues when they arise (The Olympics was great for this, especially as women were represented so well. We talked about why men and women competed in different races, and how one wasn't 'better' than the other, just different). They both have chores around the house and help prepare meals etc. It was important to me to raise children who could be independent, regardless of their gender.

kim147 Thu 25-Oct-12 12:13:03

I think that you have to challenge some of their ideas about gender. DS is defnitely a "boys are better" kind of child. He does need reminding and talking about what girls can do equally as well. He's also very much into his idea that blue is a boy's colour.

I think that it will be important for him to know how to treat all people properly as he grows up.

MmeLindor Thu 25-Oct-12 12:14:12

Well, that is the question, OMC.

She said that her son was complaining about girls getting the best parts in movies, getting the best superpowers etc, and it made her wonder if her teaching by doing was enough, or should she be speaking to him about feminism, explaining more about the idea and aims of the movement.

I don't just teach by example, I talk to my DC about feminism, and I wondered if others do the same, and if they have any tips about doing this with boys.

MmeLindor Thu 25-Oct-12 12:18:54

kim
Yes, and I think that challenging the ideas that they bring home from school is important.

Our DC were brought up in Germany, and there is (or was at that time) much less gendered toys etc. When DS was 4yo he met a UK boy who ranted about not wanting to use his sister's 'girly' car seat. DS was most bemused by this. It was the first time that he had been told that a product was for girls cause it was pink.

OneMoreChap Thu 25-Oct-12 12:23:25

Film roles? Suppose point to salaries?
Superpowers? Bit hard to say.

By all means talk about kids to feminism; I certainly spoke to DS/DD about all sorts of issues in the news - bit hard to limit it just to feminism per se, without stranding in politics, history and so on I would have thought.

How do you frame your discussions?
[Remember, I don't identify as a feminist, more as a fellow traveller, though certainly more of one than XW was...]

QuenHelle Thu 25-Oct-12 12:26:35

I think it's important to challenge them too. DS is only 3.4 but this week I've had to keep saying to him 'Girls can play with them too' or 'Boys can do that too' each time he's seen something advertised on the TV and said 'They're only for boys/girls aren't they?'

And I'm very aware that my relationship with DH will inform DS too. DH is very protective of me and DS, it's learned behaviour from his own dad. It's all very honourable and chivalrous and whatever but I find it disempowering and I don't want DS to pick up the same attitude. I never let DH take over disciplining DS if I was there first. I have vowed never to do that 'Wait until your father gets home' thing. DH has a tendency to take over if I let him so I'm working very hard at not letting him right now. Hopefully it will sink in with enough reinforcement.

WearingGreen Thu 25-Oct-12 12:26:57

My eldest ds has to be constantly reminded that its not OK to talk over his sister. He understands intellectually that boys aren't better than girls but I don't think he really feels it. Personally I find it near impossible to bring them up the same in an unequal society. I find myself working twice as hard to tell my dd that she can do x, y and z as its not just a 'boy thing'. We can hardly watch a movie together without them getting the message that girls are the supporters, not the important people. DD's latest from school is she can no longer play football at school because all the boys in her class have lost their playtime this week (not sure why) so they can't get the football out hmm. They are skipping instead, which she enjoys but it hasn't occurred to her to mind that she can't play football because they boys were naughty. The boys are playing cards and chess indoors. I asked if she would rather play chess than skip but "chess is just for the boys". I don't think she has been told this, just concluded it from her observations.

OneMoreChap Thu 25-Oct-12 12:41:09

Mmm.
Didn't think about that QuenHelle.

DS got "We don't hit girls...".
DD got "We shouldn't hit people".

That's a vaguely chivalrous throwback to my father, I suppose. Different times, perhaps.

As a boy/young man I occasionally struck back against physical bullies; I know my son did likewise. I found it hard to be too upset about that... They were actually taught to walk away from trouble or namecalling, but sometimes... that doesn't work too well.

MmeLindor Thu 25-Oct-12 12:55:55

Quenhell
Good point. We can have discussions all day, but our DC model their behaviour on how we communicate with each other.

WearingGreen
Our school gives a prize to the best footballer in school, and this year it was won by a girl.

MmeLindor Thu 25-Oct-12 12:56:54

Here is the original blog post that started me thinking about this.

I'm watching this thread with interest.

I've said it before on here, but most of our work right now is about bodily autonomy and consent.

DS is 2 and very big for his age. Most of his friends are girls (i.e. most of my 'new mum' friends had daughters) and all are significantly smaller than him. Lots of them like rough-and-tumble play.... up to a point. DS gets over excited easily and flails around. My job at the moment is to teach "If everyone's not having fun, everyone stops." DS is actually very empathetic (will rush to hug a crying child - though sometimes this scares them more! smile ) and always stops tumbling about if someone is upset, but I am trying to get him to notice/stop at the point BEFORE someone's actually crying or bruised. I am trying to teach him to seek enthusiastic consent.
Some of that work regards his own body, too. If we're tickling/wrestling and he says 'stop!' or 'no!' - even while giggling, we stop at once. We talk a lot about what we're doing to his body (brush your teeth, shoes on, etc) and why. He gets to own his own body and make choices about what happens to it.

Right now I'm not sure he really 'gets' that there are boys and girls are that different. From what parents of older children tell me, that's going to hit hard in the next year and a half.

WearingGreen Thu 25-Oct-12 13:15:34

Our school actually has a really good girls football team, better than the boys team in terms of what they win but this hasn't translated through to dd thinking she has the right to ask for the football if the boys aren't there. She sees it as something very definitely for boys that she can participate in if the boys initiate it. I don't really know why that is.

blackcurrants my DD is nearly 3.4 and though she knows that boys and girls are physically different (she has a baby brother, DH and I are deliberately very casual about nudity while dressing or in the bath etc) she doesn't seem to have noticed any gender stereotypes yet. I was expecting her to when she started preschool but we're halfway through the first term now and so far she hasn't said anything.

MmeLindor Thu 25-Oct-12 13:52:45

oooh, Blackcurrants - that is a good one. I never thought about teaching enthusiastic consent at such a young age.

It leads on to them then being able to recognise the concept later, when they are teens and starting first sexual relationships (sorry if that is too big a leap for you when you are looking at your cute wee toddler!)

MmeLindor Thu 25-Oct-12 13:55:23

Btw - I mentioned it in my OP but want to make this clear.

I am going to be writing about this for my blog, or perhaps for the pre-teen blog. The idea behind this thread was to straighten out my thinking - and to hear what others think about it.

I won't use quotes from this thread or anything. It is just a bit of brainstorming on how we can help parents of boys (myself included) speak to them about feminism.

Not too big a leap at all - it's definitely where we're going with it! grin

And it seems straightforward to me, sex is in many ways an extension of these other ways that we express ourselves emotionally and physically, and I want him to feel great about his body, and know how to use it - and also be aware that, as he's probably going to be bigger than 90% of the people he interacts with, 'if everyone's not having fun then everyone stops' has to be his rule for all physical-contact activities, all the time. So it's to protect him and the other people he cares about, really. I'm raising a great big lad, but not a thug smile

I wasn't taught clear boundaries about who I could say "no" to as a child - I was 'made' to 'give Granny a kiss' or Uncle whoever, even when I didn't want to, because my Mum didn't want it to see that she had a bolshy child (I was a bit bolshy!). I was sexually abused as a child and didn't know how/when I could say 'no' to a 'grown up'. I'm going to have the talk with the doll about where someone can/can't touch him, when he's a bit older, but right now I am teaching him that if he says 'no' about his body we - the adults who are most important to him - will listen.

It does sometimes make teeth cleaning a pain, as I have to get him to agree to it, but happily hasn't been a real problem so far!

MmeLindor Thu 25-Oct-12 15:11:29

Blackcurrants
sorry to hear that, but it is great that you are channelling your knowledge of what went wrong into doing things differently with you son. That is very positive.

I like the 'if everyone's not having fun then everyone stops' idea. Great for all ages.

Aww thanks, it was a long time ago and I've had lots of good help dealing with it. And yes, I hope it's making us thoughtful parents.

RubyrooUK Thu 25-Oct-12 16:50:54

My DS is only two so at the moment, I'm just trying to bring him up to be an all-round decent human being, which is where it all starts, I suppose.

I think my DH is a good male role model. He does 50% (maybe more) of domestic tasks and as we both work full time, he sees us both doing the same things in life. So I'm trying at a base level to just make equality between sexes normal for him.

I haven't really said "don't hit girls", just "we don't hit" so I hope it will sink in over time.

I haven't yet taught him really about his body being his or respecting other people's bodies, as others in the thread have done. He is two and currently has no problem telling adults "no" about everything. We don't force him to kiss or hug if he doesn't want to, anyway. He doesn't hit other kids at the moment (well, not yet). I'll put more work in when that changes.

I think our household is pretty equal all round and if I had boys or girls, I'd like them to see this as a template for their future.

PosieParker Thu 25-Oct-12 17:01:58

My oldest Sons (10 and 9) both comment about how there aren't any girls in the Lego catalogue, we talk about why they don't watch certain channels (music not porn!!) and why I censor songs. I talk to them about religion and how it further inhibits women and stops equality and progression for women, the whole frozen in time ideals.

We talk a lot about Feminism, we talk a lot about everything. After watching a movie we do two things, we talk about it on the way home...what the girl was like, were there enough girls in it, whether all boys have to be strong, whether all girls have to be pretty, I then look at Stewie's review!!

We talk about politics and how there aren't enough women, literature, EVERYTHING.

From a young age we have ignored and NEVER reinforced gender stereotypes with toys, although through time they have become more pressured by their peers to conform.

We do tell the boys that they have an extra responsibility to girls as they're more likely to be bigger and stronger and so they never lay a finger on them, but this is because I have my own history of this. But all of my dcs are told not to hit anyone, and my dd is told not to take advantage that the boys cannot hit her back.

The bodies thing has always been around for us, but that's because as far as I can I want to make sure that my kids aren't groomed and abused, rather than a sexual bullying thing.

Ooh, I'm getting some good tips here! Talking about female invisibilty seems like a good idea.

I change the pronouns in books, at the moment, so they're a mix of male and female, rather than all male (eg in "Dear Zoo" - a current bedtime favourite). But talking about it is going to matter a lot when it comes to films.

RubyrooUK Thu 25-Oct-12 18:27:33

I agree that talking about everything is important. I genuinely believe that my mum didn't need to ram home calculated feminism messages as my brother and I had endless talks about racism, gender, equality, women's rights and so on as part of everyday life. It was just normality.

I hope I'll do the same for my sons.

Oh and I've been reading a lot on Mumsnet about boys and an unrealistic porn culture. With a mum and sister around, my brother heard everything about periods, whether we could be arsed to shave our legs and so on. I think a training in the reality of women (and luckily my brother thinks my mum and I are ace) was a good grounding for him in what to expect from women.

So although he may well have watched porn in his time - I don't want to know this! - he certainly doesn't expect his girlfriend to be perfect sexually. (I am pretty sure about this because they were having a very big giggle when drunk last Xmas about them both farting accidentally during sex and how hilariously funny it was.)

I would love my sons to see me just being me and my husband telling me I'm clever, funny, beautiful and super attractive (as he does). I think that is good training for them in what real women look like/do and how to treat them.

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