‘Boys will be boys, men are dogs and they are all the same.’ Quite harsh but this articulates the unfortunately popular narrative in society. While we create space for the few good men who challenge this paradigm by daring to be different, society is faced with a question. And that is how to ensure the next generation of male persons are not painted with the same brush.
Yes, we live in a broken society devoid of father figures that the boy child can look up to. The violence, disrespect and inhumane treatment that women go through at the hands of men has reached such a critical stage where we need to find new solutions. What is shocking is that even the younger men have followed in the footsteps of the older generation. Traditionally the boy child is raised in a much tougher, more rogue manner on a tight rope. And while this parenting model may have worked in the past, it would seem this is not working at all.
So while we admit that there is a problem with the current breed, how do we make sure that the next generation is better off. How do we transform boys to men?
The Lounge engaged a few of its’ readership on social media to help answer the question and interestingly this is what they had to say:
Aurora Elizabeth: Be that respectful-able woman.
Ndafapawa June: They should be taught to express their feelings, that women are capable of being successful on their own and about equal distribution of power in society.
Lucy Emma Hango: They need to learn how to love and respect themselves first. But also, everything starts at home. Respect is learned from home not in the streets.
Priscila Shaamena: Make young boys aware of how disrespecting women has negative effects on the society as a whole. Teach them how to respect themselves and value the humanity of every individual including women. Talk to young boys on various educational platforms.
Grace Tjavanga Kandjii: The men in their lives should set the examples for the kids because they learn what they see every day; how their fathers, uncles or older brother treat women.
Ningenie Gideon Hanse: Being an example to your boy… the way u want him to treat women in the future is way u should in their presence.
It starts at home…
Parents have lost their edge and their way, at least some. But its starts with them. Monkey see; monkey do. And whatever character the parents show, the child is most likely to pick up.
“If I want to have a child that is gender equitable, that is able to share responsibilities in the house, a man that is a caring partner, I become that person in my household. My child needs to see that my daddy does the dishes, my daddy helps out, my daddy is so involved in my life and he shows affection to his partner. The child needs to see this. This is one way we can teach boys to become men in the future,” shared father of two boys James Ithana.
According to James, boys who grow up in violent households liken themselves to that imagery and they become perpetrators. This evidence underscores his belief that everything starts at home.
“So why don’t we raise boys in households where they can say ‘my parents don’t fight or I have never seen my father raise a hand towards my mother.’ That becomes a norm for the child and he simply believes that when people are in a relationship, there is no need for violence.”
“How the man treats his wife or girlfriend in a house where there are children has a huge impact on how that child will treat a women outside the home.”
Geraldine, James’ wife shares the same sentiments saying that parents should become the examples of future behavior. This, they owe to their offspring.
“If we don’t have James who treats me as equal and his partner, the children see that and they will never respect women like we desire society should respect us. If James does not treat me correctly, my boys will pick that up and they will think its okay to be rude, aggressive and all the other normal things that he does. The child needs to see the good example. There must be a man in the house to whom the child can relate to and thus they learn how to treat girls at school and also his partner in future,” said Geraldine van Wyk.
Talk to them…
Dialogue in every setting of life is of paramount importance. When it comes to families, this is a genre foreign to many parents as they have occupied a space where all children should do is listen and obey. James believes that should things get better, parents should sit down with their boys and raise a few pertinent issues.
“We need to have conversations with boys about these issues because many a time men do not talk to their children, it is mostly mothers.”
Geraldine on the other hand believes that young boys should also be taught that emotions are completely normal, necessary and that they are allowed to express them. This speaks to the breakdown of men in recent times who fail terribly at letting go of the happy days that once were.
She adds that it goes beyond the father’s duty to teach the child, but the mother also has a role. “It’s not only the father who must treat the woman right but also the mother by showing respect to the father and treating each other with kindness. And they (men) too should be involved in the dialogue.”
But what then about the single mother? The adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ comes into play here as single mothers too with the help of the community can help raise boys into responsible men. Geraldine says even in the absence of an uncle, a neighbor or trusted male figure, mothers alone can also instill good principles in their boys.
The apple does not fall too far from the tree. But the basket which speaks to the environement in which it falls also plays a big role on the shape and condition of the apple. Teaching boys to grow into men is not simple task, but it’s certainly the way forward.