Raising and disciplining boys
AT A recent news diary meeting a thought-provoking discussion arose while we planned our Women’s Month page.
How is it that so many men continue to abuse women when the reality is that they are mostly raised by women - their mothers or grandmothers?
How do we know this? Let’s look at what the statistics tell us:
* SA police crime stats (2017/18) show that 67.3% of reported domestic abuse cases in the country involved physical violence.
* The recent Statistics SA General Household Survey found that 19.8% of children lived with neither their biological parents, while 33.8% lived with both parents, and a staggering 43.1% lived with their mothers.
Back to that diary meeting and how it left me feeling: I am a single mom (happily divorced, on both sides). My son, 10, and daughter, 4, live with me. So this discussion got me thinking.
As parents, we try to balance love and care with raising children to be responsible, to tow the line and to have respect for others.
In my home, there is a disciplinary warning system. First verbal warning, second, maybe a third. We talk through the disciplinary issue at hand and, if need be, I will spank. Yes, I will.
Some will judge me, and others may agree.
But my stand is; unless you are in my home, juggling my daily grind, and dealing with my children 24/7 on the good and the bad days, then, with all due respect, best you stay in your lane.
Now, back to that moment of self-reflection during the diary meeting. The last time I smacked my son was five years ago and he and I have a really close friendship. For example, I’m on fist-bump level and I get regular Fortnite (video game) WhatsApp updates from him.
But that diary discussion really got me thinking.
When I verbally disciplined him, could my tone or the way I spoke to him be interpreted by him as a form of bullying?
Could I unknowingly cause feelings in him that would cause him to resent women at some stage later in his life?
And could that cause my child to be one of those men who add to the grim domestic violence statistics?
Boys can learn abusive tendencies by witnessing violent dominant male behaviour towards women. But can women also unknowingly contribute towards these abusive tendencies towards women through the way they treat their sons in childhood?
So, I turned to Durban counselling psychologist Rahki Beekrum for advice.
Important matters Beekrum highlighted on raising boys:
* Children will learn from what you do, not from what you say. So your primary responsibility is to model the behaviour and characteristics that you would like to see in your child. Mothers need to be mindful of their own relationships and what messages children will pick up from this. A woman who tolerates abuse of any sort from a man is teaching her son that it is acceptable to abuse women.
* Treat sons and daughters equally by allowing them to do the same chores and encourage sharing of emotions. Boys are typically not encouraged to share their feelings, and thus struggle with the expression of emotions when they are adults. Hence, we see more anger outbursts, acts of violence, and substance abuse. So initiate conversations with your sons from a young age.
* Be constructive in your criticism. It is only natural for parents to get upset with children. What’s important is to be mindful of how you communicate disappointment, hurt, or other negative feelings to them. Criticise their behaviour and not the child.
* Monitor any exposure your son has to violence or abuse. This may be in real life; at home or school or even in the media or social media. Have a discussion on why violence is wrong. Make concerted efforts to reduce such exposure. * Ensure that your son is exposed to good male role models. If the father is absent or is not a good role model, ensure that your son has other male figures that are a good influence. These can be family or friends or even expose your sons to stories of real-life “heroes” that they can learn good values from. This can take the form of reading (both biographies and fiction, as long as the hero demonstrates good values) and movies. If you are religiously inclined, use the example of saints, sages and other spiritual figures to teach important values.
* Involve your children in humanitarian activities. Feeding and taking care of pets, or helping out grandparents. If you are able to, expose them to some charitable work.