A few months ago I shared a post with 10 ways to embrace being a mother of boys, and a very thoughtful reader pointed out that as a mother of boys I have a great opportunity (and responsibility!) to uphold equality through educating my sons. Although I did not mention this point in my article, I could not agree more!
Inside my home there are many ways I would like to empower my boys to develop true respect for women and uphold the equality of the sexes, ten of which I will share today. I hope these points will bring my sons fulfillment and joy in their relationships, as well as help them in their workplaces and in the community. To teach my children to respect and value all people regardless of if they are a male or female, or different in any other way, is one of my greatest hopes as a parent.
**Please note, this is written from my personal perspective as a stay-at-home-mom. I realize not all moms stay at home and that is a perfectly wonderful decision. But for the sake of brevity (it is hard to include all situations in one article!) I have not included as many examples about this. Thanks for understanding.
Here are 10 lessons for my sons to learn to respect women:
1) I want them to learn… it is important to value everyone’s contributions.
I want my boys to know that earning the money is just one part of contributing to the household. The person who makes money is no more important than the one who does other jobs, such as cleaning, organizing and caring for others.
Beyond the home, it’s not just the “boss” that matters either. Secretaries do important work that allow their bosses to succeed, and janitors allow everyone to work in a clean environment. Likewise I want my sons to see and recognize that everyone’s contributions are needed and worthy of high regard. I want them to appreciate every contribution, no matter how highly valued it is in the eyes of society.
Of course women are also in positions of power in the workforce – and they should be rightfully valued for this work, also!
2) I want them to learn… we should be thankful and say thank you, even for the little things.
I believe gratitude can make and break relationships. Specifically, when they are at home, I want my boys to appreciate the cooking and cleaning, as well as having a place to live and being raised in a loving home. Taking care of the food in a household (or in a dorm) and keeping it livable deserves deep respect and gratitude – just as much as being given money for music lessons or opportunities to go places. Being thankful can show up in their voices, in their faces, in what they say, and what they do. I hope they will carry over practices from childhood into future situations as well… whether that’s with housemates or a spouse.
3) I want them to learn… household work is real work – and it takes dedication, creativity, and skills just like any other job.
You don’t just wake up knowing how to clean a house… and by house, I don’t just mean wiping the counters and vacuuming the floors, there are TONS of other things to clean in a house. You have to learn how to clean – experiment and see what works, learn all the tricks and tools, find a routine that works, and actually do the work. It takes time, energy, selflessness, and should not be overlooked. I want my boys to appreciate a clean place by thanking and respecting the person who cleaned for them (and offering to help whenever they can)… and also truly valuing the real work that it took to have that clean place.
And likewise getting food on the table takes a lot of real work. I never want my boys to take advantage (or not recognize) the person who works hard to make sure they are fed and/or have food available. There’s making lists, shopping, unloading groceries, preparing food, cooking, adjusting to tastes and dietary requirements, trying new recipes, and keeping up-to-date on health and healthy foods. Mamas and wives do not *just* cook dinner either – there are three meals a day plus snacks, hosting others, special events, and more.
I don’t want them to think of it as just cleaning, or just cooking… it is work. (And yes I know that men sometimes do household work as well… I’m speaking to stereotypes here.)
I also want my boys to learn cleaning and cooking skills themselves… but that’s another topic altogether.
4) I want them to learn… that being stronger does not give you the right to yield power over someone.
In today’s world, “stronger” is often equated to “better,” and “better” is sometimes an assumption that you are allowed to take advantage of anyone who is *under* you. These are not the rules I want my boys to live by. I want by sons to know that every single person – parent, child, grandparent, or baby – deserves respect and love, and should never ever be overlooked or, worse, abused — even if you are more powerful. Actually, if you are more powerful or more strong, you have the responsibility to protect those who are weaker than you.
I want my boys to know that “no” means “no,” and never play games with strength or power that disrespect someone else… in any big or small way.
5) I want them to learn… that speaking often and speaking kindly creates loving relationships.
Our words have great power. And we also have a choice to use them or not. I want my boys to learn the power of their words, and also learn about the healing they can foster by using them in the right way, at the right time. I want them to learn the power of listening – which is the partner to talking in communication. I do not want them to shield themselves from pain by refusing to acknowledge or discuss something that is difficult to address, or be afraid to cry and feel (and express) emotion. I want my boys to be comfortable talking and also be willing to talk, even if they don’t really feel like it, if it helps someone they love.
6) I want them to learn… it is vital to find worth inside.
Status will not make you happy; money will not make you happy; other peoples’ opinions will not make you happy. Sometimes the most influential of people are the least recognized. You wont necessarily get a badge or medal for being a nice person, but the act of being nice will make you happy. I want my sons to know how to find their inner worth instead of relying on the world to tell them if they are worthy. I want them to find true happiness from within.
7) I want them to learn… we should look for others peoples’ inner worth, as well.
Related to the above, a person’s worth is not in their outward appearance. Media does not depict reality; “pretty girls” are not the prize to seek out or the aim of life. I want my sons to see the worth of any person they are in a relationship with for their true value – not their popularity or their physical qualities. I want them to value the people around them for their kindness, their insight, their creativity, their true selves… not for superficial reasons.
8) I want them to learn… it is important to understand that commitment in marriage (or any relationship) shows up on the outside and on the inside.
Being loyal means trying to understand, working out problems, and not giving up. It’s as much on the inside (truly being present and caring about the person enough to compromise and work on yourself) as on the outside (not cheating someone, bad mouthing them, or taking advantage of their selflessness or kindness). True friendship as well as partnership takes effort and it will not always be easy. If they make a commitment to someone, I want them to follow it through and not run away if they are faced with a challenge. I want my boys to be committed and loyal to their friends and future partner in word and in deed.
9) I want them to learn… to encourage their life partner to grow.
When my sons become husbands, I want them to support their wives in pursuing professional and personal development. I am incredibly thankful that my husband is supportive of me continuing my education and putting effort into my personal well-being, even though my “job” (being a full-time mom) does not “require” it. He encourages me to take online courses, read new books, watch and listen to various resources, and even go to seminars (and he – as my main co-worker – will take time to listen and discuss them). He takes my growth and education seriously – and values my work inside the home as worthy of time and money. He believes that I deserve opportunities to grow, just as any other person in a “workplace” might receive. I want my boys to do that for their partner as well.
I want my sons to know that whether a mother should stay at home or not is each unique family’s personal decision, also, and that respecting women in the workforce as professionals is just as important.
10) I want them to learn… that being unified is more important than being “right.”
Coming to a compromise, even if it is neither party’s original choice – or deciding to “surrender” to your partner’s preference – is so much better than being resentful. There is a healthy balance to compromising – and it should never mean compromising your values – but I want my boys to learn the power of unity in a relationship. They may see things different than their friend or partner, but I hope that they will learn to respect and consider the opinions and perspectives of others… with openness and grace.
The bottom line…
I want my boys to lovingly work alongside women in their personal and professional lives… to live wholeheartedly, respect themselves and others, and make the world a better place through whatever life work they choose. There is so much I want them to learn about respecting women and upholding the equality of the sexes… and yet at the same time, I am learning and re-learning these lessons as well. I am a product of society, after all, and am still breaking through my own engrained stereotypes and perspectives… even after four years passionately dedicated to Women’s Studies 😉
What lessons do you want to teach your boys, specifically ones that can help them model respect for women?
Beautifully written! …..and “Behind every great man is a great woman!” 😉
Chelsea Lee Smith
Oh I do love that quote Malka 🙂
I think the lesson I would like to teach my children in terms of respect, is that everyone should have the same opportunities and be valued for the path they choose to take. I also try to help them see beyond stereotypes.
Chelsea Lee Smith
So well put, Kelly.
Jo (down to eath mother)
Great post, Chelsea. Since my son was small we have often (and randomly) shouted together “Girls can do anything!” I can’t remember how it came about. Maybe Alfie said “I’ll ask Dad to do it” or something like that, but anyway, it stuck. Now he has a little sister, we have a great opportunity to talk about equality.
in regards to respect for housework, my mother-in-law was formidable in this respect. My hubby was cooking a family roast at age 9. I am grateful for her attitude and what she taught her sons about managing the family home because the result is a very helpful, hands-on husband for me!
Chelsea Lee Smith
I love that “girls can do anything” in response to household stuff. That’s something I really need to think about, as I’ll admit I try to get my husband to do certain jobs which he doesn’t mind doing (ie mowing the lawn and fixing things) – because honestly I just don’t want to! LOL But I would like for the boys to see that I CAN do them. I love how your MIL trained your husband so well… I really hope to do that for my boys as I believe it will empower them and their families in the future.
Great article, Chelsea. I do my best to teach my two sons every single point you’ve made, every single day. But at the end of the day, when boys enter puberty they will look to their fathers – the single most important role model in their lives – for the appropriate behaviour with regards to woman and other people. We need more male role models to show boys how to be real, good and decent men.
Chelsea Lee Smith
That is such an important point, Tamy. No matter what we tell them, kids will copy what we DO more than what we SAY. I’m very blessed with a great example as a husband, but we can all work on the stereotypes we carry from childhood… fathers and mothers alike. Thanks so much for sharing.
What a wonderful post to read through Chelsea. I don’t have sons but you really made me think about what my daughters should be aware of and looking for in boys that will become men. You have such thoughtful parenting gems to share Chelsea…thankyou x
Kylie @ Octavia and Vicky
What a wonderful post, I love your ideas and will keep them in mind when raising my son. Pinned it.
Kate Laughing Kids Learn
You’re so wonderfully minded Chelsea and I always come away with so much to think about after reading your posts. Thank you.
Loved this… every single bit of it!
I commend you tremendoulsy for this article; hovever, I would like to mention that I would like to have read that men should not only value women who stay at home or their secretaries but also women who are professionals like them and make equally valuable contributions in the workplace. Despite all the progress in the field of labor laws and equality in the workplace, there is still a long way to go. Thanks.
Chelsea Lee Smith
Hi Elisa thanks so much for adding this! It is so hard to mention everything in one article and I’m very sorry I left this important point out! We definitely have a long way to go to progress in many areas of society – to empower both women and men. Thank you for your thoughtful comment 🙂
Hear hear for #3: household work is real work – and it takes dedication, creativity, and skills just like any other job!!
There are too many working couples out there were the man expects the woman to do her full-time job AND clean the entire house AND cook (while he does what exactly?). Thank you for including this one. Your sons are off to a great start!
It would be very easy to make the same arguments for teaching females to respect men, but then females would claim sexism.
Chelsea Lee Smith
I think men and women should be open to learning all things and that respect should be mutual.
I complement you as a faithful full-time mom and endorse the values . I would share them with my sons .They are holistic. May the Lord continue to use you in this field:)
Love this so much, Chelsea! I have 4 sons and will share this with them! Thank you for your lovely writing.
MARIA SOCORRO JIMENEZ
It’s important for dads to read this article! After all, children learn more from what they observe than from what anyone tells them.
I loved your article – one of my daughters made it available to me. Thank you Vannie. I will make sure my other children read it. It is our duty to do everything possible to make this a much better world to live……………………
Great article but would love you to take it further. Beyond what you “want them to believe” and towards HOW you will help them practice and develop those attitudes and respectful practices. For example in addition to teaching boys to respect the value of housework, how do you show them this reality by requiring them to participate and do the hard work? What is the labor distribution and how can you teach beyond letting them watch you appreciatively as you do the work?
Chelsea Lee Smith
Hi Rhonda, it’s definitely a BIG issue that can’t be covered in one article!! So many things to think about. This other post may help with your specific question about housework though: http://www.momentsaday.com/family-service-not-chores/