How Moms Can Raise their Sons to be Respectful of Women

Written by Amy Thompson

December 9, 2021

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The Importance of Boys Growing Up with Respect for Women.

We all want our children to grow up into functional, productive members of society. And that means they need to learn the importance of respect. This is especially true for boys and being respectful of women.

But what does it mean to be respectful of women? How can you teach your son to grow up respectful of the female half of the species? We have some advice for parents who are looking for ways to raise their sons right from the start. From raising self-confident boys to teaching them how to treat a woman, we’ll share meaningful insights to help you raise your son to respect women.

Why am I raising my own son to grow up respectful of

women?

 “Men are afraid women will laugh at them.

  Women are afraid men will kill them.” 

– Margaret Atwood 

Growing up, I never saw my father treat my mother with respect. He treated her as a second-class citizen and a servant. Her opinions or desires didn’t matter to him. Not to mention my father was abusive to everyone in our immediate family in every way: verbally, emotionally,  and physically, especially if he had been drinking. 

The threat of physical violence was always present, whether my father was assaulting a family member or “just punching holes in walls,” Often while cursing and screaming and demeaning everyone and everything around him.  As a result, I grew up learning to walk on eggshells around my father and to be hypervigilant about the warning signs a storm was brewing.

Witnessing my father’s uncontrolled and often violent outbursts as a child taught me the genuine dangers of a man’s anger. Things can escalate very quickly, to extraordinary levels.

“Fear of male anger is a burden, but it’s also protective, like a heavy suit of armor that you patch with new metal every time it gets a ding. The armor only gets heavier over the course of your life, but you put it down at your peril.” 

 

Why is Male Anger so Threatening?, Damemagazine.com

I observed this from a young age and vowed never to be with the same type of person like my father. I was raised to believe that women are submissive, that they are objects for men’s pleasure, and that they are weak.  

My son will know how much more complex women are –they have dreams and desires, opinions and concerns, and are deserving of respect, just like any human being. 

“by the time women reach sexual maturity, pretty much every woman has learned that you don’t want to make men angry. Ever.”

 

Women Are Afraid Men Will Murder Them, Harpersbazaar.com

That is why I am raising my son to grow up respectful of women. I don’t want to raise a man a woman will have to recover from.

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Why Raising Boys with Respect for Women Matters.

In today’s society, girls and women are cautioned from a young age to be wary of their surroundings, not to dress “too suggestively,” and not give off the “wrong impression.” Why? Because we don’t want them to be assaulted or murdered.

“ One in three women are victims of domestic violence, and in 55 percent of cases where women are murdered, domestic violence is involved. In 93 percent of those cases, the perpetrator is their husband or boyfriend or an intimate partner….And before someone says “but women kill their male partners, too!”—yes, they do, two percent of the time. Ninety-eight percent of homicidal partners are male.”

 

Women Are Afraid Men Will Murder Them, Harpersbazaar.com

On the flip side, instead of teaching girls how to “not get raped,” our culture is in desperate need of a desire to teach boys NOT to rape and the proper way to ensure consent. Moreover, teach your sons what it means to treat a woman as an equal throughout all stages of her life, not just when she might be sexually interested. You’ll not only help to foster your son’s respect for women but also ensure that he knows how to build healthy relationships moving forward.

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How Moms Can Raise their Sons with Respect for Women

It takes a village to raise a child. With the hashtag #metoo and news of sexual assault allegations against powerful men, we’re finally talking about what it means to be a man. The language around masculinity continues to evolve, and so should our boys. 

Raising a son to respect women is the best way to prevent sexual assault and harassment cases. It’s not just my responsibility as his mother; it’s my duty as a woman. I want my son to be an ally instead of a bully. My son will have high standards and boundaries so that he doesn’t grow up to become someone who abuses power or hurts those who can’t defend themselves. 

One of the most important things that women need to teach their sons is being respectful of women. For example, teach your sons about the importance of empathy early on in life, so they’ll grow into compassionate men. 

1. Raise your son to be self-confident

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There’s been plenty of conversation about how we need to teach girls self-respect. We need to pass this on to our sons. However, teach him that he is worthy of respect and also that others are too. 

If your son looks up to you, he will follow your example and recognize that women are equally deserving of respect. If you’re always setting an example for how to treat women well, then your son will do the same. This advice is the same for mothers and fathers.

2. Teach your son Empathy

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One of the most important things you can teach your son is empathy. Empathy helps him understand how others feel and why they do what they do; It’s a valuable tool that allows him better communicate with others and feel connected to them, a highly useful tool for navigating future relationships.

But how do you teach your son empathy? It starts early in life. Ask him questions like, “How are you feeling?” or “What are you thinking about?” Teach your son that he should also listen to other people’s feelings and validate their thoughts in order to understand them better. Providing validation is done easily enough by repeating back what someone had said to you.

Additionally, teach them that violence against others isn’t okay (no matter who it is) and that anger isn’t the only acceptable display of emotion.

The Effects of Toxic Masculinity

Boys are taught from an early age to treat girls differently, not to look the way they do, not to say the things they say, and to behave differently. This phenomenon is called “toxic masculinity.” 

Toxic masculinity is the idea that men should be tough, aggressive, and controlling – without regard for the feelings of others. And it isn’t suitable for anyone. 

What do you get when you mix this idea with a culture where girls are valued less than boys? The answer is quite clear: You get young boys who don’t really know how to respect women. Boys are raised with these values and carry them into adulthood. 

When teaching your son empathy, it’s essential to make sure he’s aware of his feelings and those of others. He needs to know that not everyone has the same viewpoints. So it’s good practice for him to learn how to be empathetic to others’ feelings and handle tough conversations or disputes and practice this throughout his life.

“boys are often taught that anger is the only expressible emotion, it must be terribly difficult to find out that even your mild anger causes panic in people you love. It sucks when people think you might hurt them and you wouldn’t—but it sucks way more to live in deeply ingrained, constantly reinforced fear of being hurt. If you bristle at being asked to control your tone of voice due to factors beyond your control, well, I’m sympathetic: Nobody likes being drafted against their will into a culture of violence. We’ve been drafted into it too, but as the victims instead of the perpetrators. It’s a deep injustice to everyone that disproportionately kills one side.”

 

Why is Male Anger so Threatening?, Damemagazine.com

3. Encourage emotional expression (and control)

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Teach your Son Why Women Fear Male Anger:

“How many of us have witnessed men lashing out at women physically in anger? How many of us have been warned about making men angry? We’ve all seen or heard of the consequences of male anger. We know how explosive it is and how society excuses just about everything men do in anger. We know that if men attack us in anger, we’ll be blamed. Even if they kill us.”

 

Fear of Male Anger: A Universal Trauma, Notsorryfeminism.com

Teach your son different ways of being respectful. For example, instead of teaching your son how to be respectful through words, teach him how his actions make others feel when they hear them.

The status quo places the responsibility of managing a man’s feelings solely on the woman (in addition to the blame for his actions). How do women respond?

“We learn to pacify men whenever possible. We tell them that we have a boyfriend rather than saying we’re just not attracted to them. We avert all eye contact with people catcalling us from their cars so as not to encourage them. We certainly don’t yell that they’re being inappropriate back at them. We laugh at men’s jokes, even when they aren’t that funny. We sit politely while they explain things to us we already know, indeed, topics we might be experts in.”

 

Women Are Afraid Men Will Murder Them, Harpersbazaar.com

He needs to have a deep understanding of the power dynamics at play.

““Note to guys: It really, REALLY doesn’t matter if you’re thinking ‘but I would never,’” says elfwreck. “History is littered with the bodies of women who believed a man ‘would never.’” Some of the men, she notes, also thought they would “never” until they did.”

Why is Male Anger so Threatening?, Damemagazine.com

It’s up to parents to teach their children what respect means. If you want your son to grow into an adult who respects women, then he must learn these lessons at a young age. He must learn what it means to respect the feelings of others when they’re talking about topics like equality and treating others with empathy. We really need to educate our sons that yelling or being physically imposing is the wrong way to approach conflict, especially towards women.

“What can men do, if they’re just now learning that they cause more fear than they know? Speak more quietly than you think you have to; learn to express negative emotions with precision rather than volume. Listen to women about our personal and cultural trauma, and don’t automatically blame us for it. And learn to love how we look in our armor, because it’s the most naked we’ll ever be.”

 

Why is Male Anger so Threatening?, Damemagazine.com

4. Talk to your son about equality

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Parents need to be engaged with their sons and teach them about equality early, meaning all people are equal. This way, they will understand the importance of equality before they hit puberty and start thinking about sex and dating.

Equality is a concept that’s easier to grasp when we’re kids, but it takes serious work to learn as an adult.

Research has shown that by age two, children start to understand gender roles. If left unchecked, this understanding could lead to an unequal society where men get unearned privilege and power over women. Teach your son about respecting women by educating him on how men and women are different in the world today, and how there needs to be a push towards equality in society.

The more you talk about it, the more they will learn. 

5. Point Out Female Role-Models

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Another way to teach your son respect for women is through female role models. Point out women in their life, whether it’s a teacher, family member, or friend. They’ll see that women can do anything as well as men.

Another suggestion for parents looking for ways to raise their sons right is by teaching them about feminism. Help him understand why there needs to be equality between men and women in society today.

Moreover, teach him that respect is due to all people, regardless of race, gender, social class, or sexual identity.

6. Discuss Gender Identities

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It can be tempting for parents to teach their children the “right” way to behave. But this is problematic for many reasons.

First, it’s not fair to make your child conform to a single “right” way of behaving. When you teach your son to behave by societal norms, you’re reinforcing a gender binary that often leads to adverse mental health outcomes, like depression and anxiety, as well as sexual assault and harassment in later life.

It’s important to teach our sons to be their own person (and ultimately better people) by raising them with compassion for all genders.

They will learn about their own gender identity and how to interact with others as they grow up. 

Additional Tips:

  • Ignore gender stereotypes that tell boys they need to act like this or do that
  • Don’t make gendered jokes
  • Ditch the phrase “like a girl.”
  • Assign chores equally: Teach both boys and girls to do household chores, laundry, cooking, and cleaning, for example. And for that matter, teach your daughter how to use essential tools like a hammer, drill, and screwdrivers (so she doesn’t have to rely on a man for this if she doesn’t want to).

7. Talk to your sons about how to treat women

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Teach Your Son the Importance of Consent

There are many different ways you can teach your son about this vital topic, and it all starts with raising him to understand the importance of consent. Here’s how: 

Early in life, talk to your sons about consent in general. What is consent? It means that someone gives their permission for something they’re doing. For example, if your son wants to play with his sister’s toy, he needs her consent before doing so. He needs to ask her if he can have the toy or not. 

This way, he will know that everyone has the right to say “no” and that he should respect their wishes.

Teaching your son the meaning of consent means he’ll know what it means when someone says no, whether it’s an adult or a child. As he matures, your son will learn that sex is something you have to ask for rather than taking it away from someone else. Teach your son that no means no. It sounds simple enough, but too many men ignore the word no when they’re on a date, out at a bar, or just hanging out with friends. He needs to be able to realize:

“that if a woman does not seem to be having fun—if she tells you to slow down, if she moves away from you if she suggests you should wait until next time if she does not seem to express enthusiasm about having sex with you—that means stop. That does not mean “try harder.” ”

 

Women Are Afraid Men Will Murder Them, Harpersbazaar.com

When it comes to raising boys, you want them to respect women. Teach your son to treat women well throughout life. One of the most important matters is consent. Men and boys are the majority of perpetrators of sexual violence against women. Boys who witness domestic violence or abuse of girls and women in their lives are more likely to imitate this behavior later in life.

“So, yes, the threat of male violence is real. It’s a consequence women realize can follow men getting mad…most women have moments in their lives where they feel that if the situation had escalated farther if they had not made it home and shut the door just when they did, if the man had one more drink, if…well.

 

Ask a man to tell you about his worst date and he’ll tell you a funny story about a lady who showed up dressed as a cat. Ask a woman to tell you about her worst date and she’ll tell you about a man who followed her home shouting that she was a whore.

We know that, as much as if we hesitate to go home with someone we’ll be called paranoid, if something bad does happen to us, we’ll be called reckless. Or we’ll be told something bad happened because we “made him mad.” “

 

Women Are Afraid Men Will Murder Them, Harpersbazaar.com

8. Surround your Son with Male Role Models who Respect Women

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If you can, surround your son with male role models who love and respect women. These men will provide a positive male influence, which will help your son learn how to be respectful and loving towards women.

But it’s not just about the men you choose for him—it’s about how you show them the importance of treating women with respect, too. If you want to raise your son with respect, show him how a man should treat a woman at every stage of her life.

How Dads can teach boys to be respectful of women

Teaching appropriate behavior and boundaries is a learned skill and one the father has a large impact on. Boys who see their fathers treating women respectfully will feel that they too should do the same. Alternatively,

“A father that swears at women, shouts at them and stomps out of the home behind slammed doors, is teaching his son the way women should be handled. A father that tells coarse jokes or expresses misogynist views, is teaching his son that this is how women should be treated. A father that leers at woman and is known by their son to watch porn, is teaching his son how women should be valued.”

Family Patterns that Teach Boys to Respect Women, Momentsday.com

Boys need to be raised with respect for themselves and for others. What does it mean to be respectful? Being respectful means that you are kind, courteous, and considerate of others. It is being polite and kind to those around you. Many fathers have a hard time understanding how to teach their sons about respect because they have no idea where to start.

Here are three ways your son can learn how to show respect to women:

1) Teach them about empathy and consent

At an early age, teach them that other people’s feelings matter too and that all people have rights– including women.

2) Teach them how to treat women as equals at all stages of her life

From early childhood and into adulthood, it should be reiterated and reinforced that women are human beings deserving of respect, period. 

3) Teach them how to express their feelings (appropriately) 

For example, the importance of listening instead of talking when appropriate, and that anger isn’t the only appropriate expression for men. 

Teaching your son to respect women is an important step in their development. It’s important that fathers model this behavior for their sons.

Teaching your son about respecting women is easier than you think.

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It’s mostly about teaching him what it means to be respectful in general. It’s hard to know what the future holds – but if you want your son to respect women, it starts with you.

I want my son to know that men and women are equal, that one gender isn’t superior. I want him to see that it’s not okay for anyone else to make obscene comments about women or sexualize them in public. He should never pressure females into doing anything they don’t want to do. Additionally, he should know to be kinder and more considerate of the feelings of females in his life. 

Talking about consent is just the beginning, though—it’ll take a lot more than just teaching your son what it means to be respectful of women as they get older. To be respectful of girls as they grow into young adults, you’ll need to teach them how men should treat girls in different stages of their lives.

In short, I want my son to grow up with a healthy attitude towards women, and I hope other momma’s out there feel the same and take action in shaping the next generation of men.

“I read articles about how afraid men are, right now.” “If men are afraid, they are afraid. Perhaps some good will come of that. After all, fear has been a motivating factor in making women be kind to men for all of history.”

Women Are Afraid Men Will Murder Them, Harpersbazaar.com

There are many ways to teach respect, and these can be taught at any age. One of the most important lessons we can teach our sons is how to treat women with dignity and respect. How will you help raise the next generation of men to be respectful of women?

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  • Hi, I’m Amy! I’m obsessed with getting organized and managing my family life while trying to preserve sanity! I strive to make motherhood as drama-free as possible, and my goal for Drama Free Momma is to help other momma’s do the same. When I’m not blogging, I love traveling, all things Sci-fi, my two dogs, cappuccinos, social justice, planning themed events (it’s like an art form), and creating happy childhood memories for my two beautiful children!

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