The entire country was on edge when Stephanie Scott went missing days before her wedding, and was later found after a 24 year old man was arrested for her murder. The social media posts were rampant with hashtags dedicated to remembering her and speaking out against violence against women. Late Saturday night I read a post on Facebook that said “We teach our girls to grow into brave independent women, please teach your boys to grow into loving and respectful young men.” I couldn’t stop thinking about this. As the mother of a boy, I have never once thought he would be violent towards anyone. I have obviously taught him over the years, as parents do, to be gentle and kind. And anyone who knows him will tell you how well behaved and mannered he is. But I suddenly started questioning every one of his actions.
We went to a birthday party the next morning, where he was wrestling on the jumping castle with two other boys about his age. I was waiting for it to end in tears, and there were a few tears, but they got over it and went straight back to it. Later I saw him with one of his little girl friends pinned up against the jumping castle and she looked scared. I felt sick to my stomach. Had I not done a good enough job of teaching him to be respectful towards women??? In reality, I think it’s more a case of he has a lot of friends that are girls and he doesn’t yet really notice the difference between boys and girls. Although I think he is starting to. Apparently he told one of the girls he loved her and kissed her. On the lips. Where does he get that from at 6 years old?!
Later that afternoon, as we were leaving the party, a 3 year old was hanging off him, so he grabbed him and threw him to the ground. Again I found myself yelling at his behaviour towards others. All the while thinking how badly I had failed as a mother. And wondering if I was raising a child who would be violent towards others when he was older.
One of the problems is that he doesn’t get many opportunities to be a “boy”. He doesn’t have brothers to rough-house with at home and get all that energy and frustration out. Most of the mums I am friends with have girls or younger kids. He and his dad have never play wrestled.
I kept, and keep, coming back to that post on Facebook. I think I believed that kids are inherently good and will be good and kind to others if that is how they are raised. I don’t think they are taught to be loving and respectful. I think they are loving and respectful. I think, more often than not, grown men who are violent towards anyone, were raised to think that is normal and OK. They were probably raised watching their dad beat up on their mum. I think most parents would be absolutely mortified to know their child had committed a crime such as this.
Generally speaking, as parents, we do our absolute very best to raise our kids to be kind, loving and respectful. We raise them with the hope they will be independent, productive citizens.
Don’t teach your kids to be brave, independent, kind, loving….SHOW THEM how to be these things. Let’s start with our own behaviour. Research shows kids copy what they see. Be the person you want your kid to be. And speak out against violence against women. There needs to be much harsher penalties for these crimes. It’s not too late for the kids, but men who have been raised to view this behaviour as OK are not going to change.