Raising boys who respect – 5 tips for Fathers

White Ribbon New Zealand 2017

Hey dads, you make a big difference!

By teaching your sons how to respect women you prevent violence. Simple.

This innovative approach is part of this year’s White Ribbon campaign to prevent family and sexual violence towards women.

“Dads are crucial” says Rob McCann, White Ribbon’s campaign manager and father of Robbie and Oliver.

By demonstrating how to respect women, and building our sons’ skills and values, we ensure they grow into respectful men.

“Most kiwi men don’t use violence and are appalled how some women are treated. Men value fairness for everyone and treat women as equals” Rob explains. “They also have empathy for the women they care for, their mothers, partners and daughters , and don’t want them to be hurt by male violence. This motivates them to do what they can”.

“You make a real difference by showing your son how to be respectful and talking to him about what’s OK in sexual relationships. We know this can initially be uncomfortable and it’s hard to know what to do, so we’ve developed the dad’s toolbox, with lots of useful advice”.

White Ribbon’s fathering toolbox gives tips on how to develop your son’s respectful values and behaviour, right from when they’re small through to being young adults. It’s freely available from whiteribbon.org.nz.

“It helps to know that your kids want to find out how to behave in relationships, and they typically get less sex education than they want. And if they don’t learn from their fathers they’ll pick it up from others or the internet” says Rob.

We know that most kids will see pornography, at an increasingly younger age. Porn usually shows women being abused, so if dads talk to their sons about treating their sexual partners with respect they’re countering these negative messages.

“White Ribbon promotes respectful relationships, which is what we want instead of violence. We know most men treat their partners as their equals and this role modelling is crucial. Kids learn from your actions so by demonstrating respect to their mum you’re setting them up for more satisfying adult relationships and greater happiness. You’re helping ensure that their kids will carry on respectful behaviour, which makes a real difference for everyone”.

Get involved in RAISING your kids

White Ribbon
Another valuable thing you can do is be actively involved with raising your kids. Offer them security, support and closeness, and be nurturing, warm and sensitive. This makes them less aggressive, more confident and more likely to have positive, supportive relationships with others. They’ll also have greater empathy and stronger values. All this is a strong base for respectful behaviour towards others.

And by being involved in raising your kids you’ll have greater meaning to your life, reduced stress and more positive emotions. That means better mental health for everyone!

Another thing, if kids see their dads and mums sharing caregiving and income-earning responsibilities equally, they’re more likely to seek out similar relationships for themselves. Sons will respect their partners as equals, and daughters will seek partners who treat them as an equal. This prevents violence.

This year’s White Ribbon campaign includes a focus on fathers doing more to develop their son’s respectful behaviour with the key message to fathers being “Yes to walking the talk and No to avoiding the talk.”

White Ribbon was prompted to take this approach when they learnt that nearly half of fathers never discuss consent or what’s OK in sexual relationships with their sons. “Dads are twice as likely to talk to their sons about finding a job than about respectful sexual behaviour, even though it is important to everyone”, says Rob McCann.

“Fathers are more likely to talk to their daughters about sexual consent and what’s OK in relationships than they are with sons, even though their sons need this too. It’s a lost opportunity for dads”.

White Ribbon’s fathering toolbox gives tips on how to develop your son’s respectful values and behaviour, right from when they’re small through to being young adults.

“If you use the toolbox advice you’ll get more comfortable talking respect to your sons, and role-modelling how to treat women” says Rob. “If you walk the talk and don’t avoid talks about sex you will prevent the violence that hurts women you care for. You are the difference”.

5 tips for raising boys who respect

1. The biggest influence on your child is your role-modelling. Kids learn by observing all your actions and do listen to what you say.

  • Treat your kids with respect so they understand its benefits.
  • Show you respect your partner as an equal and communicate respectfully.
  • Check that others agree to shared activities. This is consent, a crucial element in respectful sexual relationships.

2. Be actively involved in raising your kids. Offer security, support and closeness, and be nurturing, warm and sensitive.

  • This makes them better people.
  • It makes you a better person too.
  • Encourage them to be themselves, regardless of strict gender roles.

3. Start developing their respectful behaviour early and adjust to their development.

  • As they grow, adjust your fathering to cover what respect now means in their world.
  • Especially for sons, support their emotional development so they’re self-aware and have empathy.
  • As they become teenagers, talk more about respect and sex.

4. Talk about respect as a behaviour. Describe what they can do to show respect.

  • Talk about how good it makes them feel when they’re respected, and how they can give this same feeling to others.
  • Especially for sons, build their sensitivity and empathy to others.

5. Children and teenagers typically want more sex education than they are given. This includes how to have respectful relationships. They’ll appreciate learning from you.

  • If you don’t talk to them they’ll pick up ideas from others and from the media, particularly pornography. This will mostly be disrespectful.
  • Get through your initial discomfort – it’s worth it.

For even more great tips on teaching your son to respect women, check out White Ribbon’s fathering toolbox. It’s freely available from whiteribbon.org.nz.

The Kiwi Families Team

This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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