Yesterday when my husband and I were taking a walk, a group of 8 teens around 16 years of age were walking toward us. Because they were the larger group, we moved off the sidewalk. But one of them did smile at me and say, “Good morning.” My first thought: he has good parents. My second: maybe not. It’s possible he’s already finding his own societal principles despite what goes on at home, though that has to be an upward battle in our complex society.
Later, reading an editorial in the LA TIMES, I began to wonder if good parenting can do anything about this statistic: A White House Report said 22 million women and girls in the U.S. have been sexually assaulted, mostly by men they know; campuses, it said, are particularly risky.
The editorial pointed out the faults of schools that hide or underreport assaults, and the studies that show rapists are often repeat offenders. The editorial maintained that once identified these offenders should be expelled, not suspended, and not just given community service! I agree. But how do these young men cross the line in the first place?
We need to ask ourselves some really tough questions—how are we as parents, grandparents or anyone raising males, possibly contributing to this awful statistic? (Note: How we raise daughters is important too, but ultimately they should not have to live in a world where using poor judgment in dress choices condemns them to being victims of a crime. Choosing the wrong attire is never equal to “YES—it’s okay to hurt me.” And in this piece I am focusing on our sons and grandsons.)
The LA TIMES editorial does conclude: Male and female students alike need to realize that sexual assault is not a drunken miscommunication but a violent act that must not be tolerated.
Most parents want to do a good job when raising their kids. They commit themselves in so many ways: education, sports and/or the arts, often travel, and hopefully good behavior. It’s this last issue that can have wide interpretation as to what is “good” or “okay” or “he didn’t mean any harm” when he probably did and should have to bear that responsibility and change his behavior. It’s the behavior issue that parents need to be vigilant about.
A statistic: a 2009 study from Harvard found that more than 40 percent of parents don’t get around to talking to their kids about safe sex practices until after their kids are sexually active. Two thirds of sons in the study said they had not talked with a parent about how to use a condom before they started having sex. One parent of a teenage son commented: “It’s sad to hear that so many parents [are] so far behind the curve. Sex education is a lifelong thing [and parents] need to be able to pass on good information,” even if they can’t always be the messengers themselves. Yes, sometimes it’s really hard for parents, but that’s just not an excuse. There are materials and classes and videos that they could use to jump-start a conversation with their kid. THEY NEED TO DO THIS. They need to be aware of what he is thinking is okay–because maybe it’s not!
Good parenting means good communication that can affect positive growth in our young men, clear up questions and concerns and clarify misinformation. Do you want your grandson getting his sex education from the kid down the block? That happened when we were kids, but aside from some of the laughable misinformation we got, it’s risky to allow that in today’s society. Also, we should be constantly aware that our husband-wife relationships serve as real-life templates for how to love a man, love a woman, treat a man, treat a woman. Are we presenting good examples?
Writer Zerlina Maxwell provides advice for for how to raise young men so they will have a healthy respect for women:
- Communicate female humanity: From the beginning parents should communicate the humanity of women and girls and not fall into the trap of referring to them as sexual objects. Our culture is saturated with images of women as sex objects, so the challenge to parents is weighty and should always be in the forefront of parenting judgments. “Wow son, now that you’re doing so well in baseball, you need a beautiful girlfriend.” WRONG!
- Provide legal knowledge: A young man should know that sex with a woman requires legal consent or he could be slapped with a criminal offense. A woman unconscious or drunk cannot give legal consent. Alcohol and drugs combine to create a situation that gets out of control–a crime could occur, not to mention the physical and mental pain he is causing the woman.
- Identify healthy masculine behavior: Help young men express their masculinity in a healthy way. Being masculine does not mean exerting violence, power and control: ie rape is a crime about all of those.
- Teach bystander intervention: Parents can help guide young men to be respectful of women and girls. This includes pointing out the negatives of sexist jokes and vocabulary, video games and films, reading materials and music etc as over time these destroy sensitivity to women and contribute to sexual violence. Young men can voluntarily avoid these traps, always being respectful of women.
Because some parents and grandparents are educating themselves and practicing good parenting, there are positive changes occurring. A January, 2014 stat from Planned Parenthood states: Eighty-two percent of parents have talked to their children about topics related to sexuality, according to a new poll…
That’s good news. We need to keep it going and be open to questions from our young people about sex, sexuality, marriage and pregnancy. When appropriate, we also need to educate them about sexual assault and how to avoid it and how to stop it. Good parenting should be a pledge we never set aside, even when our children are grown. There is always some young person who could benefit from our guidance, help and good example–I think one smiled at me on the sidewalk.
Thanks to Google Images