The recent unfortunate motorway incident has repurchased countless other such experiences to the mind, made everyone uncomfortable, and question female security. The hashtags, the demands for justice, the unfriendly comments have all had me think about the root causes of such incidents.
It has made me question the core values we teach our children and drawn me to the conclusion that while we cannot continuously hover over and protect our children, we can empower them. Beyond the hashtags, beyond the protests and state responsibilities are a few baby steps to foster a more friendly society for both girls and boys.
Stop with the boys can, and girls can’t attitude
Being a mother of both a girl and a boy, I strongly condemn this attitude. It doesn’t allow one to work towards a more equitable society. Alarm bells ring through my head when I witness young mothers proudly exclaiming that their infant will be a heartthrob one day, and of course, he’ll be out late because boys are entitled to do so. Boys aren’t born disrespecting women; it’s’s attitudes like this that encourage them to veer towards it.
Don’t teach your boy that it is acceptable for him to be aggressive if you feel that the same would not be adequate for your daughter. If you have to worry about your daughter being home at a particular time, don’t allow your boys to stay out late, either. If you only have sons, think about the limitations you faced as a girl. You have the power to teach them respect for women by grooming them differently; don’t waste it.
Listen and honor opinions
Children have a great deal to teach us if only we would listen. Actively encourage them to express their opinion and be prepared to honor it even if it differs from yours. This will go a long way in building trust and open communication as they grow older. But, if you disregard their thoughts today, the chances are that they are likely to confide you when they feel troubled later.
It begins with simple things like the colors they would like to see in their room or the clothes they want to wear on a particular day. Opportunities manifest themselves everywhere. For example, if they are uncomfortable only a specific structure of play at the park, then don’t keep on pushing them to go further frequently. Their fears and inhibitions are different from yours.
Build confidence at home
Before your child steps outside, ensure that he or she is confident at home. Let them sit alone for some time, as you observe from a distance. This allows them to explore and gain confidence alone, deciding for themselves if they are ready to walk or still want to crawl. Older children should be familiar with the standard processes of the home, aware of danger zones and comfort zones.
Other confidence-building activities range from participating in daily chores to having their artwork hung in a public area of the house rather than their room. Both of these inculcate a feeling of being on par with other family members. Talking to strangers and socialization is all a part of it, but gaining an equal footing at home is integral to building confidence from the ground up.
Set and respect boundaries
Privacy is an inherent human instinct as profoundly rooted as embarrassment and shame—unfortunately, it emphasizes the latter rather than respecting and setting boundaries around the body or mind. A reason why victim shaming is so prevalent is because of this whole idea of shame rather than limitations. An alternative to the drone of “shame, shame” every time they display reluctance to get dressed is teaching your child privacy and respecting their body at an early age. Remember that they will only be able to appreciate someone else’s privacy when they have an understanding of their own.
Educating your child about privacy begins right when the diaper changes and potty-training are occurring. Whether its bath time or modification time, limit the helpers to one or two people at most. Ideally, don’t change them in front of other children. This teaches them boundaries without much effort. Potty-training children build confidence by slowly letting them sit in the bathroom alone while somebody waits outside. This builds trust, confidence, and an understanding of the bathroom time is private time.
Use social media responsibly
Parents today are far more in tune with the world as it updates than a generation ago. Therefore, parents, they are tasked with enjoying social media and using it wisely. There is nothing wrong with uploading your child’s photo on your private profile if you are comfortable since the audience is limited to your approval. Arguably there is nothing wrong with uploading their picture on a public profile either again. It depends on your comfort level and the critical question: who will view it, and where will it end up? Will your child be offended by this at any point?
Quite apart from the world of Facebook and Instagram is Whatsapp and the family group. This is probably the place where photos that many of us don’t want to share publically end up. It’s been an unfiltered world, and people share it because it’s a family group. Before you share any photos of your child on any platform, including the family group, ask yourself if this were your photo? But, revaluate sharing more than the first bath video.
This is no longer the world of hardbound albums where photos can be destroyed if they hurt sentiments. These photos are permanent in an unfortunate manner, and when we share them with our children a few years later, we set standards of appropriateness in both photography and content that can be shared.