Dads need to teach their sons to respect women. When fathers fail to step up and teach this important lesson, they contribute to a problem that puts their wives and daughters, and other women at risk of abuse and violence.
Both men and women are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Women are entitled to the same level of respect as men. But, we live in a world where women are often under attack and fear becoming victims of sexual crimes.
My wife’s beautician told her about an experience her teenage son had with another teenage boy who visited their home. After meeting her, the boy later told her son, “Your mom is a MILF.” The term was popularized by the 1999 film American Pie, a popular sex comedy rated “R” but targeted to teens who still watch it today. MILF is slang, for “Mother I’d like to ____.” You can fill in the blank.
Boys who don’t learn respect for women from their dads are at high risk for abusing girls and women as objects for sex and violence. The frequency of sexual assault on college campuses highlights this problem. Surveys at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton, for example, put the sexual assault rate at 1 in 6. A University of Oregon survey concluded 1 in 10 women had been raped.
The absence of a father’s positive influence is often filled by the influence of movies, music, peers, and pornography. Take a sober look at what’s being sold to teens today, and it should make you squirm.
Dads need to start early at teaching their sons to respect women. If you’re a dad who missed that opportunity, start now, even if your son is an adult. It may take extra effort, but if you don’t do it, who will? Here are the best places to start:
1. Show respect to your son’s mom.
Your words and actions toward your son’s mother are the greatest influence on how your son will speak and act toward women.
If you’re married to your son’s mother, let him see you love your bride. Touch her affectionately, encourage her with kind words, cheer her successes, comfort her in her disappointments, forgive her failures, and apologize for your mistakes.
If you’re not married to your son’s mother, support her in whatever ways you can. If there’s conflict and tension in your relationship with her, take the high road. Learn how to keep your buttons from being pushed. Learn how to speak with kindness, even when you disagree with her, or need to say no.
2. Teach your son to respect his mom.
Help your son recognize the difference between respect and disrespect in his words and actions. Listen to how he talks to and about his mother. Point out when he says or does something disrespectful, then direct or coach him on better behavior.
Directing your son on better behavior means you tell him what to say or do, then help him do it. Coaching you son means asking him to identify what he did that was disrespectful, asking him to identify a respectful alternative, and then encouraging him to do it. When directing and coaching, give positive feedback for respectful behavior. Be careful to do this in a way that doesn’t embarrass him in front of others.
3. Teach your son to respect his sister.
This is best to start young, even when there is an older sister. Encourage him to treat her with courtesy and kindness. Patiently teach him to invite her to go ahead of him, open doors for her, offer to help her carry things, and offer her his seat when all other seats are taken.
If there is a history of tension and conflict between your son and daughter, encourage your son to make peace. He can take the first step by apologizing for any past disrespect and making a commitment to respect her going forward. He should also offer forgiveness for any disrespect his sister has shown toward him.
4. Avoid entertainment that disrespects women.
Protect your son from music, movies, magazines, posters, and online media that portray women as objects for sex and violence. The images portrayed of women in media encourage stereotypes that invite disrespect.
Dads need to take the front line in assuring their home is a safe from influences that will impair the growth of a positive character in their children. At the same time, dads can cultivate the growth of positive character through their influence and the influences they allow into each child’s life.
5. Talk with your son about the value of respect.
Once your son is nine or ten years old, it’s time to have a two-way discussion about respect. Discuss with him how the respect shown to his mom and to others is like putting money in the bank. The more respect he puts in the bank by showing respect to others, the more likely he’s going to get respect in return. Ask him to think of and share examples of how this might work in his relationships. Keep reminding him of how this works as he passes through adolescence–he’ll forget.
You can also teach your son the value of respect by showing him respect. Whatever your son’s age, your influence as his dad is strong. He’ll more easily learn to respect others if he gets respect from you. And if your son is old enough to remember the mistakes you’ve made, make time to have a heart-to-heart, apologize for your mistakes and make a commitment to do better.
How is your son learning to respect women? What tips do you have for teaching respect? Comment below, text me with Facebook Messenger, or leave me a voicemail with your thoughts.
A version of this post appeared on LifeZette.com.