We’ve spent a lot of time as a culture over the past few years paying attention to how men have made a mess of things. And we should’ve. After all, in the West, men traditionally wield all the power and often have used it in ways that are abusive and destructive toward women. It would be wonderful if we could say this is ancient history, but we continue to see this play out on what seems like a daily basis. We need to raise better boys who make the world better for women.
That being said, we can also do a better job thinking through how women relate to men. Creating a better world isn’t just a job for half the species. We all have a part to play. And men, we can do a better job of raising girls who are reimagining how women relate to men. Here are 5 places to begin.
1. Watch what you say.
How many times do we joke about cleaning our shotguns on the front porch when our daughters go on dates? Or how often do we make comments about boys being dangerous or immature? I can’t tell you how many dads I know whose default comment to their daughters is “boys are idiots.” We need to stop lying to our daughters. We teach our girls how to think about boys. Be careful what you say.
2. Introduce your girls to men who reflect the best of men.
Who are the positive male role models in your daughter’s life? Who does your daughter look to when she thinks of men? Our daughters will learn how women relate to men as they interact with mature men who look out for their best interests. Junior high boys are not the best introduction to what boys are like. So surround your daughters with men who represent the best of what it means to be a man.
3. Be a better man.
Speaking of surrounding your daughter with positive male role models, the most influential man in your daughter’s life is you. Teach her to expect the best out of men. Set an example for your daughter of what a loving father, husband, human being looks like. Show her what it means for a man to treat women (and all other humans) with incredible respect and kindness so that when she’s tempted to think the worst of men, she thinks of you and thinks better of it.
4. Help her not to think in binary terms.
“Good” and “bad” are simple categories. We like simple. However, simple is rarely accurate. Help your daughter move beyond binary categories, such as “all men are _____.” Instead, help her see that while boys can be immature, for example, they can also show great responsibility and courage. They can be shallow, but they can also be generous and kind. In short, no one is just “good” or “bad.” With the exception, perhaps, of sociopaths, we all exist on a spectrum. And most of the boys your daughter interacts with aren’t 100 percent bad. Help her to offer grace to boys who may be a bit more immature than she thinks they ought to be, while not being so naïve as to be taken advantage of.
5. Teach her to respect herself.
The best possible future for your daughter is one in which she respects herself enough to draw boundaries. However, I also believe that’s good for men too. Men need to have women in their lives who are confident and self-respecting enough not to put up with their nonsense. If a boy is acting like a jerk, he needs someone to tell him as much. Certainly, it’s not a girl’s responsibility to “fix” an immature guy. But a self-confident young woman can teach a young man to be better.
Sound off: What else can you do to raise better girls?
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