Family, Kids & Relationships

5 Ways To Raise Boys Who Respect Girls

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One thing that’s on the minds of many parents of boys is how to make sure their sons grow up to respect girls and women. Luckily, there are little things we do every day that can make a huge difference.⁠

Make girls the hero of the story

For starters, when you introduce your son to new books and TV shows, look for ones with women and girls as main characters. Chances are he’s already seen lots of stories with boys at the center of the action.

For younger kids, check out picture books like Violet the Pilot and The Pirates of Scurvy Sands, or early readers like Wonder Woman to the Rescue and The Princess in Black. Some great shows include WordGirl and Jane and the Dragon.

Older boys might enjoy some awesome book series including The Luck Uglies, Lawless, and Zita the Spacegirl, and shows such as Supergirl, Annedroids, DC Super Hero Girls, and Jane and the Dragon.

Mix up your pronouns

Why not call some of your son’s new or unnamed toys (and animals in books, or those at the park, etc.) by female pronouns? 

He’ll be exposed to plenty of “male as default” conventions in the world as it is, and there’s no reason a teddy bear or T-Rex couldn’t be an Abby or Zoe.

Lift women in your life up

Whenever possible, point out accomplishments of women in his life and in the community. Even when you talk about everyday stuff, make comments like, “Your pediatrician/grandma/that politician worked really hard on this and is smart for coming up with such a great idea, don’t you think?”

Because all too often women don’t get credit for their efforts, whether it’s something physical, emotional, or intellectual.

Surround him with men who respect women

When boys see men consistently treat women with respect, never hesitating to offer support or gratitude, it fosters those same feelings of compassion and understanding in them.

This can be a spouse or significant other, coach, neighbor, a family friend, or any other positive male role models.

Ditch the phrase “like a girl”

This popular phrase can have positive or negative implications, but whether it’s in reference to a female friend’s athletic ability or the way a boy cried over a simple disappointment, gender stereotypes minimize everyone. It’s better to just eliminate it from your family’s vocabulary, and work on simple language swaps that make your language more gender-inclusive overall. That will boost your son’s confidence and all the women and girls around him—because mutual respect is everything!

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Joanna Eng is a freelance writer and editor, Lambda Literary Fellow, and co-founder of Dandelions, a parenting and social justice newsletter. She lives with her wife and child in the New York City area, where she is constantly seeking out slivers of nature. You can find her on Twitter @joannamengland.