We all hope we’re raising good men, those of us with sons. We want our boys to grow up to be gentle, responsible partners and fathers, as well as happy and successful. At least, I assume we do. That’s certainly what I want for the teenage boy in my house.
The Globe and Mail has a sobering column on this topic. Anthony Wolf writes about the conversation he believes every parent should have with their teenage son. Not the one about sex. The one about abuse: what it is, what it looks like, and how to avoid becoming abusive towards a woman you love.
Wolf wants parents to talk to their sons in extremely explicit terms about abusive behaviors. Going well past “Don’t hit girls”, Wolf schools parents on the nuances of a healthy and unhealthy relationship. He wants us to make sure our sons know:
- Not only can you not hit a girl, you can’t grab her in any way she doesn’t like.
- If a girl hits you, leave. Hitting back is not OK.
- Yelling or getting close to a girl you are fighting with can be very scary for her. Back away, or better yet, leave.
- Do not mix fighting with drinking. If you have been drinking and an argument starts, leave right away.
- Abuse is not just physical. It is also unacceptable to keep constant tabs on a girl, insult her or tell her what to wear or who to see.
- There is no excuse for abuse. If she is cheating, if she is mean, if she is provocative: you can leave, or you can try to work things out. It is never OK to abuse her or to retaliate for her bad behavior.
Don’t wait until your son has a girlfriend to start this conversation. Wolf says it should probably happen by the time a boy is 13, earlier if he or his friends are dating.
It’s often awkward to know how to start these conversations. My stepson and I have had some good ones while watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer together. You might look for something your kid likes – a TV show, a book, a movie – with teen characters you can talk about. It’s easier for me to talk through what fictional characters are doing.
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