"With your positive influence on your boy, there is hope that in the future, violence against women can be stopped before it even starts."
It happens in probably every country in the world and is the cold, harsh reality: men are hurting and and even killing women every day.
We tend to think of this violence more in terms of the physical. But physical violence is just a component of behaviour that includes emotional abuse, isolation and control, coercion, intimidation, insults and mind-game.
Violence affects a woman physically through direct impact, as well as mentally, emerging as depression, anxiety and even self-harming behaviours.
So how can men go about stopping violence against women? Being ‘non-violent’ is good, but this is still not good enough unless men are actively engaged in promoting the prevention of violence.
Fatherhood provides a unique opportunity to do this– especially when it involves raising boys. What’s more, dads can actively contribute to breaking the vicious cycle of violence against women through responsible and conscious parenting.
Dads of boys: here are five ways you can help to stop violence against women, and its perpetration into the next generation by teaching your boys what real manhood is all about.
1. Teach your boys what ‘being a man’ really means
Gone are the days when ‘real manhood’ involved fist-fights and bulging muscles. Reassure your boy that he doesn’t need the approval of school jocks, aggressive boys or the alpha male in his class to feel good about himself.
Chat to your son about the harmful societal consequences of violent males being promoted by the media and in video games. Tell your son it’s okay to express sadness and fear, and also to ask for help when needed.
Your sons can be strong and sensitive, masculine and emotional without resorting to violence.
2. Lead by example
When a son sees his father abusing a woman in any way — physically or emotionally — it’s very likely that he will mirror that behaviour because naturally, he looks up to his dad.
So dads, treat your partners with respect and love. Extend this respect to women outside of your family too.
Teach your boys that violence against women is simply unacceptable, and also encourage them to challenge jokes, media images, comments and behaviour that seem abusive against women.
3. Encourage non-violent games
Constantly engaging in violence — even if it is through games and play — may breed violent tendencies later in life. So monitor your son’s exposure to violence as much as possible and encourage non-aggressive play whenever you can.
And while it’s true that little boys enjoy playing rough, you can create safety for your son and his playmates when he does play like this, by setting down firm rules about which boundaries he cannot cross.
4. Increase compassion in him
You can do this by engaging in activities with your son that help others, e.g. volunteering in a hospital, soup kitchen or animal shelter.
Even a simple act like planting a sapling — of course with an explanation about why it’s important to do this — can increase your son’s compassion and give him a sense of social responsibility. Teach him to treat others like he would like to be treated.
5. Teach your son to express anger without resorting to aggression
Anger is okay — it’s a human emotion after all — but not anger accompanied by aggression.
So teach your son alternative ways to deal with his feelings when he is angry, like taking deep breaths, taking some time out or just removing himself from the situation by walking away.
By doing this, you are helping your son deal with his emotions safely, without unleashing his feelings of frustration on someone else.
Dads: you play an enormous and crucial role in shaping your son to be the man you want him to be some day. Never under-estimate how much your son looks up to you and admires you.
With your positive influence on your boy, there is hope that in the future, violence against women can be stopped before it even starts.