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A guide to raise your boy right

When I was fourteen, my dad sat me down to have one of those talks that could be described as a teenager’s nightmare. “What do you know about sex?” my dad threw a curveball. I muttered a few words, and the conversation was over in a matter of seconds. Next day, I anticipated another awkward episode of a father-son tête-à-tête—maybe it’s a dad thing, I thought. But we never spoke on the subject again. I guess, he felt teachers were more suitable to give lectures on biology and reproduction.

In school, however, a similar story unfolded. The chapter, Life Process – II was skipped from the syllabus as it was deemed “sensitive, explicit” for fourteen-year-olds. Honestly, I was relieved when I heard there was going to be no such class. Who wants to listen to an embarrassing lecture on reproduction from a teacher anyway?

With time, I learned everything I needed to know—mostly from friends, movies, and television. But as I grew up, I realised how limited and often incorrect some of those inadvertent lessons were. On screen, women were often objectified and men were portrayed as superior. The thing with these subtle suggestions from the environment is that they become a part of the psyche. But thankfully, my perceptions changed as time passed and I greyed. Leaving aside a handful of individuals in pockets, not much has changed overall in society. When I look around, I see countless men who still have a lot of growing up to do when it comes to acknowledging that women are no different from them.

A study conducted by the United Nations says, “35 percent of women worldwide are estimated to have suffered sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives.” Even if we consider one man for every victim, the number of men committing these crimes would be in tens of millions. No wonder, news headlines are often flooded with school mass shooting or acid attack cases.

Having said that, no one is born violent. Yet, some men turn aggressive, more so, towards women. To find out why one may need to trace things back to their childhood. Harish Sadani, founder of Men Against Violence and Abuse, an NGO that works to protect women from gender-based violence and injustice, explains one of the reasons, “Since childhood, many boys live in an environment that compels them to ace at everything. They must come first in their studies, in sports, do better than their female counterparts. Such upbringing could become disastrous for a boy in future.” When a child’s mind is conditioned to succeed, it begins to reject failures, whereas, in reality, life is a mixture of both.

Sociologists attribute such misguided impressions of heroes and manhood to a lack of positive role models in the society


Activists working toward gender equality and fairness believe healthy dialogues are the antidote to negative conditioning. Conversations that begin at an age when boys prepare to become men are key to reducing gender disparity and promoting equality. It’s no surprise then that the onus of raising a gentleman rests on parents and guardians. Come to think of it, no textbook or public service initiative can educate a young boy about his anatomy better than a parent. Likewise, no teacher can inculcate empathy and respect for women than the male role models in his life. “Just the way mothers teach daughters about menstruation, fathers should educate boys about sexuality and life-processes. With such conversations, a father can teach his boy how to respect a woman’s identity,” concurs Sadani.

Unfortunately, things are far from ideal. Parents and teachers often turn a blind eye to children’s day-to-day activities. And so, left at the mercy of mass media with little or no supervision, a child’s impressionable mind gets corroded. A 2003 study, conducted by AllPsych Online, an online classroom dedicated to psychology, concludes “children who view media violence are more likely to have increased feelings of hostility, decreased emotional response to the portrayal of violence and injury that lead to violent behaviour through imitation.”

I recall, how as a teenager, I used to do impressions of movie stars. For me, these ‘heroes’ were the protectors of the innocent and saviours of the world. Today, many of them are behind bars or are battling court cases for committing crimes against women. It makes me rethink my definition of heroes. Sociologists attribute such misguided impressions of heroes and manhood to a lack of positive role models in the society. “Some of the biggest actors that we have today have criminal records. They are known for their abusive and violent behaviours towards women,” says sociologist Dr Malathi Venugopal. “They are sending a wrong message to the younger population that it’s indeed a patriarchal society, where men can get away with anything, with little or no repercussions,” she adds.

Indeed, the world today needs positive role models. But role models don’t just magically appear. They are created by setting the right examples, by doing the right things, especially when the right thing is not the easiest thing to do. The right kind of role models are moulded by parents who choose to take parenting as a serious job, who encourage dialogue with their children, who create an environment at home where children are nudged to speak their minds. When children grow up in such an environment, seldom would they lose their way in the alleys of life.

1 Comment
  • Krishna Dutt
    November 29, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    This is important article for every father to read and understand the sensitivity of its contents. especially Very much relevant in today’s time where crime against women are on much much higher side. Congratulations Arun and team soulveda.

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