How do you approach the topic of relationships with your kids? A dad’s letter to his daughters’ prospective love interests went viral:
1. In this example, the father is defying gender stereotypes; critics say you should be protective of your children and that young people need this protection.
- Of course, there is a natural inclination for all parents to feel protective of their kids and that’s a great thing; but the old version of these rules (i.e. My daughter. My rules) really represented possession — not protection. Part of being protective involves equipping kids with the skills to eventually take care of themselves.
- These rules apply regardless of gender. In this case, he’s empowering his children (who happen to be girls) to exercise personal autonomy — both in setting the rules and responding when they feel disrespected.
- You start from Pre-Kindergarten and talk about how you treat others and how you teach others to treat you; you help give them the scripts they can use to express needs and feelings (e.g. “It doesn’t feel good when you joke about my name” is a good way to respond to being made fun of; Lashing out, returning the mockery and/or withdrawing are less effective.)
- You’re laying the foundational skills from their earliest relationships (e.g. bodily autonomy, talking about feelings) so that relationship skills aren’t new once they consider intimate/dating relationships.
- You can train them to set boundaries from a young age (e.g. “I don’t want to hug my aunt. I’d rather wave or give a high five”). If you make their body their own, they’ll be more inclined to do the same — and treat others with the same respect.
- I’d ask them for clarification. For example, if they say “girls can’t be doctors”, I’d ask them where they heard this. And I’d give them examples of female doctors that they may have heard of — someone they’ve seen on TV, for example, or perhaps the doctor who delivered them when they were born!
- If it’s an older child and they’re using disrespectful language, I’d let them know that you don’t think it’s cool and that you wouldn’t want to hear someone talk that way about them or their siblings. And of course, ask them why they’ve chosen that language and what it means to them. Even if they don’t feel regretful on the spot, it may impact their language and attitude moving forward.