He’s 4 years old and like many 4-year-old children, he is sweet, adorable and so innocent. His greatest crime is his random tantrums when he doesn’t want to eat his vegetables or doesn’t want to put on his jacket or other random “doesn’t want to”. But there are things that are nonnegotiable regardless of his wants and don’t want. Given the misogynistic culture of our nation, I feel the urgency for my little 4-year-old to begin to learn about what it means to stand firmly alongside his mom, his sisters, his grandmas, his aunts, his future girlfriends, his future women co-workers and all women. I want him to know that God made him for a purpose and to slowly find what that purpose is… it’s an ongoing process. And these are some of the things that I want my 4-year-old to know as he learns more about his purpose in life:
- Respect – You have 3 older sisters who fell in love with you before you were even born. Everyday you eagerly await their homecoming from school and you tackle them with your big, squishy hugs when they walk through the front door. You love them unconditionally and you are quick to comfort them when they are hurt or sad. As you grow older into elementary school, middle school, high school, college, etc… you will meet and encounter multiple girls and women. Remember your sisters when you meet them and love and respect them like you do with your own sisters.
- No means NO – You love to play with your friends and sisters. But sometimes, the play can get a little rough or a little heated and someone will simply say, “No” or “Stop it”. When that happens, you need to stop… stop straight away, not in a little bit, not after one more time, you need to stop NOW, in that exact moment. You are 4 and all your brain synapses are still connecting, so this is the perfect time to hardcode into your brain that “No means NO”. In the future, if you ever find yourself in a situation where a girl or anyone says “No” or “Stop it”, you already know how to respond and to back-off and stop because “No means NO”.
- Equality – You have a love for art and you can spend hours and hours drawing, coloring and creating. In your art class, you join over half a dozen girls because you all love to create and make different art projects. Just like you, these girls have a lot of different talents, a lot of ideas, and a lot of dreams! Remember that as you start kindergarten, as you grow into the tween and teenage years, as you grow into a young adolescent and a man. When you look at a girl, she is like you, she is equal. There have been multiple generations of women who fought hard so that girls and women can be treated the same as a man. I want you to know that girls can do anything and be whoever they want to be. They are not subservient to males which means boys are not better than girls. Girls and boys are equal.
- Judgement – You have many “bonus moms” who love you for who you are. They are my friends and they are in your lives on a daily basis in carpools, play dates, and a variety of different activities! They know you… they know how you love to draw, how you love to play in the kitchen and how you love to play all things sports. Regardless of what you do and mistakes that you may make, they don’t judge you. Women like your bonus moms are smart, strong and extremely capable! When you meet a girl, get to know them, the real them and do not judge them just because she is a girl.
- Leadership through service – You are blessed to have a nanny who has helped take care of you since you were born. She loves you like her own grandson. When she comes to be with our family, she teaches you how to serve by showing you how to put your toys away, help sort the laundry, clear your table and more! There are many opportunities for you to serve the girls and women around you. It can be simple things like helping your sister with her shoes, giving a helping hand to your mom, carrying a friend’s back pack to the car, etc. You are a blessed and privileged boy and with privilege comes responsibility. Part of that responsibility includes serving others especially the girls and women in your life. I believe that with this intent to serve, you will grow to be a humble leader who loves and respects women regardless of the social pressures.
- Locker Room Talk – You have a love for sports and one day you will find yourself in the locker room listening to boys like yourself talk about girls and women in a disrespectful and crude way. This is referred to as “locker room talk”. You may be tempted to join in because you want to “fit in”. I want you to know that you already fit in because you belong… you belong to me, you belong to your dad, you belong to your sisters, your family, your extended families. The locker room is not where you want to try to fit in and belong. As you get older, we will teach you how to be brave and strong and to listen to your heart so that you don’t get swept into the locker room talk.
- Pornography is not ok – You are a package of sweetness, innocence and joy. I desperately want to keep you in that package forever. But as you get older, there will be many influences in your life and the one that scares me the most is the easy access to pornography via the internet. Here’s the deal, pornography is not ok. Pornography is not what sex and love looks like. I know you are only 4, but as you get older, we will talk more about love and sex and these are some of the things that we will hit on:
- What it means to have a loving and committed relationship
- Sex has a purpose and it is a good one, but pornography destroys that purpose and beauty
- Long-term sexual health is built on love
- These are heavy and difficult topics that is easier to ignore. But they are too important to simply gloss over. We will have many conversations about this in multiple different ways.
- Role Models – There are many good men out there and you know a lot of them. Watch them and watch how they love and respect the girls and women around them. You are blessed to be able to witness that everyday through your dad. He knows how to stand strongly with his wife, his daughters, his mom, his sisters, and all women! He is a pretty amazing role model for you. Follow his lead because this is a good place to start.
I don’t expect to change the world and how it treats girls and women, but I can start with my little 4-year-old boy. I want to be intentional about helping shape his character and his heart so that he can stand strongly against the misogynistic culture that is present in our everyday. I do believe that is part of God’s purpose in his life.
Special thanks to my friends who provided some thoughts about raising little boys. I know this list will continue to grow as my 4-year-old gets older. The topics will be more intense and more difficult. It will be an ongoing process similar to the talks that I have already started with my girls. I would love to hear your thoughts on how we should raise our boys today. In the meantime, check out these links that were shared with me about how boys/men should treat women.
- Mayim Bialik video – Will I Raise a Son like Harvey Weinstein
- The Rock Test – as in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson