How do I responsibly raise a young white boy in today’s world of dangerously heightened white supremacy? How do I teach him to be self-confident and empowered by his choices, but still show him he isn’t the center of the universe, without creating a core of self-doubt?
I want him to learn equality, not entitlement; understanding, not overconfidence.
It is not enough to just hope he will turn out alright. In our home, we very consciously use inclusive language.
My son came home from school casually talking about “policemen” and “firemen.” I corrected him: “police officer” and “firefighter.” These are inclusive, describing a gender-neutral profession, and showing little boys and girls that everyone has a chance to have these careers.
“Policeman” says to both boys and girls that this is a boy’s job, and little girls must keep out. This isn’t just being overly sensitive — it’s rejecting the exclusionary rhetoric left over from a time when women and girls were kept out of many roles and occupations.
We will not normalize the words and divisive policies of president-elect Trump and his team.
“Boys will be boys” is a damaging phrase we reject in our household. It excuses bad behavior and encourages superiority based on gender.
Acts of empathy and nurturing are praised, such as taking care of a stuffed animal and talking about being a good, loving Daddy. Cooking and cleaning are normal play activities for every kid, not just girls. When our boy’s favorite color is pink, purple, or “purple with gold sparkles,” we don’t tell him he shouldn’t like it — we buy his next pair of shoes in sparkly disco colors and make his day. He loves them and wears them proudly, and nobody has ever told him that he’s not allowed to like certain colors.
We read our son books in which not every child looks like him: books with girls and women as leaders, scientists, and builders, and books with people of color in positions of authority and importance.
His movies and TV shows reflect the same ideas: all genders, races, and abilities are capable and loved. Some of his favorites include Magic School Bus, Cat in the Hat, Handy Manny, and Mighty Machines.
Our son leads the way to tell us what he’s interested in, but we ensure that the media available to him in our home is inclusive to everyone.
A four-year-old learns from everything you say and do. Every word they hear is important: they listen to and retain more than we realize. Change your language, and you children will grow up with a stronger, inclusive mentality.
Ask them, “Who can be a doctor? Boys or girls?”
“Who can be a dancer?”
“Who can drive a truck?”
“Who can be a superhero?”
If they look at you like you’re crazy for even asking them such a stupid question because their answer is “Everybody,” that’s progress.
If they don’t answer that way, talk about it, change some things, and ask them again in a few weeks. It’s amazing how quickly they can still change their minds.
Now is the time we can effect change in the next generation and teach them to think more inclusively — not as if it’s a chore or an obligation, but as a factual view of the way things are. We must teach our children that they are inherently no more or less able than others. We can teach them to respect differences without letting those differences divide us.
There is always more that can be done, but this is where I am starting. Teach your children that love trumps hate.