Rabu, 2 Oktober 2013

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Bringing up boys


Some families are consciously teaching their sons to be respectful of women, and to treat them as equals.

A TEN-YEAR-OLD boy was recently rushed from school to the hospital to be with his mother as she drew her last breath. Her husband had set her alight and she had burns on 70% of her body. It was the culmination of many years of abuse, and despite lodging many reports, no one could protect her from her husband's violence.

In another case in Johor, neighbours found a woman who had been beaten unconscious by her husband on the porch. She later died in the hospital.

There have also been many videos of men beating up their wives or partners on Facebook — from the veterinary officer who battered his wife in the lift in front of their children to the man going at his former partner with a hammer, to the husband who attacked his pregnant wife in a shop.

These cases are but an indication of Malaysia's domestic violence problem. Official statistics show that cases of partner abuse have increased markedly in the first quarter of this year, with 1,353 reported compared to about 800 in the same period last year.

By example: Jimmy Ding always helps his wife, Eileen Cheah, around the house so his sons know that house chores are not solely women's responsibility.

Exemplary: Jimmy Ding helps his wife, Eileen Cheah, around the house and hopes his sons will learn that house chores are not solely for women.

Elsewhere, pictures of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson throttled by her then husband Charles Saatchi also made the news. He dismissed the episode as a "playful tiff".

Former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard also recently opened up about the sexism she faced during her time in office.

With such news highlighting more and more cases of sexism, chauvinism, bigotry, discrimination, gender inequality and sexual abuse against women, it begs the question: how do we teach men to treat women equally, if not better.

The issues of gender imbalance and violence against women are complex. But it is essentially rooted in inequality and lack of respect for women.

Some people believe the change in gender relations should start at home, and we need to reevaluate how we are bringing up our children and the values we are inculcating in them. Realising this, some families are consciously raising their sons to be respectful of women and mindful of treating them as equals.

Setting good examples

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the definition of the word "sexism" is "prejudice or discrimination based on sex". For Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) executive director Ivy Josiah, sexism is when you use any form of language or image to put the other gender down by belittling their role or importance.

"Respect and equality go together. We need to instil in children the idea that we are all equal," she said, adding that educating future generations about sexism should begin at home.

According to Josiah, adults need to be active role models to children and teach them to be respectful of everyone, including domestic helpers.

Jasbeer Singh's family lives by that principle.

"When we used to have a maid, the first thing my dad told us was to call her kakak (big sister). Dad insisted we treated her with respect. She ate the same food as us and joined the family when we watched television," he said.

Not defined by gender: Jamilah Samian's children all help with the house chores.

Not defined by gender: All Jamilah Samian's children help with household chores.

Jasbeer grew up with six sisters, and he regards men and women as equal. His wife Sukhvir Kaur and him actively instill the concept of gender equality in their two sons — Manveen Singh Tiwana, 24 and Ashvin Singh Tiwana, 15.

"I have always said this to my sons, 'Although you don't have a sister, you have many cousins and aunts'. That is why it's important they treat women right," Jasbeer said.

While Jasbeer takes a direct approach when it comes to teaching his sons gender equality, Jimmy Ding chooses to lay down the foundation for treating people well.

Ding thinks his sons — eight-year-old Joel, five-year-old Gabriel and four-year-old Adriel — are still too young to grasp the concepts of gender differences and equality. But he certainly believes it's never too early to teach them good manners and a positive attitude because those are the foundations for treating others right.

"There are two ways to learn: through reading or following an example. The most receptive age to learn is when you are young and the most influential people are parents. Thus parents play a pivotal role because the examples they set at home will have a huge influence on how their children view sexism.

"The way we act and behave will have a significant influence on how our children behave in the future. So, it's really important for parents to watch what they say and do.

"We need to give our children a good example to follow as a base platform during their formative years," says Ding, the head executive at a multinational company.

Doing your part

Josiah thinks that parents must practise equality at home and create a "genderless" environment in which household chores are shared among all family members, be it the father, mother, son or daughter.

"There's this fixed notion about what boys should do or how they should behave. These notions have to be eradicated, and there should be an equal partnership between mother and father," she said.

Ahmad Fakhri Hamzah said that in the past, house chores used to be divided by gender, for example, the kitchen was considered a woman's domain.

"Those kinds of norms and traditions are all in the past. In our house, everybody does their share of work — the boys even do the cooking and enjoy it!" he said.

Jimmy Ding (centre) is determined to raise his sons (clockwise from the top) Joel, 8, Adriel, 4 and Gabriel, 5, to be men who are respectful to women.

The right attitude: Jimmy Ding (centre) is determined to raise his sons (clockwise from top) Joel, Adriel and Gabriel to be men who respect women.

Ding also takes this approach with his children, encouraging them to help their mum Eileen Cheah do household chores, clearing plates after dinner, making their own beds and cleaning up after themselves.

"I hope these acts of helping around the house will teach them that household chores are not solely the responsibility of mum, or women for that matter. Men should help out whenever the opportunity arises," he says.

Just doing the task is not enough, said Josiah – acknowledging your child's good behaviour is equally important.

"Parents should also make it a practice to value good behaviour by thanking their child every time he does something good such as helping to clean the tables or sweeping the floor.

"Respect and consideration also come from sensitivity. Thus, it's good to instil in him the value of volunteerism," she said.

Josiah also thinks that certain traditional mindsets need to be changed in order to instil these values in one's sons, including that old saying that "boys don't cry".

"We always see families saying 'Eh, don't cry! You're a boy, toughen up!', but it would be better to teach boys how to express emotions instead," she said.

"Teaching your sons to develop empathy is also equally important. Let them know it is all right to cry and feel fear. Teach him that weakness is not a permanent thing, and that he'll become stronger after you overcome your weakness.

"Boys should be taught how to listen, be helpful and be respectful. Instead of teaching them to solve conflicts through a physical act, teach them how to negotiate instead."

Intentional lessons

Josiah suggests that parents should start by taking note of the language that is used around the home. "Language is often the most recurring thing when it comes to sexist remarks, so it's very important for parents to monitor the language that their children use as well as the kinds of languages that they're exposed to."

Parents also need to be mindful of their children's consumption of pop culture.

"A lot of music these days contains imagery that depict girls as being very servile, especially in rap music," she said, while stressing that instead of merely saying 'No, you shouldn't listen to this or watch this', parents need to take this opportunity to talk about it and discuss the messages in the media with their kids.

"As parents, we tend to panic when we come across all these songs or shows, but that shouldn't be the scenario. Parents need to confront the situation and see how that situation allows for conversation, and when a child opens up, the reaction cannot be: 'Oh you're too young (to understand)'."

Jamilah Samian, author of several parenting books including Cool Mum Super Dad and Cool Boys Super Sons, believes that in this age of information overload, parents need to be open towards talking about the differences between men and women (be it mentally or physically), and that such subjects should not be considered taboo.

"Everything is so highly sexualised, and there is so much sexism all around us these days, so you can't not talk about it. In fact, you need to be even more intentional and deliberate when it comes to talking about these things," said the author, who also runs the Cool Mum Super Dad parenting resource site (coolmumsuperdad.com) with her husband Ahmad Fakhri.

Talking openly: Ahmad Fakhri Hamzah and Jamilah Samian think it is healthy to discuss gender issues with their children.

Talking openly: Ahmad Fakhri Hamzah and Jamilah Samian think it is healthy to discuss gender issues with their children.

The couple have six children – sons Ahmad Saifuddin, 28, Ahmad Salahuddin, 25, Ahmad Safiuddin, 20, Ahmad Syarifuddin, 17, Ahmad Sirajuddin, 14 and daughter Alia Nadhirah, 22.

Ahmad Fakhri added that his family has no issue talking about differences between men and women, even the physical aspects.

"We don't ridicule it or laugh about it. For us, it's more important to celebrate these differences and try to complement each other's strengths and weakness," he said.

"When you see articles about the abuse of women, you need to discuss it with the family. You have to try and express your own views so that they know your standpoint and they can make their own value judgment. When you consciously make that effort, both verbally and in your actions, then it will help shape the boy's view about women."

"It all starts from home. Your children will leave home one day, and you won't be there to guide them. So, they have to build their own internal value system," said Jamilah who believes that 50% of the problems amongst the younger generation, be it juvenile delinquency, sexual discrimination or others, can be solved with the pro-active presence of the male figure in the family.

Ahmad Fakhri concurred, adding that one of the most important key roles for a man is that of a key role model that kids can look up to.

"Boys like to look up to someone, a role model. If they cannot find it at home, they would look for it outside," he said. "Other men whom they respect may or may not have treated women the way they should, and that goes a long way towards shaping their values."

Like most fathers, Ding hopes the legacy he leaves behind for his children will be a positive one.

"We all try our best to be the best we can to our children. Honestly, I wouldn't know what they will learn from me through all the lessons I teach them until they are adults. However, I do hope they will grow up believing in themselves, appreciating others and never look down on anyone," he said.

Related story:

Pointers on raising sons

Pointers on raising sons


Teaching boys the right values.

Start with language

It's very important for parents to monitor the language their children use and the kind of language they are exposed to. Parents should take the time to intervene when their children come across sexist or generally negative remarks on radio or television.

Help him manage his emotions

Psychologists have noted that some qualities considered "manly" — stoic, calm, being in control — are usually repressive. Instead, teach your son to openly express his feelings. Get him to talk about his day and help him find solutions to his daily problems.

Instill respect for others

Teach your children to be respectful in their interactions with others. It's also important for parents to set a good example. Treat other adults in your child's life with respect.

Teach empathy

Encourage your child to put himself in other people's shoes. This could be done by playing the "what-if" game. Through this simple exercise, you'll teach your child to consider the feelings of others.

Strengthen your child's sense of self

Studies show that kids feel more accomplished when praised on how they do a task and for completing it rather than general kudos like: "I'm so proud of you". Make it a practice to value your child's good behaviour. Be sure to say thank you every time he helps out with household chores or displays positive attitudes.

Show affection

When he's young, hugs and kisses are openly received by your child. However, he'd probably cringe when you show affection in his adolescent years. If your child resists your gesture, that's normal. What you can do, though, is choose the right time to show your affection. For example, give him a quick hug in the car before he dashes off to school. Boys need to experience warmth so that they become affectionate men later.

Fathers should set a good example

When it comes to raising boys, fathers have one distinct advantage over mothers. A father could relate to what his sons are going through. Thus, it's very important for fathers to be supportive of their sons and spend some quality time with them. Apart from that, boys learn how to relate to the fairer sex by watching their father. If dad treats the women in his family right, chances are the son will do the same too.

Related story:

Bringing up boys

Parenting senses


Knowing how to communicate with other parents is important.

YOUR child is likely to go on play dates with many different parents, so it's important that you be able to communicate with them clearly and effectively. After all, you will be entrusting your children to their care. By understanding their dominant sense you will have clearer expectations as well as being able to express clearly your own rules for your children's care.

Tactile parents are practical, goal-driven and action oriented. They tend to be very active in a physical way, which means lots of hugs for their children and a never ending stream of activities. The more the merrier is the tactile parent's motto, so play dates with more than one child are very normal. Not bothered by mess, they tend to be very relaxed and easygoing with their home environment; what you see is what you get and activities with friends and family are more important than possessions.

Auditory parents tend to be organised and logical. They approach parenting in a methodical manner and tend to solve problems fairly and evenly. The auditory parent has no problem answering the endless stream of questions that tend to come fromkids, so on a play date your child will be blessed with explanations about why things are and how they work. Their children will not be late, un-groomed or without homework so if you find that your child has forgotten a homework assignment, just call up the auditory parent and you will have it in no time.

Visual parents can take a little time to get to know, as they tend to be cautious with involving new people in their home lives. They are aware of the right way to behave and good at giving instructions in a positive way. They can find it hard to be spontaneous so prefer organised and timed activities for their children. You can rest assured that on a play-date with a visual parent in charge your child would have done their homework, had a healthy dinner and completed their music practice as well as having a play with their friend.

Taste and smell parents are very warm and inviting. Their lives will be child-centric and they are focused on their child's needs. They are very aware of other people's feelings and will go out of their way to make someone happy. They can be led by your child's happiness rather than yours, so don't expect homework to be done or no sugar to be eaten, but you will pick up a very, very happy child who was well looked after.

Understanding a parent's dominant sense can help you to communicate your needs for both you and your child to be comfortable on a play date, and also discover the joys of parenting from a different prospective. – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Priscilla Dunstan is a child and parenting behaviour expert and consultant, and the author of Child Sense.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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