From the Head of Lindfield
The roles of mothers as role models for our sons
In literature and the mainstream media, you often hear about the importance of fathers as role models for their sons. Boys learn how to be a man and how to interact with women by looking at their father or other significant male role models. There is an important need to surround your son with good role models so that they see what positive, healthy and respectful interactions look like.
I would argue that a mother’s relationship is equally important for boys in their development. Mothers are the barometer for the way boys learn to interact with the world around them from the moment they are born. The relationship and guidance a mother provides her son is probably one of the most important indicators of how he will later interact with female friends, colleagues and partners. Mothers are a role model, guide and teacher.
Mothers need to draw a line in the sand around the behaviours they are willing to accept from their sons. In an age of entitlement and expectation, every relationship needs to be based on high expectations for respectful interactions and service. Yes – boys should also be expected to contribute around the house, doing all the household jobs. The expectations need to be set high and boys need to realise that they are part of a team and everyone (including fathers) work together to get the household jobs done.
Last week, I listened to a podcast that interviewed Taurana Burke, who started the “Me Too” movement in 2007. Burke talked about the changes we are seeing in society with a greater focus on gender equity. In the short term, she feels we are witnessing individual changes. People are able to talk about personal experiences and examples of behaviour that happened which were offensive or wrong.
In the longer term, she views changes happening on a societal level. She is optimistic that this movement is not going to dissipate or run out of steam. She said, ‘When a light goes on and shows you something, you can never un-see it.’
Interestingly, she felt that social media Metoo# has in some ways been a distraction. Burke states that the Harvey Weinsteins of this world should have been called out under MeToo# but this is not how the longer-term change will occur. Burke said ‘We can fire Bob from accounting and take so and so off the board but if the boys of today are not learning and unlearning what is acceptable behaviour then all that is happening is we are going to create a replacement for them.’
She went on to say ‘Behaviour does not happen in a vacuum, it happens because society creates space for this to happen. The real issue is that out there, there is a little boy being socialised to disrespect women, to not respect other peoples’ bodies or to think he is better because he is a male.’
This is where we all need to focus because we want to grow the next generation of boys, which includes your son, to be different.
We have a big responsibility and mothers and fathers everywhere have the opportunity to make sure that their sons interact with them in ways that are respectful and kind and free from gender and any other kind of bias.
So, as the glow of the Mother’s Day season is still in our rear-view mirror, it is important to reflect on the important role our mothers play in developing the next generation of men. Men who interact with women in ways that are more respectful than the generations before them.