There are abundant resources available online for teaching little girls to respect themselves, and for teaching little boys to respect and relate to women; however there are far fewer people talking about teaching little girls to respect and relate to men.
If true gender equality is ever going to become a reality, boys and girls need to be taught to respect each other. Below are some of the best suggestions for raising boys who respect women. The advice has been rounded out to include both genders.
The article "How Dads Can Teach Sons to Respect Women," written by Carey Casey on Fathers.com, suggests that parents “tell him about what love is—how it often involves strong emotions, but it’s more about a steadfast commitment and a decision to serve and seek her best interests—even when the emotions aren’t there.”
This is a conversation parents should have with their young male and female children. It may seem like it doesn't need to be discussed until the teenage years, but talking about these issues early in life give children more time to internalize the message.
Children learn best by watching the world around them, and the information parents give helps to temper how children process what they see. Teaching that love means responsibility and respect for one-another allows children to watch this dynamic play out in their parent's relationship.
Both parents should be good role models, individually and as a couple. No marriage is perfect just as no person is perfect. When parents, other people, or examples from society fail to live up to behavioral standards, it is important to talk with children about it to avoid confusion.
As Jessica suggests in "Boys, Respect Girls. Girls, Respect Your Selves," published on foundthemarbles.com, teaching children about shock value in the entertainment industry is also essential to combating conflicting gender messages. In "Teaching Our Sons to Respect Women," published on fatherhood.about.com, Wayne Parker suggests children should be taught that entertainers use extreme behavior to gain attention, and that it is often not acceptable behavior.
Parker also suggests that mothers talk to their sons about respect-oriented issues as they arise to offer a perspective fathers cannot. Fathers should also talk to their daughters when the same issues and misunderstanding arise. This will slowly dismantle the stereotypes that children might absorb from their environments.
Jessica suggests encouraging little boys to have female friends. Encouraging boys and girls to create and maintain real friendships from an early age can foster a mutual respect between genders.
Splitting up the household chores is also suggested by Jessica and Parker, but neither author mentions the engendered aspect of many chores. By rotating chores, parents can avoid showing children that some work is for men and other work is for women. Encourage sons and daughters to help with all tasks that are suitable for children to undertake. This not only helps out mom and dad, it will later help children to become self-sufficient.
Respectwomen.com, allparenting.com, and many other websites talk about discussing sexual violence with teenage boys, and the mantra "no means no" is often a central theme for these articles. This is a discussion that should be had with both genders. While it may not seem as important for girls to understand issues of sexual aggression, the stigma that men and adolescent boys constantly crave sex can and does become an excuse for unwanted sexual aggression.
Parents can set a foundation for this discussion early on by ensuring children understand to respect personal boundaries. Parents should also teach children not to engage in physical and verbal aggressive behaviors. As Dr. Peggy Drexler suggests in "Raising Confident Sons Who Have Respect for Others," these lessons should be situated in a larger discussion about having respect for other people.
These are only a few of the excellent suggestions available from the above websites. While all of them are oriented towards boys, it is just as important to ensure girls understand these issues as well.
Here are some additional articles on this topic: "How to Talk With Your Sons About Robin Thicke" by Eric Clapp; "No More Steubenvilles: How To Raise Boys to be Kind Men" by Kim Simon; "Do you mind if I teach my sons to respect your daughters?" by Amy Bayliss.