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Teaching boys positive masculinity

As a mother of two boys and one girl, I was fascinated to learn about strength-based approaches to psychology such as positive masculinity.

I wondered what I could learn from such a model that would be useful in my parenting role to address issues of gender equality. I set out to do some digging and reading on this concept, especially because it is gaining currency in the feminist world as critical to violence prevention.

I found this article by Mark Kiselica at the College of New Jersey and his colleague Matt Englar-Carlson at California State University – Fullerton, that suggests a far more effective way of building the Positive Masculinity Model – a framework which accentuates the positive aspects of male development.

The goal, they say, is to help men and boys learn and embrace healthy and constructive aspects of masculinity.

Shortly thereafter, I was privileged to meet Luke Daniels, the author of “Pulling the Punches: Defeating Domestic Violence”, and learnt more about how men and boys can play a critical role in violence prevention.

Daniels states that after listening to the stories of perpetrators about the mistreatment they endured as children, he found that the more abusive their childhoods were, the more vicious the violence they unleashed on their partners.

He notes that many parents did their best in raising children and deserve no blame, but they themselves were badly mistreated as children. Thus, it is no surprise that unconsciously they have passed on mistreatment to their children.

He concludes that children look to role models; and hence, the way the adults behave is extremely important for the young minds. If children are treated well and not exposed to violence, they are unlikely to grow up to hurt anyone.

If girls are treated with respect and shown love by their parents, they would never put up with an abusive relationship for any length of time.

Therefore, the critical function of role models in developing positive masculinity needs to be underscored.

In a 2013 research by K. Roberts-Douglas and H. Curtis-Boles, exploring  positive masculinity development in African-American men, it was found that positive male models, in particular fathers and grandfathers, play the largest role in building  healthy and adaptive masculine identities in contrast to one’s peers and media.

We also need to de-emphasize labour division in the home and the whole stereotype that girls cook and do dishes while boys sit and watch television or help daddy wash the car. That already sets in motion unequal power relations in the home, and later in the public sphere.

There is no women’s work. There is no man’s work. There is work, and men and women are a team. It is important to promote the fact that every member is valuable. This will show that anyone can do anything; and there are no roles for only men or women.

While there is no silver bullet about how to raise boys to respect women and promote a fairer world, we trust that by developing the positive aspects of masculinity, we as parents will instill the value of gender equality right from birth and better equip men to operate in a world where women are increasingly and rightfully in positions of power and authority.

We hope that we can all be part of creating a more equal world by planting the seeds right now.

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