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Teaching Kids About a Heavy Topic in an Age-Appropriate Way

Updated on May 21, 2010

Fatherhood isn’t Just Playing Catch

What is my job as a father? When you boil it down, it’s to do everything I can to ensure that my kids are prepared to take their place in the world as good, involved, capable, responsible people. I also feel that it's my job to take on some heavy issues. There are many. But at the moment I'm thinking about the problems women face in society, and how there's this double standard of responsibility for behavior when men and women mix. I'm talking about rape. And you know, we don't talk about it enough.

Taking Responsibility

No, I'm not going to get all guy-guilt on you, and talk about how all men are bastards who will rape someone if they can get away with it (we aren't). But we do have, as a culture if not as individuals, this idea that a guy who has a lot of sex is a stud, but a girl who has a lot of sex is a slut. Ick. Worse, we recognize that sexual assault is not okay, but look at the PSAs and all the literature about it: it's all about how women can protect themselves against the men who would violate them. How about some responsibility for our own behavior, guys? How about letting each other know that it's not okay (for example) to get the girl drunk and take advantage of her? Hmm?

Now, my days of hanging out at the pub are pretty much done. I'm out of school, married, with kids, pretty much a homebody. I don't spend a lot of time where there's much call to keep an eye open for bad behavior of that sort. But that doesn't mean I can't do anything, and it doesn't mean I have to talk about age-inappropriate stuff with the kids.

Age-Appropriate Instruction

I have two small boys, and they are very affectionate fellows. They love to hug people--each other, their parents and grandparents, their friends, everyone. But sometimes, the person (usually another kid they just met) doesn't want a hug. That's when I tell the boys, "Hugs are only nice if both people want to be hugging." I think they get it.

By the same token, if for some reason they don't want to kiss old Auntie Muriel, and Auntie Muriel gets upset, I'll tell her the same thing. No means no, and nothing gives anybody the right to touch my sons without their okay. This policy might cause some friction at family gatherings (it hasn't so far, thank goodness), but I am trying to send a clear message that it's not okay to expect, or require, someone to kiss you if they don't want to.

It's my hope that my boys will internalize this, and learn that there's no reason anybody should be coerced into so much as an unwanted hug.

Fathers of sons? I hope you'll do something similar.


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    • profile image

      leighsah 7 years ago

      I use the exact same tactic with Jacob!!(and will continue it with Sarah) I think it's the most age apprpriate way to go about it. Right on Jeff!

    • Cathi Sutton profile image

      Cathi Sutton 7 years ago

      Very good Hub. And you are oh so right about kids learning no means no on both sides of the fence, giving or recieving physical demonstrations with others. I have four sons, two of which will hug anyone on the planet just about, and two who would rather simply shake hands and nothing more. But they each know it is completely up to them to accept physical greetings etc, and to not expect everyone to accept theirs. Again very good Hub!

    • ThoughtfulSpot profile image

      ThoughtfulSpot 7 years ago from PA

      Thank you Jeff. I'm impressed with your writing style, your choice of topic, and your standards for raising your boys. (Based on my limited knowledge of you, of course!lol). I clicked because I have 2 boys of my own, and was suprised to see what the topic actually covered. I completely agree with you, on all counts. I take a stand with my relatives that kissing and hugging is NOT a necessity, and should only happen if both parties agree. It has, unfortunately, caused some friction, but I think its worth it. But, I never thought about it in the context of this much more serious topic before. Thank you for pointing out in a new way, that what we teach our children today, has a huge impact on how they behave tomorrow. Off to "follow" you...

    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 7 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Thanks to all of you for your kind words. Out of curiosity, Thoughtful, are you a man or a woman? Leighsah is my sister, and Cathi's pic and name indicate she's a woman, but I can't guess if you are or not.

      I ask because as far as I know, no guys have read or commented on this, and I wonder if that's significant.

    • profile image

      Melissa 6 years ago

      Telling kids how to interact appropriately with others is key. Even more important is to think about your own behavior. Kids may or may not hear what you say, but they are always, always watching what you do. You have to embody the way you want them to behave, talk, and respond. Keep up the good work!

    • ThoughtfulSpot profile image

      ThoughtfulSpot 6 years ago from PA

      Jeff - I am a woman... And, now I think I need a better profile pic if you can't tell! lol. Its just a hunch, but I think that perhaps women gravitate towards titles about raising children more than men do. My husband is great with our kids, and loves them dearly, but I have never seen him pick up a book or read an article on the subject. And, your title doesn't really give a hint as to the topic of your hub. Just a thought...

    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Hi again, Thoughtful! After visiting your profile page, and seeing your pic the proper size, I can totally tell! You're right about the title; one or two others have mentioned it. I think I need to change it, as soon as I can think of a good one.

    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 6 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Thanks again to the folks who suggested putting a more descriptive title on this hub. As you can see, I've taken your advice.

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