Thursday, October 11, 2012

Inspired by Day of the Girl Blog: Thoughts from a Mama of Boys

The United Nations established today, October 11, 2012 as the first International Day of the Girl. 

The Day of the Girl website states:
In reserving a day for advocacy and action by and for girls, the UN has signaled its commitment to end gender stereotypes, discrimination, violence, and economic disparities that disproportionately affect girls... including gender violence, early marriage, child labor, and discrimination at work.
Leading up to this day, I knew I wanted to recognize it, honor it and write about it, but what exactly to write challenged me because the struggles, challenges and realities facing girls and women across the world remain so intense, including right here in the U.S. where this statistical reality haunts me - 1 in 4 girls/women in the U.S. have survived attempted rape or sexual assault.

As a mother of two boys and as a woman, these realities  overwhelm me at times. It is my job to raise my boys so that they respect girls, so that they will stand up and speak out when they are teenagers and hear other boys speak in a degrading way about their female classmates, so that they will be men who will insist on a world free of gender discrimination. How do I do this? In short, how do I raise my boys to be good men?

I believe it will take boys and girls, women and men committed to change to achieve gender equality and end gender discrimination, violence, forced marriage, child labor, etc. It is my job to raise boys to be the type of men who will advocate for change and who will respect and appreciate their female counterparts in the world. I have been thinking a lot about how I do that. 

  1. Set a positive example - It must start at home with my husband and I sharing household responsibilities and work responsibilities and modeling a respectful and equal relationship in which we honor each other for who we are. Also, as my husband rightly noted, we (especially he) must also ourselves model social engagement through our own efforts to create a more just world.
  2. Foster compassion and understanding - When I  see Wild Thing do something truly kind for someone else (without being told to or prompted to), it warms my heart, and I think that maybe I am getting something right as a parent. Yes, it makes me proud to hear him count or recognize his letters, but if I can teach him to be compassionate, especially to those who are different from him, I know that character trait will serve him well in life and that he can make a difference in the life of others. 
  3. Introduce them to strong females - In real life and through books/stories, etc., sometimes the tendency is for us as parents to get boy books for boys and girl books for girls, while I think kids need to see stories with characters like them, I also think sharing books with my boys in which a girl is the hero is equally  important for their worldview.
  4.  Foster generosity - Greed is connected to many of the challenges facing girls in the world as people take advantage of the vulnerable. We teach our children to share, but the adult world still remains obsessed with ownership and the acquisition of stuff. If I can foster a generous spirit in my children, I can raise men who see the importance of giving, rather than taking. I must also set the example by giving to those less fortunate and by living within my means, maintaining a humble home where we are not surrounded and obsessed with our stuff, but are surrounded and focused on each other.
  5. Fill their lives with proper male role models - When talking about this post with my husband, he shared how valuable it was in his own life to not only have a father who modeled a commitment to equality, social justice and respect for others, but of the value of having other men in his life who were positive role models. My husband noted that what we teach our children through books and discussions is great, but what they see everyday matters much more. 
To learn more about International Day of the Girl, visit the Day of the Girl website.  

CARE is engaged in work to end child marriage and in other endeavors to support girls.

Jen at Kitchen Counter Chronicles has a great post about the importance of Day of the Girl and about a touching conversation recently with her 6 year-old daughter.  

No Time for Flashcards has a great list of books about strong girls.  

Now, I want to hear from you. If you are a mom, what do you do to raise your girls to be strong women or to raise your boys to be men who will respect and value women and want them to have equal rights? How do you talk to your children about inequality in the world? Please join the conversation here in the comments or on Facebook at The Good Long Road.


  1. this is a really great post, I'd love you to consider linking it to the Sunday Parenting Party.

  2. Thank you for adding your voice on Day of the Girl with this great post. It's important to mark what we can do to better the lives of girls - as women, mothers of boys and girls and as daughters. Thank you for highlighting the importance of this!
    Kayla, World Vision UK

  3. Sharing books and movies with our sons that show girls and women as heroes is so important. We are often fearful that they will not like them and perceive them as "for girls", but I think the success of Hunger Games proves that everyone can get behind a true hero, no matter their gender.

  4. The scourge of human trafficking in our world - in the United States just grieves me. I want to rescue all these girls and women, as I have my own life events and no one rescued me. But these evil sins against women/girls in our world is so big. I love that the author wants her 2 boys to grow up and be men of integrity and defenders - that is fabulous, but Irespectfully say, that is not your job, or not primarily. Really, only a good man can show a boy how to be a good man. We women try and do it all, but no matter how hard we try, and no matter how sincere we want it, boys need men to teach them and show them how to be men of integrity and rescuers, and the girls around them will see this, too. They need to see what a good man looks like, or how will they ever recognize if a man is one? As much as Murphy Brown let off the shot that snowballed single parenthood among women and the belief we do not need a man to have and raise children, the fact is, we do need men. We may not necessarily need men for ourselves, but our children need men - there's just some things we can't read up on. I hope there is at least one good man in your life - be it husband/boy- friend/grandpa/uncle/friend in your and your children's lives, I hope you'll invite in him to give your children what we cannot give them. In the meantime, I pray the girls/women who are so abused, misused, and abandoned are rescued - soon.

  5. Such an important topic ... and a wonderful post, Jennifer! I think it's so important to teach our children compassion and set positive examples. Great perspective on the Day of the Girl! :) Deb @ and

  6. What a Great post!

    You Jennifer and your husband are true role models for the parents of this generation.

    Power to you both for raising your children in the right way and for them to begin their lives with all this goodness inside.

    Love your work!

  7. Definitely adding this into my resource roundup on Shaping Youth where I wrote about Int'l Day of the Girl at length:

    I STRONGLY feel the media msgs we're serving to youth are interdependent, and am so glad you addressed this specifically for boys because they really are inextricably entwined. (fwiw, I touched on this need for raising the bar of humanity in The Bro Code docu film post too, titled: "Media, Masculinity and Misogynistic Misfires" So happy to hear another voice in what feels like an echo chamber sometimes. (Do you follow Crystal @AchillesEffect on Twitter? She's got great posts about this too...)

    Thank you Jennifer! Best, Amy