So recently I’ve read a couple of articles on how to raise feminist boys.
The basic principles are sound and consistent and not rocket science; modelling equality, allowing a full range of emotions, encouraging freedom in how boys play, especially around dress up and let’s pretend.
In the world of Teletubbies, we were forever defending the decision for Tinky Winky’s favourite toy to be a handbag - knowing as we did that little boys are as fascinated with their mother’s bags as little girls are, and that they very often liked to have a bag as a plaything - so, yes, it’s good to have that acknowledged now. Better late than never.
Another of the principles was to teach boys about consent from an early age, by giving them control over their own bodies by asking whether they want to be hugged or kissed. The thinking being that learning this lesson should mean that boys will grow up being equally considerate to others.
This too reminded of my days working for Anne Wood. It would infuriate her at social occasions when young children were passed round from adult to adult, or embraced regardless of whether or not they wanted to be. “We wouldn’t stand for it as adults, so why should we expect our children to tolerate that kind of behaviour? If people want something they can cuddle whenever they want, they should get a dog!”
It’s a valid point I think. How can we expect our youngsters to grow up sensitive to other’s personal space and understanding autonomy over one’s own physical being, if their earliest experiences have completely disregarded their right to choose who they allow to touch them, and how.
So let’s not take it for granted that children, of any gender, are fine with us picking them up, holding them close, kissing them or whatever. It may not always be necessary to verbalise the request for permission, but we should always pay careful attention to all the signals, to ensure that consent is there.
Not so long ago I was reminded of a time when I was working with a group of excluded 14-year-olds. As an outsider, I often find that children and young people will open up to me more readily than someone working inside the system. Although it breaks my heart when they look to me for solutions I am powerless to provide.
Here is another in my series of articles based on conversations with children, first published in Teach Early Years magazine. In each piece, I focus on one prominent theme. For this one, it’s ANGER. My thanks to editor Mark Hayhurst for allowing reproduction, and if you want to know more, details of this and their other magazines and resources are available at: https://www.teachwire.net
- What lesson would you like grown-ups to learn about how to treat children?
- What I want them to learn… to let the children let all the anger… learn that children… just be able to let all the angers out. (M - female)
Crumbs! This little girl was very determined to make her point, even though she struggled to find the words. It was one of those occasions when a recent event had made quite the impact, and was colouring the child’s responses. However, what she was communicating struck me as very important indeed.
So hands up everyone who made it through all those weeks of lockdown without having a single meltdown…
Thought so. You’d have to be some kind of mythical being not to have lost your rag with someone or other during these exceptionally hard times, and children can’t have escaped being in the firing line. Even though we know they are under stress too, they’ll behave in ways that really push our buttons and make it impossible for us to take that into account. Blow-ups are bound to occur, but when they do, the important thing is how we deal with the situation afterwards.