I dare you to shop for loose
fitting clothes for a teenage girl right now. Seriously, I dare you. Even
though I’m sure someone declared that overalls are making a comeback (please, no), many retailers, specifically the ones targeting young women, are
still rocking the skinny everything look.
My high school had a dress code. While it would have been nice to wear jeans
to school, black or grey pants were the only option. Or skirts. It should be noted that the length of my skirts never came into
question. Then again, it was the ‘90s and grunge was all the rage. The
baggier (and dirtier?), the better.
A North Dakota High School recently made headlines when they banned
yoga pants and other tight legware (skinny jeans and jeggings) on the grounds
that these kinds of pants are too distracting for both male students and male
What? The teachers are distracted by the
pants? And the pants are the ones
This isn’t the first school to place such a ban, and it
probably won’t be the last. But I have
to wonder: if the boys and teachers are so distracted, why are we punishing the
The big problem is that schools don’t want to face the real
issue. This is a matter of respect. Dress codes and behavior are two separate
issues. If boys are distracted by pants, then, maybe, boys need more lessons in social skills and mutual respect.
Girls are often socialized to be polite, quiet and
appropriate, while boys, well, they’re just boys, right?
We have to rethink how we teach boys and girls from the beginning. Mutual respect works both ways and it’s time
to focus on respect. Here's how to do that in five easy steps:
1. Establish appropriate
I don’t know where the misguided notion that little boys
should be able to pee on any public tree in sight just because they can originated, but giving boys the
power to pee all over town is the beginning of a downward spiral. It should be noted that I’m not looking for
equal rights on this one, parents. I
don’t think any child should be seen peeing on a tree in the middle of a park.
Boundaries, both physical and emotional, are important. Establishing appropriate boundaries begins at home. I know that some parents believe in an open-door policy when it comes to using the bathroom. If that’s your thing, go
for it. But be certain that your child
understands that many people prefer privacy in the bathroom. Out in the world, kids need to respect closed
While kids are naturally inquisitive and will ask questions
about the physical appearance of others, it’s important to set boundaries when
it comes to how and when you talk about these things. With a toddler, an immediate and honest
answer works best. But older kids should
learn to respect the feelings of others.
My daughter recently came home crying because a classmate
repeatedly asked her about a freckle on her forehead. No matter the answer, she just kept pointing
and asking. It was embarrassing for my
daughter, for sure, but it was also confusing. She would never, ever do the same and felt hurt that someone would do
that to her (especially after she asked her to stop).
Reading chapter books with my daughter is lovely. Whether it’s a super-girl theme or a story
about candy fairies, the books are clever, engaging and contain lessons on
friendship. Reading chapter books with
my son? That’s a different story. It’s one fart or burp joke after another. Yes, there are still lessons on friendship, and there are books for boys out there that downplay the potty humor. But it is
a theme nonetheless.
Put the potty humor in perspective. I always tell my son it’s funny when we read
it, but we wouldn’t ever talk that way with friends because that kind of talk
isn’t appropriate. We have to teach kids
to think about how others might feel in response to their words. We have to empower them to use kind words and
respect the feelings and reactions of others.
Stop running from the hard topics. When they don’t have the information, they make stuff up.
3. Feed the curiosity:
At some point, all kids want to know where babies come from,
why girls and boys have different parts and the real function of nipples. Teach them. Keep it age appropriate, but use the words. Practice saying “vagina” and “penis” so that
you don’t turn red every time your child says them. Heck, it might even help to practice this before you have kids. That’s solid advice
Stop running from the hard topics. When they don’t have the information, they
make stuff up. Listen to their questions
and provide answers that they can process and understand. Uncover the mysteries so that they can move
4. Unpack the
Hiding beneath almost every class clown is a child full of
insecurities and questions. I would
know, these kids often end up in my office when their “distracting” behavior
becomes an issue at school.
Perhaps they find that inappropriate jokes get a laugh, so
they run with it to be funny. Maybe they
don’t know how to make friends. They
might even be hiding sadness or anxiety.
Help your child verbalize his insecurities. Discuss them. Process them. Find ways to
channel those insecurities into something positive. Kids don’t always know how to ask for
help. As much as we socialize little
girls to be polite, we socialize little boys to be tough. It’s hard to ask for help when you’re
supposed to be a tough guy.
My son looks up to his dad. You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice when he asks when daddy will be home from work.
5. Find appropriate role
Still clinging to those professional athletes as positive
role models because your kids just love
baseball? I’m not saying that athletes
don’t make good role models, but they shouldn’t be the only male figures your
child looks up to.
My son looks up to his dad. You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice when he asks when
daddy will be home from work. But he
also looks up to my brother. He asks
endless questions about him. Is his job
fun or boring? Does he like soccer? Where does he go hiking? What’s his favorite food?
Those are real life role models – people who inspire him
because he knows them. But we also talk about
historical figures, artists, scientists and explorers. He recently asked if he could please meet the Wild Kratts, because I
think he secretly wants to grow up to be a Kratt brother.
We have to expose kids to more than just one kind of
hero. We have to talk about what really
makes a man a good role model. Kindness,
respect, loyalty and compassion are all traits that make for good role models.
It’s great to hit the ball out of the park, but it’s even
better if you turn around and thank the crowd for believing in you after.