As a mother of two daughters, I often feel very grateful they are growing up in a time when women are speaking up about equality and more men are being held accountable for bad behaviour. Having said that, things still happen which make me realise we have a long way to go.
I recently read an anonymous post from a parent on a Facebook parenting group asking for advice.
Her daughter was often picked on at school and the most recent event was at the hands of a male peer. This boy pushed her over, kissed her several times and squeezed her bottom.
In my opinion – and the feeling was unanimous form all who commented – anything that makes a child feel uncomfortable is unacceptable. Regardless of the age.
The children were in year 4. They were nine and 10-year-olds who should absolutely have known better.
It’s appalling he did what he did. Appalling he has, somewhere along the line, probably witnessed similar behaviour and it is appalling the mother of this young girl felt she needed reassurance from the wider parenting community that what had happened was not OK.
I started thinking of my own daughters and recalled a recent conversation with a friend about enrolling our young girls in a self-defence class – not because they had shown an interest in the sport or that it would be fun for them. We thought it was important for them to learn how to protect and defend themselves.
I would bet most of the time, martial arts is used as a way for boys to learn discipline and teamwork, and it’s probably a bit of fun. For girls, it’s about being able to protect themselves and stay safe. It may still be fun, however, chances are the girls are the ones who are likely to need to use the skills they will learn and not the boys.
When my eldest daughter was in kindergarten, one of her male classmates had started showing his penis to the girls. He was five and perhaps he thought it was funny. However, he first took them to an isolated and hidden place in the playground which makes me think he knew it was wrong and that is what upset me at the time.
This boy would also constantly try to kiss my daughter and he became very possessive of her. No one else was allowed to sit next to her in class and he insisted on playing with her every day. When I raised my concerns with the teacher, they told me they were good friends and it was wonderful my “good girl” was providing such a good influence on this boy who was typically quite disruptive in class.
I am sure many parents who have sons are making a point of teaching them how to behave appropriately and to respect girls. Chances are the good, polite, kind and considerate males who my girls come across in their life will far outweigh the ones who think it’s OK to flash their privates or pin them down to kiss them.
I think the best we can do for our children is to teach them any type of unwanted attention or touching – from males or females – is unacceptable and if they experience it themselves or witness it happening, they should speak up or seek help.
Clearly, that lesson is still urgently needed.
- Christy Kidner is an editorial assistant at The Canberra Times.