by Dr. Kwabena Blankson | Contributor
You and your son may not know this, but in the next romantic relationship he is in, he is (statistically speaking) more likely to be a perpetrator of violence than the victim. How could your sweet young man—school president, star varsity athlete, honor student—commit an act of violence (physical, emotional) against his partner? He probably didn’t begin his relationship with those intentions. But let’s be honest—who is he modeling his relationship from? His father who yells at his mother or sometimes loses control? His friends that brag about violence against women using dehumanizing language? Or maybe it’s just the general culture around him (TV, movies, sports, music, pornography) that floods his psyche with images of aggression towards women?
Those are just excuses. Influences, possibly. But still excuses. Your young man must take personal responsibility for his own actions. But as a parent, you can play a role. Your influence can make it easier for your son to make the right choices.
1. Model loving behavior. Show your teenage son how men and women in a relationship should treat each other. When you fall short of your standard, point out to your son what you and your spouse could have done better.
2. Observe his behavior. How do you know what to correct if you don’t know how your son acts? How does he talk to the women he is closest to in his life, his mother, his sisters? Is there behavior that can be corrected at home? When he does eventually bring that young woman home (and you should be meeting the young women your teenager is dating), please watch his behavior. Take mental notes on the way he treats his date.
3. Don’t just talk—teach. If he’s in a relationship, ask him privately how things are going. Instruct him on how to handle certain situations. Discuss appropriate boundaries and how to adhere to them. Teach him that it’s not ok to ask a girl to send pictures of her naked body. Warn him about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. Teach him that it does matter if she or he is drunk or under the influence. Teach him that it doesn’t matter what she’s wearing. Teach him that no ALWAYS means no.
4. Get help. If you’re not sure how to manage your son or if he’s already been a perpetrator, find help. Talk to his doctor. Find him a therapist. Connect with online resources. Your son may not be the only one who needs help. Mom and Dad, do your own intimate relationships need a hard look in the mirror? Helping your son may mean helping yourself first. Be courageous.
Though your son is ultimately responsible for his actions, you are responsible for how you raise him. Have you given him the tools to be the type of young man who treats women with respect? To be men of character, men of honor? So I implore you—don’t take my letter as an affront. We have the same goal. Together, let’s raise a generation of young men who honor women.
“Controlling and abusive relationships happen across all ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Recognizing them is the first stop toward ending a potentially tragic cycle.” – excerpt from “Teen Relationships: Healthy or Not” by Dr. Susan Sugerman, adolescent physician and founder of Dallas-based Girls To Women Health and Wellness. See article HERE.
A graduate of Harvard College and the Yale School of Medicine, Kwabena “Bobo” Blankson is a Board Certified pediatrician with subspecialty training in Adolescent Medicine. He has been published in the NYTimes.com, Time.com, Forbes.com, CBSnews.com, and more. Most recently, he served as a featured expert on Oprah’s Happiness OCourse.
In 2015, Dr. Blankson joined Girls to Women Health and Wellness in Dallas and launched Young Men’s Health and Wellness. “Young men and women deserve specialized care — they are not just ‘big kids’ or ‘little adults’. I enjoy aiding in their personal pursuit of a healthy, happy life.”