How to raise the next generation of men

A lot is said about the girl child. Girls are told from quite a young age that they are the pillars of the home, behave accordingly, start learning early, you will need to manage your future husband’s home, so learn to cook on time, learn to manage money.

All that is good and well, but we, collectively as a society have forgotten the men we are training and grooming these girls for! Not much emphasis is placed on the boy-child asides from the obvious – You need to work hard and take care of your family – what happens in between we don’t really care or show concern in, he’s providing for his family right? That seems to be all that’s required of him.

As a result, we have seen domestic violence on the rise in recent times, we are seeing men who are no longer conditioned to treat women like the ‘weaker vessel’.  A boy used to be taught right from a young age: You protect the women. As you’re going out, look after your sister. What is happening to that lesson? Is there a way we could raise boys right from the earliest age to ensure they don’t grow into men with these violent tendencies? Could it be that the pressure placed on them to be the ‘provider’ is causing them to seek control in all areas and it bleeds into violence towards their spouses?

Take note, the women are not left out in this. There’s the argument that women provoke the men and while that is true or at least true in some cases, is that really enough reason to lash out? Again, what happens to the ‘Walk away’ theory?

Another reason for this could be the enablement by the society. Our African culture has set the men on pedestals, deserving or not, and not that it’s wrong to do so but what happens when that power gets abused? For all intents and purposes, the African culture is a great one, it is only when it is misused or misunderstood that things go awry. Our society should learn to hold men and women accountable for their wrong doings, no matter the status, gender or qualifications.

To answer all the questions that are raised here we spoke to a Psychologist from the BTH Wellness and Therapy in Lagos who preferred anonymity. Some of the questions asked are: What is the science behind it? if this is a learned behaviour, could some be hereditary? And most importantly, how do we raise the young ones to ensure that the next generation of men we’re sending out into the world are stellar men in every sense of the word.

This is what she had to say: “There’s nature and there’s nurture. Nature is your environment, you watch how your parents communicate, how your friends talk about their parents, etc. Nurture is how your own parents raise you, the things they raise you to believe, their way of life, how they teach you how to handle a relationship, how you should treat another person, and so on.

“For domestic violence, it starts from bullying. The things the child sees, he or she tries to imitate. “This suggests that this character trait is learned, as influences primarily from the home can cause men and women alike to act it out in later life on their spouses.

However, there are instances where men and women grew up in good families, where there were no bad influences, the family life is great, he or she was raised right and taught how to respect others. To this her reply was “Usually something may have triggered it. A trigger can come in any form, what a friend says, and their adult experiences. A trigger happens because you have had knowledge of that thing in your mind, maybe even in your subconscious. A trigger could also be a misunderstanding of something they read or heard, like the man is the head of the family and men now try to enforce that power, and end up subduing the opposite sex.”

With all this in mind, the way forward is simply to train your child well. Teach him or her  what’s right. How to respect and treat the woman? “There’s nothing impactful like calling your boy to have a seat and explaining to him that once they grow they are going to meet people from different walks of life, both male and female. Treat a man with respect, treat a woman with respect. Even if there is violence in the home, it is still necessary to tell the children involved that that practice is wrong and not to be emulated,” the Psychologist said.

We spoke to some mothers who have sons in particular to find out their views on what they would want for their sons in future and what they are doing currently to prepare their sons for that future. Here are their responses:

Uduak Usen-Abasi , a business woman, “I would love my son to be married to his friend, they should date for at least a year. His future wife should be God-fearing and loving as well as understand that the man is the head and she is a supporter. I wouldn’t want my son to make her a full time housewife, if she’s a professional in her field that wouldn’t be bad. She must respect him so she can get the best from him. She must be able to accommodate her family and his as well even though we won’t overwhelm her. I wish him to have as almost perfect marriage as they can have. I have already started praying for that. She should just have a bit of everything.”

On how is she preparing her son for the future? “He’s learning how to cook, clean and do little things around the house. He is becoming a gentleman, he waits for me to sit in public before he sits, he goes before me to open doors. He’s now conscious of that. I’ve also taught him how to handle finances; I give him that sense of responsibility as a man. At his age, he’s doing ok. He’s being taught how to be compassionate towards women. I’m actually proud of him. His wife won’t have problems. He knows how to share and consider others.”

Toyosi Gregory-Jonah, a Fashion Outfit owner and Lifestyle blogger,  “The dream wife for my son would have to be a woman who understands and loves herself, because you can’t give what you don’t have. She would be God-fearing and purposeful, knows what she wants from life even before finding my son so she can be sure their dreams align.

“I’m teaching my sons it’s ok to NOT have things their way. It’s ok to fail, but don’t quit because of that! It’s ok to make mistakes but you have to be genuinely sorry and make amends. Also don’t let other people’s opinion shape your life, do the right thing even when no one is watching. Be good and kind and expect nothing in return and to share with others as it fosters relationships,” she said.

We can do better as a society to train the boy child with as much dedication as we do the girl child. Let him know there’s more to being a man than providing for your family. There is nothing manly about a man who abuses his partner physically, verbally or otherwise. If boys are taught to abhor the practice, we will see men in future who will put a stop to such crass behavior.