#FliptheScript: How you talk to your kids matters
“You throw like a girl!”
“One day you’ll meet your Prince Charming.”
“Wipe those tears off your face! Boys don’t cry!”
“You’re so bossy!”
Children are inundated by messages all the time about who, and what, they are supposed to be. Most of the time, these words tell them what is expected of them based upon their gender. Boys are supposed to be tough and take charge, while girls are supposed to be submissive and gentle. You find these messages in the TV shows we watch, the music we listen to, the fairy tales we read to kids at bedtime, and the way toys are marketed at toy stores.
Fairy tales teach young girls to look for their Prince Charming to come and rescue them. This implies they need rescuing: they are not capable and competent on their own.
We teach pre-teen girls that a boy picking on them might just mean that boy has a crush on her, forever linking bullying and violence with romantic love.
We teach teen girls that songs like Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie” (which says, “If she ever tries to leave again I’m a tie her to the bed and set the house on fire”) are normal and commonplace by not correcting the logic and message as it plays over and over on the radio. This lack of communication normalizes that message.
Why do these harmful messages continue to exist?
In some circles, this is an old question and one that has been discussed at length. But it would seem that this question continues to be an important one to consider. There are many facets of this conversation and many potential points to discuss, but let’s look at the central message that is being communicated and promoted in these statements.
Often hidden within each of these genderisms is the inherent message that to be male is to be strong, powerful, and dominant: to be female is to be subservient and secondary, or less than. Men do the rescuing and women are there to be rescued.
The trouble with these categorizations, and what leads to an epidemic like the one we are experiencing, is that they create a breeding ground for power differentials in relationships and those power differentials very often lead to abuse in relationships.
But first, let’s back up a bit before we get into domestic violence.
What are we teaching our kids?
What are we teaching our children about themselves, about relationships, and about equality, if we are communicating these differences on such a basic and core level as the gender they are assigned at birth?
How do these unspoken messages play themselves out as those children grow up to become adults?
What about the little girl who is a gifted leader, but becomes silenced without being given the space to lead? What about the little boy who is emotive and expressive with his feelings, who gets shamed and ultimately shuts down his emotional expression altogether? What are we teaching them?
What are we teaching them about relationships with the opposite gender and the way they function? Do these genderisms promote the idea that everyone is equal and deserves the same amount of respect, power, and opinion as the other? Or are we promoting a power differential in which one partner holds all the power and the other is put into a position of secondary status?
Because if the latter is what we are promoting, we are promoting the dynamics that lead to domestic violence.
Domestic violence is about power and control in relationships in which one person has it all and uses it for their benefit and to the detriment of the other. If we want to end the generational cycle of domestic violence, it has to start with what we teach our children.
So often this cycle of behavior is perpetuated by belief systems created during childhood, either by what is taught to be expected based on one’s gender, or by what a child witnesses between their own parents.
It’s time for us to #flipthescript.
What if we taught our children that everyone has good ideas and everyone has the ability to lead? That all people have valid and important emotions which deserve to be expressed? That there isn’t a weaker gender and a stronger gender?
We must teach young girls that they are valuable, equal, and deserve to be treated with respect - that they are not just there for the rescuing, and in fact are capable of rescuing not only themselves, but others, too.
We absolutely must teach young boys the value of respect for everyone, regardless of their gender, and that vulnerability and emotional expression are traits for everyone, not just girls.
Let’s do the work of ending domestic violence for the next generation today. by changing the stereotypes we assign to children based on their gender. Instead, let’s promote kindness, respect, and acceptance as qualities that all children can aim to embody.
Will you join us in flipping the script?
One in three women will experience abuse in her lifetime. In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, this October we are challenging you to examine whether your words and actions diminish women or help build them up. Use #flipthescript on your favorite social media platform to share your experience with harmful or hurtful words toward women, and how you plan to Flip The Script in your life to promote respect and equality.