I put on my shoes, grabbed my coffee tumbler and my bag, and went to give kisses before leaving the house. When I got to my daughter I said, “hugs and kisses?” She wrapped her little arms around me, and I leaned down to give her a kiss, and she pulled away and said, “No daddy! No kisses.”
“Okay,” I said, “I hope you have an awesome day sweetie! Love you lots!”
“Love you too daddy.”
Alright, that doesn’t happen all the time…sometimes daddy gets his kisses. However, at least once a week, my daughter expresses her desires to not have any kisses or hugs. It’s not because she’s in a bad mood, or she’s angry at me, or anything like that. Sometimes, like all of us, she doesn’t want to get any kisses.
And I respect that decision. Why? Because I firmly believe that my daughter should know that when she says no to something, she should expect those desires to be adhered to. Because I want my daughter to know at a young age (she’s 3.5 years old) that if she says no about someone invading her space, that it’s not okay for someone to violate that decision and that she can tell someone when those lines have been crossed.
And too often we think that’s enough.
We think that, as parents, we should only be teaching our daughters how to say no. We think that we should be training our daughters in self-defence so that when they grow up they won’t be taken advantage of, or worse, experience the sexual violence and abuse that is so prevalent in our world today. Recently with the #MeToo campaign (I wrote another response to this campaign as well which you can see here), we’ve seen women speaking out about their experiences with sexual harassment and violence. For many it’s been shocking to see how common these experiences are among women. Unfortunately, too many of the responses to this realization has been, “We need to teach our daughters to say no and how to defend themselves!”
Yes, that’s a great thing to do, to empower our daughters to make those choices and defend them. AND that’s only a small portion of the way we should be moving forward.
The other reason I respect my daughter’s decision about getting a kiss and a hug from me? It’s so my son can see what it means to honour a woman. It’s setting an example for my son that shows him what it truly means to be a man…a gentleman. To respect those wishes so that no women has to defend herself. To show him that it is never okay to be in someone’s space without their express consent. To show him that women are not some object that is to be used, but rather a human being. A human being that deserves respect and to be listened to.
It’s the same reason that mom and dad don’t have specific roles within our house. Dad and mom do the dishes, mow the lawn, do laundry, weed the garden, change lightbulbs, vacuum the floor, and make supper. This way, both of our children know that our gender doesn’t define the role that you have to play within the home and at work.
I think it’s time to change the narrative we’ve long been teaching our children. That it’s not just up to our daughters to make sure there is no need for a future #MeToo campaign, it’s equally (and dare I say, more) important that we teach our sons to shed the bias and privilege that is embedded in our culture.
In order to teach our children these lessons, I can think of the perfect place to start. With ourselves. With us modelling what that looks like so that our children don’t only hear this message, but they see it being lived.
About Jason Dykstra
Jason Dykstra is a husband, father of four (three living), and a conflict management specialist. After the loss of his son in 2016, Jason started a blog called, They Call Me Dad, where he explores #dadlife, grief, the role of men in today’s world, and shares his many mistakes as a parent.
For work Jason serves organizations and churches as they turn conflict situations into creative solutions. As an international speaker and trainer, he journeys alongside his clients as they unleash their potential in the areas of conflict management and leadership.