Congratulations! You’ve officially become a parent! How do you feel? Happy? Scared? Nervous? Don’t worry! Those feelings are totally natural. Now whether you are a mother or a father, or both, you now have a big responsibility. You now have a job that will be full of love, sorrow, fear, heartbreak, but most of all, it’s a thankless job. You still here? Good! Being a parent means that you’re protective yet spacious, saying that you have to protect your child from the horror of this world for as long as you can, but slowly introduce what the world is really like. While one half of the world can be terrible, ugly, and scarred, the other half can be full of love, life, and nurturing. But the most important thing to teach your child is that women hold up half the sky. The following handbook is five manifestos on how to raise a child.
Now keep in mind that these are merely my suggestions on how to raise a child. You, by no means, have to follow these. My first suggestion is to raise them to be a feminist. Whether you have a boy or a girl, it’s important to tell both of them the importance of women. Without them, the whole world will fall apart. A Chinese proverb stated that “women hold up half the sky”. In order to teach both genders how to be feminist, we need to give both choices to the boy and the girl. We need to tell our girls that they can shoot for anything. They can become a lawyer, a chemist, an engineer, while at the same time we can tell boys that they can be chefs, nurses, teachers. There is no way in any possible universe, that women’s roles can expand if the men’s don’t. We need to add on to the ‘roles’. For boys, while teaching them to be tough, we need to teach them that it’s ok to have feelings. For girls, we don’t need to teach them that they need to be delicate, it’s okay for them to be tough. It isn’t being b****y, it’s being firm for what they believe in. Now when it comes to boys and their emotions, they are allowed to cry and show their emotions. Society shoves the notion that when boys cry it shows weakness. But as Anurag Prakash Ray but once said; “crying isn’t a weakness, it’s the result of being strong for too long.” Let your children be free for who they want to be. If your son wants to dress in pink and your daughter wants to dress in blue, then that’s fine. In the 19th century, the ‘gender-signifiers’ were switched, boys used to wear pink and vice versa.
The second suggestion is to teach them appreciation and gratitude. These traits are very important to teach children because when they are older, they’ll be more polite and pleasant for others, but by learning gratitude, they can learn to be sensitive to the feelings of others. They can develop empathy and lifelong skills along the way. In order to do that, you have to get them a phone. Not an iPhone 14, I mean a flip phone (if those still exist). And eventually, you have to slowly introduce them into better versions of phones. I remember I was so excited when my dad gave me my first phone, which was a flip phone. It didn’t have internet, it didn’t have any fancy apps, or games. I had this phone for 3 years until my dad gave me a phone that has a built-in keyboard. I’ve never been so happy in my life. Over the course of the years, my parents slowly introduced me to the different more, modern phones, even though I never asked for them.
When it comes to your children, you need to show gratitude for the everyday things you do. Say the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when you talk to them or others around you. Teach things to do things for themselves. Sure they might make a big mess mixing the pancake batter and you want to step in and do it yourself, but then they’ll stop appreciating the help because they are going to expect it. When you let them do things for themselves, you can guide them to do it properly, but this will also teach them independence for the future. They’re going to realize that things take effort when they put their dirty plates in the sink or feed the dog. All in all, teach them the five elements of harmony (honesty, kindness, laughter, generosity, and loyalty).
The third thing to teach them with respect. This sounds complicated but it’s actually not. The first thing to teach is no means no. This will girls that they have the right to say no to something, but it will also teach the boy to respect the word no. If you don’t understand what I mean, think of it this way. When you teach a girl self-defense against rape, you also teach a boy not to rape. In order to do that, you must model healthy problem-solving at home. A sociologist named W. Bradford Wilcox at the University of Virginia has found that children’s exposure to divorce or abuse has been linked to poor conflict resolution in future romantic relationships. Another way to teach respect is to tell them that you have to earn respect, not demand it. In order to earn the respect of your child, you don’t steal from them, don’t violate their privacy, and respect them. My mom lost my respect when she stole $500 from my bank account to go shopping. To this day, she still hasn’t paid it back. And that’s another thing, you must know when to apologize for your mistakes. When you show your child that you were wrong about something, it will show that you are a mature, respectful adult, and they will model that behavior.
The fourth thing that I would like to touch upon is friendship. Of course, that’s something that you want your child to have. I’m going to shift over to males for a moment. When it comes to sons, you would want to encourage them to have female friends, while at the same time, teach them that they can’t use the word ‘girl’ as an insult. That way the ‘jokes’ won’t become offense sexist jokes in the future. Research at Arizona State University found that by the end of preschool, children start segregating by sex, and this reinforces gender stereotypes. But children who are encouraged to play with friends of the opposite sex learn better problem-solving and communication. When it comes to children of both genders, one way that you can prevent sexism in the future is you can encourage coed birthday parties and sports team. With friendship of the opposite gender, kids will learn to bond and connect with others. That way when they grow up, they won’t have to see each other as objects. And while they make friends with the opposite gender, have them make friends with other races. That will discourage racism and phobias of races and sexualities.
The last thing that I would like to talk about is education. When it comes to girls and boys, you’ve probably heard that boys excel at science and math, and girls at language and reading. This will have a terrible consequence on the mentality of the child. When you put them in a bubble of stereotypes, you limit their ability to succeed in a different field. In order to fight the stereotypes, fathers can talk to daughters and vice versa. Encourage boys to read books about girls and girls read books about boys. That way they’ll understand each other. Make them think about the bigger picture, like why do photographs have all white men, or why does the mother of the Berenstain Bears never leave the house? Show your children that it’s not always boys who save the day, and it’s not always girls who need saving. Have them read books about different races, show them that it’s different when it comes to races. Have them learn that everyone is different early on, don’t have them be naive as I was. This stage should begin at three years old, that’s when they start to notice stereotypes.
Raising children isn’t just about preparing them for the outside world, telling them what and what not to do. That’s part of it, but so much more. Raising a daughter isn’t just about telling them how to maintain themselves when it comes to their periods (please do so, it’s so much easier when people teach you). It’s showing them that it’s ok to be tough when it comes to what they believe in. Present the idea to girls that it’s ok to say no, that they have a voice and they are allowed to use it. Show boys that it’s ok to have strength, strength to acknowledge their emotions. Teach BOTH of them to provide for families, but also independence. Show them how to be tough, tough enough to stand up to intolerance. Give them confidence, to pursue whatever they’re passionate about. The first step to all this is to simply care.