What Are We Teaching Boys About Successful Women?

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The other day I was listening to Hillary Clinton’s launch for the presidency speech with a group of adults and young children. The children seemed to be playing while the adults listened. However, when I said to a seven-year-old as I pointed to Hillary Clinton on the screen, “She may be the next president of the United States,” to my surprise he turned immediately away from his toys and looked me straight in the eye and said, “A girl?!”

I felt immediately worried that he thought there was something wrong or at least confusing about that. But that was my own defensiveness, because then he raised his arm and put his little hand in a pumped up fist and said with a determined look and strong clear voice, “Yeah!” affirming this was a great thing.

So it seems that when adults have conversations about women’s rights including the right to equal pay for equal work, these young boys are listening even if they appear focused on little boy play. They are also watching their hard working mothers both at home and going off to their jobs. They also see their mothers are going to college and getting advanced degrees.

They are listening and noticing and forming opinions of their own.

A four-year-old told me the other day that his mother used to be a physical therapist but now her job was being his mother. She has a job, he told me seriously. I added that she did have the important job of being his mother and still, at the same time, knew how to be a physical therapist. She still had that knowledge without doing that particular job right now. He listened carefully and seriously and seemed pleased and proud of his mother.

What Are We Teaching Our Young Boys?

So when we don’t know that our youthful sons are listening, we are teaching them by example and by our words. Even at ages 4-7, they are political! They just don’t know what political means. Their feelings, thoughts, opinions, intentions and imaginations are growing quickly as they absorb what they hear. And they hear everything! So it’s very important that we pay attention to what we say in their presence even when we are not talking directly to them.

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Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst and author who does psychotherapy with infants and parents, children, adolescents, and adults. Dr. Hollman's new book: Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Familius.com. She writes about infant, child and adolescent development, mental health, Parental Intelligence, and a broad range of parenting topics.

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