My two sons are growing up with a strong, modern and active woman in the house. Their mother will accept nothing but absolute respect from them and I wouldn't have it any other way.

But many young men seem to lack the "respect gene" for women. Just take a quick look at the news and you will see stories of young women being marginalized, injured and worse. Look at magazines, surf the web and watch a few hours of television and you will see women being objectified at every turn. One of the ways we can battle back against this stigma is for dads to play an active and engaged role in teaching our sons to respect women and treat them as equals.

It may be hard to imagine, but our young boys will one day be boyfriends, husbands and fathers. If we instill in them positive ways to value and treat women at an early age, those lessons will last a lifetime and affect the lives of many women they come in contact with through the years.

Here are a few thoughts on making it happen:


Our children do as we do. So, if we set a positive example for how to behave and treat women, our children will likely pick up on it and make it part of their lives as well. By attitude, I mean comments about a woman's role or abilities. I mean snickers or sneers about lewd comments. I mean sly laughter about jokes or situations involving women that are inappropriate. If you treat your wife as an equal, it will go a long way towards teaching your children to treat women as equals, also.

Gender Roles

In many homes, dads do a fair share of cooking, cleaning and child-raising. But in many homes, those chores and tasks are still predominantly done by women. If you are reluctant to pick up a vacuum cleaner or to scrub a toilet, because you feel that is a woman's job, you will need to change your thinking. If your sons see you pitching in on the housework, they will never know any differently and it will establish, in your sons' eyes, that both parents simply contribute to the workload around the house, gender notwithstanding.

Be Chivalrous

When I entered my teens I remember my grandfather telling me to help my great-grandmother out of the car or up the steps. She was in her 90's and had trouble walking. That lesson taught me a lot about offering my assistance to others, regardless of gender. It is always a respectful gesture to hold a door open for a woman or to pull her chair out for her before sitting down to a meal. This doesn't mean that a man is being subservient to a woman. Rather, it is an indication that a man respects a woman and can show her deference and gentility.

Hold Hands

Imagine the message that a child gets when he sees his father take his mother's hand and caress it or hold it. The child must see that not only do his parents love each other but that his father is making a choice to show his affection and devotion to his wife. This is a simple yet powerful physical representation of how we value and honor our wives.

Talk Kindly

Spouses argue. It happens. But when it occurs in a way that is demeaning — from either party — it diminishes the person and makes them feel less than the other. This is unfair. If you, as the man, verbally treat your wife as subservient, it will not only degrade her but it will illustrate to your sons that this is how you talk to and treat a woman. That will only perpetuate the problem. Argue as equals, not as someone who is in a position of authority or power over your wife.

How You Act in Her Absence

We all get frustrated with our spouses. It's completely natural. We all complain about each other, too. But it's not okay to complain about your wife or gossip about her or denigrate her to your children at any time, especially when she's not around. This will present a terrible example to your children that it's permissible to speak poorly about someone behind their back and even worse, about a person who is such a central, nurturing figure in your children's lives. Remember: build up, don't tear down.

Speak Up

If you see something sexist or demeaning to women on television or in the media, acknowledge it and discuss it. Is a swimsuit calendar demeaning to women? Is the nudity in this film exploitative of women? With your wife, open the lines of communication and acknowledge these parts of our society and allow your children to learn about that and determine if they're appropriate. Many of us grew up with these images around us but had no context because our parents did not discuss them with us. Also, if there's a news story about equal pay for women, stop and discuss it. Explain to your children that some women do not get paid the same as a man who does the exact same job. Let your children begin to see the world around them for what it is so they can form their own opinions from a foundation of knowledge.