by Alia Fatin Binte Abdullah
As parents, we are responsible for raising our sons to be men who treat women with respect, love and dignity. Here are 10 ways to raise our sons to be gentlemen.
1. Respect women
Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. lived in a time when women were treated like objects. If your husband passes away, others can just “chope” you as their property. When people treat women like objects, you’re regressing to a time of ignorance. Let us not compare women to objects. For example, let’s not say that women who don’t wear hijabs are like uncovered sweets and that the ants will come. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. honoured women. As his followers, let’s teach our sons to honour and respect women like we are taught.
2. The best of you is the best to your family
Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. said, “The best of you are the best to their families, and I am the best to my family.” Some women have admitted that their abusive husbands are leaders of organisations or have received big awards for their contributions to the community. It’s hard for them to speak up because people may doubt them and say, “How can it be?”
It starts at home. You could be really successful and respected outside. However, if you’re an oppressor at home, that’s what you are.
You are only as good as what your family thinks of you. Strive to be the best to your family, especially your wife. A believing man should never belittle or degrade his wife. If there’s something that you’re unhappy about, have a proper conversation as mature adults. Seek and appreciate the many other good things about her. We are all humans.
3. Understand the impact of your words
Words cut deeper than knives. Some husbands would jokingly say “ni baru satu boleh tambah tiga slot lagi” (joking that they can get married again). These kinds of jokes are extremely hurtful and can make you feel like you’re easily replaced.
At the same time, we live in a society that tends to shame men for showing emotions. From a young age, boys are told, “You’re a boy! Don’t cry!” When these boys eventually grow up, they are scolded for not being able to empathise.
We all need to reflect on the words that we say and hold ourselves accountable with self-compassion. Only then can we grow as people.
4. Lead by example
Our children are like sponges. They absorb everything they hear and see. You want your son to be a gentleman? Lead by example. When you do reprehensible acts towards your wife, you are teaching your son that it’s okay.
Do you always fight and scream? Hit each other? Use disrespectful labels? All these things are picked up and downloaded by their young minds.
Daughters and sons will gravitate towards people who are just like you. Their subconscious minds are picking up what is normal to them. When she grows up, she will agree to be with a man who is like you. Your sons will also think this is how he should treat women.
5. Teach your sons to lower their gaze
When Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was travelling on the road with his cousin, Al-Fadl ibn Abbas, a woman stopped to ask him a question. The woman was very beautiful, and Al-Fadl could not help but stare at her. Seeing this, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w, reached out and turned Al-Fadl’s face away. He didn’t tell the woman to cover her face. Instead, he averted his cousin’s stare.
6. Let them cry
When boys cry, hug them, acknowledge their pain and talk to them. Help them to name their emotions and express feelings in a healthy way. Teach your child the difference between feelings and behaviour. Say things like, “It’s okay to feel upset, but it’s not okay to hit.”
7. Share stories of inspiring women
On top of telling our sons stories of the prophets, tell them about the incredible women around them as well. When they are growing up, make a conscious effort to expose them to amazing male and female role models.
8. Teach them to empathise
When people raise concerns, empathise and listen. If you immediately get mad or call others “emotional” or “crazy”, they will not feel safe talking to you again.
Consent is also very important. Some men think that their wives must be ready for sex, no matter what their condition is. For example, a woman confided that she had a miscarriage and was going through a tough period, but her husband forced himself on her just 3 days after that.
9. Do housework together
Hisham said, “I asked ‘A’isha, ‘What did the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, do in his house?’ She replied, ‘He did what one of you would do in his house. He mended sandals and patched garments and sewed.”
Sons should not be made to think that household chores are only for women – mothers, sisters and eventually, wives. When men do housework, they are not helping women. They are doing their share of the load as caring family members living in the same house.
Instead of saying “Let’s help Mama do housework”, say “let’s all do housework together”.
10. Develop a critical mind
Encourage your son to develop a critical mind, especially in the consumption of media and culture. It is impossible to keep our children away from media and social media in this day and age. What we can do is equip them with good values and the skills to evaluate every material they encounter.
You can start by watching shows or movies with them and asking them questions like “What do you think about what the character did? Is it okay to treat someone like that? Was there something you didn’t understand about the film? Do you agree or disagree with any parts of it? Why?”
May Allah ease our parenting journey and make our children respectful people who are successful in this world and the hereafter. Amiin.
Alia Abdullah is a law graduate and digital media specialist. In 2021, she won the Exemplary Skillsfuture @ Public Service Award, a national award that recognises individuals who constantly upgrade their competencies. Alia is an exceptional writer whose work has been featured in Young Women in Leadership Dialogue’s (YWILD) Commemorative Book “Unprecedented – To the Beat of Her Own Drum” and on platforms such as Mvslim and The Muslim Vibe. Alia lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for 2 years. She is now based in Singapore.