I peeked out the window at the teens shoving each other into the pool. Our youth group kids were splashing up a storm and having a great time. I heard one of our youth group girls giggle and laugh and say, “No! Don’t! I’m going to get you back!” My son smiled big, stepped forward and splashed some more. Back and forth they went; she laughed, said no, and he splashed with greater fervency. From the distance, it looked like two teens having a great time, but I heard the word, “no” and my son needed to hear it too.
Not wanting to embarrass him in front of his peers, I stepped out onto the deck, got down on my knees and called the kids over to the side of the pool. I said, “Honey, she said no. Even if she’s laughing, no means no.” The girl looked at me like I was from another planet. I’d interrupted their flirtatious fun. I looked at her and said, “Your personal boundaries matter. Your no matters. Always. Don’t ever forget that.”
Later that evening I sat on the edge of my son’s bed and said, “Honey, I need to revisit something with you. You know a tiny bit about what happened to me when I was a young girl. It’s extremely important you understand what it means when a girl says no. Boys can so easily overpower girls and not even know they’re doing it. God has entrusted you with strength to be a protector. Yet some boys and men use their strength to become predators. As a Christian, I want you always on the wall—as a protector. I want you to lead the way by watching out for the women and girls in your care.”
He sat up in his bed and said, “I will, Mom. I was just having fun, but I can see what you mean.” He paused for a moment and then asked, “Do you think I should call her? Just to apologize?”
“I think that’s a great idea.” I replied.
I watched my son as he called his friend. He said, “Uh, I just wanted to say how sorry I am that I didn’t pay attention when you said no; I should have stopped splashing after the first time you said no. I’m really sorry.”
My son looked down and listened for a moment. He shook his head a bit and said, “Well, I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”
“What did she say?” I asked. He looked up at me and said, “She just laughed it off. She said that no guy ever listens to her when she says no. She said it’s no big deal.”
I leaned in and said, “She made my point completely. Her own perspective is skewed because, so few boys have respected her. I want you to be someone who changes the culture, one honorable act at a time.”
My sweet boy looked up at me and said, “I want that too, Mom.”
Recently on Middays with Susie Larson, I spoke with author and pastor, Dave Willis about his book, “Raising Boys Who Respect Girls: Upending the Locker Room Mentality, Blind Spots, and Unintended Sexism.”
We must start with the heart—more specifically our own hearts. As we identify the blind spots that lead to accidental disrespect—which in turn leads to worse—we can root out unhealthy mindsets before we inadvertently pass them along to our sons. This heart transformation is rooted in calling boys and men to a high standard, cultivating healthy respect for God, for themselves and for others.
Though it’s not a popular thing to say, it’s still true. Women are vulnerable. We need men to be honorable, respectful, and full of dignity. And yes, we as women need to walk in that same measure of honor, respect and dignity. Everybody wins when we do.
When boys respect girls
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.