A friend shared this and I had to say something about it. The gist of that link is that when a boy pulls a girl’s hair or something and adults say, “Oh that just means he likes you”, they are teaching her to accept abuse and bullying as expressions of affection. Somehow, “I agree with every part of this” doesn’t quite cut it. So I’ll add some of my thoughts, and maybe expand on it a bit.
Boys are being taught that this is acceptable, normal, even desirable behavior. Seriously. I doubt many of them are being told “if you like her, go pull her hair” or anything, but that’s still the message they get when they do something like that and adults respond with, “Oh that’s so cute!”
I don’t think many of the boys who do this are proto-abusers, certainly they aren’t necessarily so. I think the reasons are complicated, and probably require more study than I have time for to properly blog about. But it should be discouraged. You don’t have to come down on the kid like a ton of bricks or anything, in fact I think you shouldn’t, but it should absolutely be made clear that it’s not acceptable.
Look, if you think it’s cute, that’s fine. It can be cute when a kid doesn’t know how to deal with something and does something strange. But that doesn’t mean you should let them off the hook. It’s not ok to tell kids, “Well, you broke the rules, but you’re so cute I’m going to overlook it.” Really, I’d prefer you didn’t even let them see that you thought it was cute at all.
I only skimmed the comments on that link, but I liked the idea of practicing yelling out. That strikes me as an excellent idea. I can think of several situations in my childhood when that would have been useful.
You know, I really thought I’d have more to say about this, but honestly I can boil it all down to “teach your sons not to do this, your daughters not to put up with it, and don’t let their teachers brush it off.” It’s not the kind of thing that should be acceptable, and it’s not a precedent we want people growing up with.