by Christy Yao
Anyone can tell you that parenting is hard. As hard as parenting might be already, the task becomes even more challenging when one wants to raise children with intentional values. And as hard as that is, it is even harder when those values are counter-cultural. Then, it is extra hard when those values don’t always fit in with the “mainstream counter-culture.” If anything falls into this category, it’s the values of pro-life feminism.
There is a wealth of information and advice for raising feminist children. There is a fair amount of information for those who want to raise their children to be pro-life, especially if the right to life is part of a faith tradition. Much of the advice for raising both feminist and pro-life children is similar: see the humanity in each and every person. This article aims to build on this common principle and to combine information from both feminist and pro-life sources to create a unique set of guidelines for raising pro-life feminist children.
Start at home:
In a University of Michigan study, it was shown that American girls 10-17 years old spend two more hours on chores each week than American boys of the same age. Boys are also 15% more likely to get paid for their chores. Parents can combat this by having both mothers and fathers do chores contrary to traditional gender roles and care for the children. Boys need to be taught to be competent at housework, and that caregiving is not just feminine. Helping with care for pets, younger siblings, or older relatives can help boys to be more comfortable with caregiving.
Be intentional about teaching:
It is important to have conversations about human rights and equality early on, because to it very hard to un-learn behaviors. If unjust views are going to change, there has to be a break from the status quo. Pro-life education must be intentional. When children are young, it is good to talk to them about virtues. These talks can morph into conversations about dignity as they grow older. It is helpful to discuss current events with children and to turn hypotheticals into real-life situations. Children should learn leadership, starting with small tasks and moving into larger projects. Perhaps the most important lesson to intentionally teach children is to have compassion, not condemnation, for women in crisis pregnancies.
Relationships are key:
It is important to encourage children to have relationships with those different from them. Children who have friends of the opposite sex learn better communication and problem-solving skills. Boys who have female friends are less likely to view women as sexual conquests when they are older. Boys especially benefit from having both strong male and female role models. It is also important that children have relationships with both younger children and older adults. If possible, it is extremely beneficial for children to have relationships with those with disabilities.
Respect and consent are vital
Children thrive on consistency, so it is important that behavior is
consistent with values. Parents should be quick to correct children when they display behaviors that are not in line with their values, such as making sexist jokes or using “girl” as an insult. Children should also learn the value of “no” and “stop,” especially in relation to touching others. This will teach them the value of consent and help them to respect others.
Teach children that all people have equal rights and unmeasurable value:
In her book to her daughter, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, Chimamanda Adichie explains that it is not enough for men to treat women well. Men do not “allow” women to be successful—women can be successful on their own. An example Adichie gives is the British prime minister saying that her husband has “allowed her to shine.” In a similar vein, pro-life parents must teach that people at all stages of their lives have equal value. There are various ways one can show their children that people of all ages have immense worth. Children can learn the value of infants by helping care for a baby. Children will see that although caring for babies takes selflessness and sacrifice, it is well worth the work. Parents can show their children that older adults have value by helping their children to form relationships with older adults. This will help children not to view older adults as a burden.
As in all things, parents must teach their children with love. Children make mistakes, children are disobedient, and children break rules. Parents must be firm yet forgiving. If parents are going to try to foster pro-life feminism in children, it is imperative that parents show their children unconditional love above all else. That is the heart of pro-life feminism.