Our children are both what we teach them and the actions that we show them is acceptable.
I went through the comments on those memes and was was even more disturbing to me was the amount of people who thought it was "just a joke", "I know what a teenager thinks, so she needs the protection" or people who stated that the worried individuals needed to "lighten up". Threatening harm to another individual is never acceptable, whether as a joke or as a reality. In fact, according to Shouse California Law Group "A "criminal threat" is when you threaten to kill or physically harm someone and
Therefore, if a threat is written (on a tee shirt, in a meme on the kitchen counter), stated as a joke or implied to any young man (or woman) which makes them fearful, it could be considered a criminal threat. In fact, if any adult made a threat to another adult in a similar manner, it would be viewed quite differently. It would be considered menacing and the adults on the receiving end of that threat might become fearful enough to involve the police. Yet, many considered these memes, t-shirts and online jokes acceptable because "teenage boys". I, though, find them highly offensive and strongly believe we need to stop them and teach all our children respect and boundaries.
Our children are both what we teach them and the actions that we we show them are acceptable. I will teach my son to respect himself and others. To respect boundaries and the word "no". To respect parents and their rules. To respect curfew times and limits on where activities take place. I will show him how to be a responsible, kind and caring young man. I will explain that threats against another person are never acceptable. Please, teach your daughters and sons the same.
I was my dad's only daughter (and only child) and when I went out with boys in high school, they would always come and meet my parents before we went out. They met them out of respect and my parents would always get to know them "how are you", "what are you interested in in school", "where are you going" and then they say "please be home by 10PM" or whenever the curfew was for that night. There were never any threats, veiled or otherwise. My parents had taught me to respect myself, to say no if I wasn't comfortable and had told me that they would come pick me up, no questions asked, if at any time I didn't feel safe or I wanted out of a situation. They empowered me to be able to defend myself and to make the right decisions. This was back in the 1990s-early 2000's, so why are parents today back to making threats against the teenage boy who might nervously pick up their daughter? Why are they not instead teaching their daughter's about empowerment, self-respect and that it is acceptable to leave an uncomfortable situation?
One of my favorite stories about my dad is when one young man broke my heart. My dad owned and ran his own business and was often busy and in meetings. My mom was a flight attendant who happened to be on an international flight the day that this occurred. I was a junior in high school and this young man had driven to my house 40 minutes way from his house and was sitting on my front steps when I arrived home from school. He sat there and explained that he felt that we should no longer be dating and my teenage world was shattered. I ran inside the house ... and he followed me.... and asked me to make him a sandwich. At this point, I ran to my parents bedroom and frantically called my dad at work. He was in a meeting. I explained it was an emergency and he was pulled out of the meeting. I explained the situation. He then told me to go out into the kitchen and ask him to leave. Being in teenage hysterics, I explained that I just couldn't and then proceeded to lay down on the floor and weep loudly and dramatically. He then told me get up, stop crying and ask the young man to leave. I again, refused. He then said he would be home in 15 minutes. He stopped and rescheduled his meeting and came home. When he walked in the house, he found the young man sitting at our kitchen counter. Now, there were multiple ways he could have handled this situation according to these popular memes. Anger, Outrage. Threats. Doom to the boy. I mean, that is what those threats say "what you do to my daughter, I will do to you." What did he do? He made him a sandwich and sat with him. He explained why his behavior might not have been the best (the young man was baffled at my reaction) and the proper way to go about these things. He then sent the young man home with a life lesson and then he took me out to dinner where he purchased all things chocolate for me - chocolate chip pancakes and a chocolate shake - and let me cry about boys. Several years later I ran into that young man again. He asked me to thank my father for how he handled that situation and joked "I know better now". I am left wondering how different things might have been if my father had just come home blazing in anger or just reacted instead of calmly assessing the situation and realizing his daughter was only telling her perspective - he wouldn't leave, instead of getting both sides - he didn't understand the reaction and know to leave. Instead of a funny or heartwarming story (and one I share often), it could have ended with yelling, shouting or even violence.
I hold this story up and how my parents always treated my dates for how I want my son treated if he is at your house and out with your daughter and how I will treat your daughter if she is at my house. I will treat her with respect. I will not make threats to her implicit or implied. I will not say to her "what you do to my son, I will do to you". I will not be cleaning any type of weapon when she comes over to meet us. Instead, I will ask her about herself and get to know her. I will offer her refreshments and maybe dinner. I will understand that teenagers are still learning to navigate in the world and there might be heartache, or a fight between them, or a social faux pas and it will be up to me and you, to lead and guide them on the path of respect and responsibility and show them by examples what actions to take.
Therefore, I ask again, let's teach respect and not threats.