Parenting expert and dad of six, Dr Justin Coulson, says things have GOT to change and we need to teach kids respect and responsibility.

Dr Justin begins by clarifying, “Before I start… this is not a post to demonise boys – or parents. But it does highlight that SOME boys and SOME parents need to grow and learn some super important lessons.

“Today I had yet ANOTHER conversation with a school leader who is dealing with a group of boys (and their parents) who are creating fear in girls because of their overt sexual disrespect.

“A mother contacts me and says her Year 7 daughter has been refusing to attend school for the past three days. Day one she said she was sick. Day two she wanted a ‘mental health’ day. On day three, the girl simply dug in her heels.

Mum asks me: “Dr Justin, why won’t my girl go to school?”

Me: “Her behaviour doesn’t make sense to you, but it makes sense to her. Your job isn’t to make her go to school right now. It’s to understand her.”

I share some tips about talking with girls when they’re not keen on opening up.

She writes back to me:

“I talked with my daughter. She’s refusing to go to school because a group of boys are talking about how they’d like to be sexually intimate with her, and they’re saying these things while she’s in earshot.”

“She described some of the sex acts that the boys were describing. They were saying her name (let’s call her Mia), and saying loudly how they’d like to do this or that to Mia. It was pretty gross stuff, particularly for a non-consenting and relatively innocent 12 year-old to be subjected to.

Mum says to me: “Mia is scared. She feels unsafe. She knows they’re not going to ‘do’ anything to her, but the impact it has had on her emotionally is devastating. The way they’ve sexualised her has robbed her of her innocence. She feels like every boy is undressing her and imagining sexual things he’d like to do with her.”

But then she says this:

“Maybe I’m better of just letting it go. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it. I mean, kids say this sort of stuff all the time. I’m sure Mia will be ok once I spend some time talking with her.” (And then she also suggested she might take her to a psychologist to work things through.)

“I was furious.

“Our kids – boys or girls – should not be made to feel so uncomfortable… no, actually they should not be made to feel so unsafe that they don’t want to go to school.
Our daughters should not be subject to sexual harassment. If someone did that in the workplace they’d be dismissed.

“The excuse that they’re just kids is not good enough. It’s up to us, as parents of these boys and girls, to teach them clearly what is respectful and what is not. And it’s ESPECIALLY up to us, as parents, to stand up for our kids when they feel unsafe.

“I asked the mum to speak with the head of school about the issue. And I shared a range of ways that she might support her daughter. (One of the first things she did was to reassure her that NOT ALL BOYS ARE LIKE THAT!)

“That was a few weeks back.

“Today I got some feedback from the mum. After her visit to the school, the head of school had a meeting with the girls in the grade, and with the school counsellor. It emerged that a number of boys were doing this (and worse) across the grade, and many girls made additional complaints about feeling fearful and ‘victimised’.

“The school then had a meeting with the boys. They had all been involved in previous incidents. They were ‘known’ to the school for this kind of behaviour.

“The parents were called.

“One of the boys’ parents were what she described as “super supportive”. They were appalled that their son was saying these things, but particularly that he would be doing so in a way that was designed to make sure Mia could hear his comments. They committed to work with their son (and the school) to encourage better outcomes and more respect.

“Unfortunately several of the other boys’ parents thought it was an over-reaction. They believed the school was too politically correct. They felt that the girls were too sensitive and needed to get over themselves.

“As this mum told me her story, I put my head in my hands and sighed.

“Parents… we have got to be better than these parents are willing to be.

“Our kids have got to learn to be respectful.

“We have to take the time to teach our children that sexual objectification, harassment, or any other kind of disrespect is simply not ok.

“Yes, kids do, from time to time, act in ways that are inappropriate. But parents… we’ve got to be willing to own that and work to improve it. Shrugging your shoulders and saying that the person who is aggrieved needs to toughen up and stop being a dibber dobber doesn’t cut it.

“Everyone has a RIGHT to feel safe at school. No one should walk into the classroom, hear their name called, and then see a group of people mimicking sex acts at them or speaking about unwanted sex acts involving them.

“It’s not cool. It’s not funny. And for parents who don’t get it, let me spell it out really clearly… It. Is. A. Big. Deal.

“As parents, we have the important role of socialising our kids. It’s up to use to teach them to be kind, respectful, considerate, and even empathic.

“If we, as parents, dismiss the feelings and experiences of others, we can’t expect our children to learn to be better. We’ve got to own it, and encourage our kids to do the same. And telling girls to toughen up misses the point entirely. Ever heard of #metoo?

“At its simplest, it’s not the girls’ fault (in this case or any like it…)
“I love the story of Israeli Prime Minister GOLDA MEIER – back in the 1950’s. She said, in response to a suggestion that fewer women would be assaulted if all were asked to stay inside

“But it is the men who are attacking the women. If there is to be a curfew, let the men stay at home.”

“Let’s do something here to help our boys and our girls to be safe and to feel safe.

“Parents, when your kids are getting it wrong, it’s not a REFLECTION ON YOU. It’s an OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU. Use it to teach responsibility and encourage empathy (not punish).

“Can you imagine a world where all parents were like those first ones I mentioned… sorry about how their son had acted and willing to help him learn better ways?
“Can you imagine a world where all kids felt safe enough to go to school where they could enjoy respectful relationships with all their peers, and concentrate on learning?

It starts with us”, concluded Justin.

Dr Justin’s post attracted nearly 1200 shares and hundreds of comments from concerned parents.

Digital health expert, Dr Kristy Goodwin shares, “I wish I could say I was shocked to read Dr Justin Coulson’s Happy Families post. Sadly, I wasn’t.

“One of the contributing causes of this behaviour (certainly not the only cause) I believe, is exposure to pornography. Our kids and teens are watching pornography and aren’t being told that what they’re viewing is not a depiction of loving consensual sexual relationships. This is not how we respect women.

“We need to have these tricky conversations about pornography and about respectful relationships in general”, added Kristy.

Another parenting expert, Steve Biddulph, has previously discussed young boys watching porn and shared how he thinks it is important that parents talk to their kids about porn.

Young boys are getting their sex education from porn and that is sadly resulting in many injuries to young girls.

“82% of porn involves abuse, so both boys and girls are getting the wrong info about sex”, says Steve.

“Boys need to learn that sex is kind and gently. Nothing like what you see in a porn movie.”

Read more from Steve:

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  • To teach respect and responsibility is so important, but it can be also hard.
    I’ve an eight year old foster daughter who doesn’t respect and doesn’t take responsibility for her actions. We do everything to teach her, but so far she doesn’t pick it up. We’re with our hands in our hair.


  • An important article and a serious issue that just has to be addressed and their needs to be action and change. No person should feel unsafe and threatened in any way.


  • I know a girl who was 9 years old when she was asked by a boy in her class at school if she would like to have sex with him. She was so distressed that it took awhile before the girl opened up to her Mum about it. Her Mum could tell there was something wrong when she picked up her from school. Lucky she didn’t try to start the conversation in the car on the way home as the girl has a younger brother. Her Mum spoke to the Principal at the school the following day.


  • Should start at an early age then grow appropriately as they age.


  • What an absolutely brilliant article…spot on Dr Coulson. I was just thinking if Dr Coulson did a talk/seminar and it was taped, how great would it be to have a tape sent to all high schools and viewed by all year 7 students. Now that would be good PE/sex ed.


  • This is bang on. Every child has a right to feel safe in school period. Unbelievable that some parents thought the school was being too politically correct. I’d be horrified to hear that if child of mine was behaving that way. Anytime my kids act inappropriately I use it as an opportunity to teach them, they’re essentially showing you what they don’t know. Blowing it off as “kids will be kids” doesn’t cut it anymore and in my opinion is just an excuse for spineless lazy parenting.


  • Right on Dr. Justin, respect and responsibility are 2 very important things we have to teach our children.

    • Respect and responsibility – absolutely! A message to start young and to be lived.


  • I cannot believe some of the parents didn’t see this as a big deal or noteworthy. Where has basic human decency and respect gone?


  • Yes. My husband has been proactively talking to our ten year old about how to treat others – we’ve had no problems, but that’s no reason not to start th conversation.


  • Parents lead by example and kids learn how to respect from their parents


  • So much information in this article, lots of great tips and suggestions. It’s not hard to teach our kids to value and respect everyone, regardless of their gender


  • Great article we all need to teach our kids respect them not being respectful doesn’t make them a bad kid but if you don’t address it, it will make them a bad adult.


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