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An Important Life Lesson You Need to Teach Your Children Starting Right Now

05/30/2014 11:29 am ET | Updated Jul 30, 2014

"Teach the children so that it will not be necessary to teach the adults"
-Abraham Lincoln

There is a lot of talk about violence against women this week. As well there should be. Talking, even in sound bites, opens the lines of communication. Talking encourages people to open their eyes and see the world through a different lens for a moment or two. Talking, even in whispers, is the first step toward change.

According to the most recent data from Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), an American is sexually assaulted every two minutes. 44% of those victims are under the age of 18, and 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.

Every. Two. Minutes.

Do you have a daughter? How about a mother, sister, niece, cousin, aunt or close female friend? Sexual assault can happen to anyone at any time in any place. It's a crime that affects everyone and forever alters the life of the person on the receiving end.

I can't speak for all of you, but I know that I want more for my kids. I want better.

I want a world where my daughter doesn't need her brother to protect her when she dares to leave the house at night. I want a world where the good guys, the ones like my husband, my brother and my father, are the ones that others want to emulate. I want a world where being a college athlete doesn't give a guy a license to act like a jerk, and where women are appreciated and respected all of the time, even at a fraternity party. I want a world where women aren't blamed for the way they dress or the number of drinks they had at the party. I want a world where young girls have the freedom to grow into confident women...

My daughter is an Irish dancer. Her teacher is a gift. Week after week, she inspires a group of young girls to stand tall and be themselves. Week after week, my daughter stands a little bit taller. Week after week, her confidence soars.

But sometimes, late at night when the worries creep in, I find myself thinking that one day I will have to teach her to look back while she's standing tall. I will have to tell her to look to her brother to protect her, as I did for many, many years. I will have to tell her that safety in numbers only works if the numbers actually stick together and drinking is almost never worth it.

I don't want to teach her those lessons because I want more for her. I want her to continue to stand tall and walk with confidence toward the future of her choice, instead of watching her back and cowering in the face of people who might not show her the respect she deserves. Although I know that her brother will always be there for her, as mine is for me, I don't want her to need him by her side every moment of the day.

We can carve out a better future for our children. We have the power to teach our children an important lesson so that the process of change, which is often gradual, can begin. With one simple life lesson, we can make a difference in the way our children relate to and treat others.

Girls stand up. Boys stand down.

"Boys will be boys" culture is nothing new in this country. It was alive and well when I was a kid and it echoes through schools, playgrounds and homes all over this country to this very day.

Little boys are often socialized to be rough and tumble, to play hard and fast and to just be boys (whatever that means). Little girls are often socialized to be polite, kind and respectful (watch those leggings... we don't want to distract the boys). When a boy pulls a ponytail over and over again, he's just being a boy. But when a girl punches that boy in the face because she doesn't want her ponytail pulled, she's being aggressive.

It's time for a culture shift when it comes to messages we send our children. It's time to teach girls that they have voices and their voices matter (and not just on the playing field). It's time to teach all kids that they have the right to shout from the rooftops if another person treats them or touches them in a way that doesn't feel good. Not all kids like to be tickled. Not all boys like to wrestle and not all girls like to hold hands.

Girls stand up. Boys stand down.

We need to send clear messages early and often. We need to teach young girls to find and use their voices, and we need to teach young boys to ask first and take no for an answer. Every. Single. Time.

We need to socialize girls to stand up for themselves and we need to stop giving boys excuses for behavior that harms other people. We need to teach boys to understand how and when to stand down.

Girls stand up. Boys stand down.

Let's start teaching the children this very important message today so that we won't have to continue to attempt to teach the adults. And maybe, just maybe, we can create a future for our daughters where they won't have to watch their backs at all times or rely on their husbands and brothers just to walk home at night.

Are you with me?