In a world as we fight toxic masculinity there are so many things we can do as parents to help raise our sons to be loving and caring men. Toxic masculinity is often misunderstood. The phrase comes from a focus on violent behavior by men that is not masculinity itself but is derived from some expectation of what it means to be a man.
Traditional stereotypes of men cause this expectation in boys and men to be a certain way, act a certain way, and often cause harm to themselves and others.
When we live in a society riddled with this toxic expectation on men, how do we raise our sons differently?
There are many things to do or not do to help raise well rounded kids that have a broader understanding of masculinity. First thing as a parent we all need to be conscious of is to get rid of toxic phrases we may say in passing.
Do not say these things to your son:
“Boy’s Don’t Cry”
Shutting down a boy’s chance to express their emotions teaches them their emotions are not worthy. How can you help them express their emotions and feelings? Respond to their cues, tune into their needs, talk to them about their feelings and your own feelings, help them label their feelings, avoid suppressing their feelings, be approachable, and listen.
“… Like a girl!”
When we state a boy is doing something “Like a girl” we are 1. Teaching them that being like a girl is undesirable, 2. That men should be better than girls, and 3. That girls are lesser and not equal.
“You’re so wild”
Many little boys may be very active and enthusiastic. This does not constitute wild or undesirable behavior. Letting boys be enthusiastic about what they like helps them understand their own interests. If you shut down their enthusiasm, they may start to feel what they like is not good enough. Teaching them their wild also shuts down that enthusiasm.
“You can’t be a….”
Boys can be and do anything they please. This can and should include any occupation stereotypically considered feminine. Jobs like teacher, nurse, florist, etc. Your child should learn growing up that their interests are important and there’s no gender to those interests.
“That’s a girl toy”
Just like finding an occupation they love as they grow up. Playing with toys today should not be gender specific. Boys can play with dolls, kitchens, and other stereotypically “girl toys.” Do not shut down their interest based off societal stereotypes.
“That’s a job for…. “ (Mom, sister, any other female)
Teaching boys that there are specific jobs for women, occupation or around the home, teaches them this separation between men and women. Encourage your boys to step into caregiver roles. This includes teaching them chores around the home that benefit the whole family such as cooking, doing the dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning, etc.
How do you raise your boys to be gender neutral and with a more well rounded idea of masculinity?