Raising boys has had a lot of discussion recently on social media and so Whoobly decided to look into raising boys as opposed to girls a little closer.
There has been increased attention on educating girls about gender roles and expectations. In a society that has evolved from favouring men in decision-making to acknowledging that men and women are more or less equal; this comes as no surprise. After all, boys do not have the short end of the stick in this matter.
Or do they?
Gender roles affect both boys and girls as early as 4-5 years old. There are also certain behaviours that are seen as more desirable for boys to have, and this is what society has rewarded boys for having. Acting tough, not expressing emotions, and being boisterous are seen as typical ‘boy’ behaviour, and it affects social and emotional development. Boys that were taught to suppress their emotions tend to grow up to be men with poor emotional regulation. Naturally, it influences how they will interact with their families, partners, and children in the future.
Just as it is important to teach our daughters that they can do anything, it is also important to teach our sons that they are allowed to express their “softer” sides without being looked upon in disdain by their peers. Luckily, modern society has become more tolerant in how boys and girls are expected to behave in public. We are now starting to focus more on a more gender-neutral trend of “kindness” and “empathy”.
But where do we even begin unlearning behaviour that has been ingrained upon us for centuries?
Here are just a few tips on how parents can begin raising boys to become respectful men. Mind you, this does not erase “masculine identities” that have already been established. It merely says that boys are allowed to assume other identities and that they are safe to do so:
Here are Our 5 Tips To Raising Boys
Allow your son to have a wide range of books and toys. Some boys prefer playing dolls to trucks, and that does not make them weak or weird. At most, they will grow up to be, heaven forbid, involved dads. Same goes with books. Stories do not really have assigned genders; anyone can read them. It is of no consequence that your son prefers Frozen to Thomas and Friends.
1. Set limits on boisterous behaviour. Boys get away with rough play more than girls, because they are expected to be “rough and tumble”. Rough play is okay as long as it is safe, but we must also teach our sons how to play gently and nicely, not just with girls, but with other boys too.
2. Encourage your boys to express their feelings. This goes without saying. Unfortunately, as soon as they hit at least four years old, they are generally taught that crying is for “girls”. They are taught to act tough. Instilling this type of behaviour on our sons only teaches them to swallow their feelings.
3. It is, at most, a band-aid solution, because what happens when they have been swallowing their feelings, and they can no longer hold it in? More often than not, they will develop unhealthy ways to cope with it, and they will bring these coping mechanisms to adulthood. We ought to tell our sons that it is okay to be sensitive. Showing vulnerability is normal human behaviour that should be seen as a strength, not a weakness.
4. Avoid labels. Labelling our sons inhibits them from building their own identity and instead allows them to behave the way they are expected to. Personality does not fully develop until the age of 18, so it is normal for our sons to have a wide range of interests that may even conflict with each other. Allow them a safe space for self-expression, as it helps them build a healthier sense of selves in the future.
5. Show affection. Fathers are usually guilty of not expressing much affection to their sons once they reach a certain age. While daughters get embraces and kisses, sons get, at best, a pat on the back or gruff acknowledgements. Boys respond better to touch than to words. We need to use this to our advantage by expressing how much we love them through hugging and kissing them, especially when they are distressed. Fathers need to be taught that this will not make their sons weak. Just as we can bring bad traits to adulthood, we can also bring good traits. When our sons have grown up in a household where it is okay for their fathers to show emotions and affections, they will learn to express it in a healthier way.
By instilling these in early childhood, we avoid contributing to the stigma of seeking psychological help towards men. Mental health disorders in men are severely underreported compared to that of women, which is concerning because statistics show that they are more likely to complete suicide than women. Most men report that they are taught not to express themselves by their parents, in order to build “character”. Raising boys the right way will lead to hopefully healthier men, who will, in turn, raise daughters and sons with a better sense of self-identities. And it all starts with giving our boys avenues to be their true, authentic selves.