The adults always say boys are tougher to raise as compared to girls. Many believe whether they are raising boys or girls, both come with their own set of challenges but parenting them are not impossible tasks.
In a world where men are finally being held accountable if they behaved inappropriately and are facing consequences, many parents who are raising sons are facing a crucial question. How do they raise sons who will respect and treat women well? How can they raise sons who are not afraid to display their emotions without being shamed?
Here are 5 strategies that can help families bring up boys that are kind and respectful:
1. Talk to them openly about your own experiences
Sadie Lincoln, the founder of Barre3, talks openly to her son what it’s like growing up as a girl and a young woman in a culture that doesn’t always respect women.
Lincoln showed him an overly Photoshopped image of her from one of the shoots and explained why it isn’t right to alter a woman’s body until she’s unrecognizable. They laugh about it now. Openly sharing her experiences with him instead of giving advice enables him to process why the behaviour is wrong and how he can react better if it happens to him or someone he knows.
I used this experience to talk about why it isn’t OK to feed into a culture that sets women up to feel shame around our bodies. I talked to him about how it made me feel bad to have someone wipe away my wrinkles and veins, enlarge my breasts, and chisel my waist.
2. Talk to them about violent video games
Research has shown the more time boys spend playing video games, whether it’s violent or safe games such as Minecraft, it undermines their social skills. Violent games lead boys to be less honest, less patient and more hostile. Parents are recommended to limit their screen time and get the boys outdoors.
It is not realistic to put an all-out ban so parents are advised to talk to their child about the violence in video games and what they should look out for and monitor in themselves.
3. Don’t teach them to be tough. Teach them to embrace femininity too.
Many boys and men commit suicide because they are unable to express their vulnerability in fear of being shamed. Boys grow up being told they are not supposed to cry and are supposed to be tough.
Instead, boys should be taught to embrace their feminine and masculine side as both are important. Embracing femininity does not only mean that they are allowed to cry. It also means to teach them to be kind to others and stand up for what’s right.
4. Let them express their anger
Clinical psychologist Genevieve Von Lob says it’s important to encourage sons to talk about their feelings and let them know you’ll listen to them without judgement. Boys need to know that it’s ok to feel emotions such as anger and also be guided on how to manage their anger properly.
Parents can help by providing tools to help channel their anger such as exercise, writing, screaming into a pillow, taking a break or calming exercises.
Von Lob also emphasizes the importance to discuss what “being a man” really means, saying,
Young men need role models who can show them that being a man is not about succumbing to peer pressure but learning to trust their own judgment and respecting themselves and others, particularly in the way they relate to women.
5. Be a good role model
Children follow what the adults do. In order to raise mindful and caring boys, parents should display model behaviours as well. When they see the adults being unafraid to show kindness and vulnerability from time to time, they’ll realize it’s alright and normal to be vulnerable and yet still be able to help others who need it.
On raising feminist sons, check out these 7 tips here.
Feature image from Fluens Children’s Center