How do you picture your son when he grows up? Do you wish for him to be an affectionate man, secure enough in his manliness to show tenderness and calm?
Studies show that children who are raised to be open-minded towards the characteristics of both genders tend to show more creativity, independence, self-esteem and leadership skills.
This is not about raising your child to be gender neutral or gender variant. It is about raising your child to be open to opposite gender roles in order to grow empathy and understanding toward the other gender.
While traditional gender roles have blurred in our society over recent years, residual gender role categorization based on cultural and family dynamics still persists.
In daily life, gender stereotypes can be neutralized or minimized by a father contributing more to cooking or cleaning up the house, or a mother being more involved in renovations or car maintenance. By letting your child grow more open to the opposite gender’s roles, you can raise him or her without gender stereotypes.
So, how can raising your son without gender stereotypes benefit him?
By letting your son grow up in a household where neutral gender roles are adopted, he will have stronger empathy and openness toward both genders.
This means stepping away from traditional generalizations like, “He’s like that because he’s a boy”, or “Why can’t he act more like a boy?” Try not to regard your son in relation to gender stereotypes; instead, look at him as an individual and accept his nature as is.
While typical boys’ characteristics can be based on general observation, it does not mean all boys will fit the stereotype. Not all boys love sports but are perfectly content finding interest in other pursuits. Some girls never get the hang of cooking, but if that is not where her interest lies, there is no reason for concern; she will eventually figure out how to feed herself. It is important for you to look at your child as an individual and tailor your parenting in response to their needs.
Learning how to express emotion comfortably from a young age can enable your son to be honest with his feelings and develop healthier self-regulation.– Banalance in Wonderland –
So what are some helpful strategies for raising your son with fewer struggles and helping him grow to be an affectionate man?
1. Expressing emotions
Modelling how to express feelings and thoughts early on in his life, you can teach your son how to be a more expressive man later on.
For example, “I’m upset that you ran away in the parking lot “, “I’m so glad you told me that”, or “I’m so ashamed I lost my patience and yelled at you”. Teaching him how to properly express his emotions can strengthen your son’s self-esteem.
Learning how to express emotion comfortably from a young age can enable your son to be honest with his feelings and develop healthier self-regulation.
2. Empathy through role-playing
Help your son understand the feelings of others via role play. Role-play is one of the best ways to put oneself in someone else’s shoes. Switch roles between you and your son to help him experience situations from your point of view. This exercise can help you and your son both understand why the other acted the way they did. Role-play can be a powerful tool to help your son develop empathy and perceptiveness toward others.
3. Overcoming failure
Boys tend to get shouldered with the preconception that they should “toughen up”. But this stereotypical notion can prevent them from seeking help and sharing their difficulties. Help your son understand that failure is one of the best ways to learn and grow, and that it happens to everybody. Accepting failure is a true sign of toughness that will help them learn faster and reach their goals faster.
4. Strengthen self-esteem
Boys are susceptible to faking self-esteem through boasting. They might lie or exaggerate about their experience to look stronger and feel more powerful. Teach your son about real self-esteem and confidence by helping him feel a sense of belonging and responsibility. Encourage your son to develop his interests so he can achieve more advanced knowledge of the things he loves doing. By helping him develop his interests to the next level and guiding him to find his own role within his close groups, you enable him to build stronger self-esteem.
5. Grow mutual respect
It is important for a son to respect his mom as a human and an authority figure. From an early age, let him observe your work outside the home or your special skills, and learn about who you are beyond your role as a mom. Letting your son understand you as a human being and respect your work, expertise, and achievements is as important as providing your love and safe boundaries as a parent.
To raise your son to be an affectionate man, it is important to minimize his exposure to gender stereotypes, in a household where male and female roles don’t necessarily have distinct lines between them, and where tasks are divided based on necessity and family dynamic rather than stereotypes.
Help your son to express emotions freely and try roleplay to enable him to experience someone else’s position and develop empathy. Teach him how to accept his failures without shame and enable him to build self-esteem by developing expertise and skill related to his interests, which will contribute to his sense of belonging and importance. And finally, let your son know you better as a human being to acquaint him with your struggles and your strengths, and foster mutual respect between you.
Beware of letting your son adopt a false concept of manhood based on distorted male images that don’t allow for self-regulation and perceptiveness toward others.
Following the tips above, you can guide him to be true to himself and know how to love himself, which will enable him to grow into an affectionate man with respect for himself and others.
You might also be interested in reading the blog posts below:
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- 5 effective ways to raise an independent child with the resilience to overcome challenges
- What are attention-seeking behaviours, and how do you stop them and redirect your child?