Regardless of whether you’re a father or a mother to a young boy, there’s a lot you need to teach him about the world before he becomes an adult. There are so many preconceived notions (such as “boys will be boys”) that tend to downplay the importance of intentionally and actively teaching our sons about life, with the assumption being that they’ll eventually figure it out on their own. While our sons are still young, we need to teach them:
1. The true definition of being a man
All boys grow into adults, but only some grow into men. Men put their families and friends above their own well-being, and will stand up for what they believe in, always. Men have integrity, and always act with the best of intentions. They may have a tough exterior, but on the inside is a caring, selfless person willing to do anything to make his loved ones comfortable and happy.
2. The true definition of being a human
Regardless of gender, all people are human beings, and deserve to be treated as such. Boys should be taught to respect all living beings on this Earth, as well as the Earth itself. They need to understand their place in the global community, as well as the ecosystem. When they understand that the world does not revolve around them, they’ll realize the importance of their actions.
3. You don’t need to prove your manliness through violence
Boys should definitely learn to assert themselves and stand up for the ones they look out for, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should come to blows to defend their family’s honor. The most “manly” thing a man can do is shut down a bully or oppressor without having to lift a finger. By showing he can win a fight with just his words, a man can truly prove his worth.
4. It’s okay to be sensitive
There’s this ridiculous sentiment in our society that it’s not okay for men to cry. That couldn’t be any more wrong. Everyone cries. The difference is, not everybody shows their sensitive side to the world. Real men should feel comfortable with, if not proud of, having the presence of mind to let themselves be upset every once in a while. Stifling their problems will only lead to bigger issues down the road.
5. It’s okay to feel angry
Not only is it okay to be sad, but it’s also okay to be angry. However, as previously mentioned, it’s not okay to act on that anger in a way that harms others (even if they deserve it!). What boys should be taught is that anger is a secondary emotion, meaning that another emotion, such as jealousy, disappointment, or embarrassment was the root cause of the anger. When young children are able to pinpoint the source of their anger, they’re more apt to deal with it in a productive manner.
6. There’s no such thing as “boy” and “girl” interests
Pink is not a girl’s color. Hockey is not a boy’s sport. Being in the school play doesn’t make you any less of a man. And being the star quarterback doesn’t make you the Alpha-male of the school. Boys should be taught that everyone is free to pursue their own interests without fear of getting bullied or ragged on by others. People’s interests are a large part of their lives, but they don’t define the person 100%.
7. “No” means NO
This goes for a lot of things. When kids are young, they might be tempted to do things they know are wrong. Teach your boys not to be the one constantly peer pressuring their friends into doing something that could get them in trouble or injured. Of course, as your son grows older, he should know that it’s never okay to touch anyone, male or female, without their permission. And even if that person was initially okay with whatever actions have started, if they decide to say no, the answer stays no.
8. It’s okay to be vulnerable
This goes along with how it’s okay to be sensitive, but it goes a little further. Teach your sons to be okay with putting themselves out there, even if it leads to failure. They shouldn’t be afraid of following their passions because they don’t know how others will react. Show them the importance of stepping out of their comfort zone. It’s only when they do so that they’ll be able to thrive and become the men you envisioned them being from the moment they took their first steps.
Featured photo credit: Father, Mother, Son / Rennett Stowe via farm4.staticflickr.com