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10 Things Parents Should Never Tell Their Boys

10 Things Parents Should Never Tell Their Boys

Imagine parents bringing up their boy as a boy and a girl! One British couple has decided that all the gender stereotyping has gone far enough. They will let their boy play with dolls, play rugby or do whatever he wants. He can also wear a pink tutu, if he so wishes. The only problem here is that this boy will go through hell at school as he will be mocked and bullied when he does not fit in with boy stereotypes.

Now this is one extreme view of gender stereotyping. It’s also a selfish one as the parents are putting their political and social beliefs at the top of their agenda, rather than the boy’s welfare. But what can parents do to raise boys so that they have a more balanced and tolerant view of their own sex and their female counterparts? They should also be made aware that there are alternatives to the classic negative stereotypes. In this way they will not grow up sexist. They will make better partners and fathers. Here are 10 things parents should remember to tell their boys.

1. What a great boy you are

There is some very good advice in the book by Christia Spears Brown called Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes. She recommends that parents should avoid always pointing out the gender differences, rather than the similarities. The problem here is that if parents always refer to their sons as boys, they are laying the seeds for gender stereotyping at a very early age. It is a better idea to call them ‘kids’ and also call him “What a smart kid” instead of “What a smart boy.”

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2. Let’s invite only boys to your birthday party

If parents start on this trend, it will be difficult for boys to mingle and socialize with girls. Mixed birthday parties are perfectly natural and a preparation for having female friends. Encouraging mixed-gender playdates is also a good idea. Boys will be drawn to more creative games and girls will do more outdoor play. The same principle holds when parents are considering sending their sons to a boys only school.

3. Women have to stay home and look after the kids

When a boy comes home and tell you that all “Girls are stupid”, ask him why he thinks that and what exactly happened. If parents never question these early erroneous stereotypes, they can easily lead to prejudice and it will be difficult to eradicate. It is also a good idea to encourage kids in role play activities to let boys take the role of the stay at home dad who is looking after the kids. Remind them that there are lots of working moms. This helps to break the mould of gender stereotypes.

4. Touchy feely stuff is only for girls

Boys are usually not encouraged to touch each other in a playful and affectionate way because that is considered a girlish thing to do; unlike Italian kids who are taught from very early on to express their affection physically. I remember a British father warning his boy not to hug his Italian male playmates. “Just a handshake will do”, he told his son! Parents need to show that touch and physical affection is healthy and reassuring.

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5. Boys don’t cry

Our society is so rigid that boys simply do not cry. There is no healthy outlet for their emotions. The fear of letting a boy cry is paramount to raising a “Mommy’s boy” and that is disapproved of in our sexist culture. Peer pressure also plays a big role in that boys have to be seen as tough and stoic. That is cool. It starts at the age of four or five and lasts right through to adolescence and even into adulthood. But this attitude does not build emotional resilience to fear, disappointment and pain at all. It actually stunts their emotional growth and it is a false bravado. Figures show that boys are at greater risk of suffering from depression and low self-esteem.

What can parents do? They can be much more supportive and show the boy that they will always be there when things get tough. This will encourage them to talk about their problems. There is nothing wrong with talking about fear and disappointment. Fathers can also tell their boys “Sometimes, I feel like crying too.”

6. Arts and crafts are only for girls

Boys can be creative. We may be limiting their potential by not letting them play at arts and crafts which are traditionally considered a female preserve. Girls and boys should be allowed to try all activities. I read recently about a male British journalist who was introduced to the wonderful world of butterflies by his father. He had to keep his collection top secret so that his male friends would never find out!

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7. Men don’t have to cook

If household tasks are rigidly divided from early on, then boys will grow up with the idea that certain tasks are only for the men, such as repairing things and doing more manual jobs. Boys will therefore never learn to cook or even bother to do any household jobs. The best way is to be good role models where all the household jobs are shared and there are no fixed boundaries. Everybody, including the boys, has chores to do and the tasks are equally divided among the siblings.

 8. Girls always look nice and cute

As boys get older, you can talk about how the sexes are always portrayed the same way on social media, video games and especially on TV commercials. This only reinforces the message of negative stereotyping. Talk about this and ask your boy if decorative and pretty females are truly representative of the real world. There may be some very clever girls in his class. Ask him to think about how men are frequently pictured as being in charge, competent and tough. Is this always true?

9. Don’t play with those girly toys

The Australian Greens party ran a successful campaign , called No Gender December, in the run up to Christmas and the mad dash for buying kids’ toys. The reason they did this was to prevent gender inequality setting in at an early age. Later on, this can lead to unequal pay for women and even domestic violence. It just makes sense to think of kids’ toys rather than girls’ or boys’ toys but this will take time. Watch the video here where one father encourages his boy to play with traditional girls’ toys. Buying kids toy blocks will help them develop spatial and math skills and nobody cares what color they are!

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10. Boys have to protect the girls

Why does the Prince always have to rescue the Princess from the dragon? Finding stories and books which portray a less sexist view of the world is not easy. But the story by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko called The Paper Bag Princess is an excellent example where Princess Elizabeth rescues Prince Roland from the dragon. She also walks into the sunset by herself! But there are other ways we can raise awareness among boys that it is not always a pink /blue world. Show them examples of female astronauts, male nurses, female mechanics and male violinists.

Have you been able to make your boys aware that pink and blue worlds are extremely limiting? Let us know in the comments.

Featured photo credit: Everett – Ten Months/ Kevin Stanchfield via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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