For Mothers Of Boys: 5 Reasons Why Men Are Important For Our Sons
I recently watched a documentary called Raising Cain which is about some of the unique needs and issues that boys face today. It has some good insights in it-especially in understanding why boys seem to have more trouble in school than girls do. The documentary looks into the emotional needs of boys and how important the influence of men are in their lives.
My husband and I came up with this list together but he had most of the ideas. He has spent a lot of time thinking about how to raise 3 boys–all who have unique personalities and interests. I realize that some of you may not have a father in your sons’ lives but I hope this list helps you appreciate the men who are involved in your kids lives. Richard Rohr, author of Adam’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation, after studying male initiation rites all over the world, says that all boys need men who are not their father to teach them what it means to be a man. So to all those men who are helping our sons become men–this is for you.
1. Play. When it is time for bath time at our house my two older sons ask every night, “do we have time for wrestling?” Every night. It is probably their favorite time of the day. During the day I let the boys climb on me but it just isn’t the same as rough housing with daddy or wrestling with their daddy. There is something fun for a boy when he gets to test his strength with daddy. Even though the boys know daddy is stronger, it gives them confidence when they can get a good wrestling move in on daddy. Jon uses that time for physical bonding and to teach them that they can get bonked around and have fun at the same time. I always hear squeals of laughter and delight and it makes my heart smile. You have probably noticed that men play much different than us moms do.
2. Modeling. Having different men involved in our sons’ lives models different examples of what it means to be a “man”. Having a variety of male influences in the lives of boys helps them to see that they can still be a man if they don’t like to play sports and prefer to read instead. My 4 year old loves being outside and trying out sports. He loves to run around and be active playing different outside games. My 3 year old will play along if we are doing a sports activity but his MO is books, stories, and imagination. Reading and playing imagination games really get him excited. Right now we just encourage play and trying lots of new things but I wonder if as they grow older my 4 year old will be more of a jock and my 3 year old will be more of an academic or creative person. There is a lot of pressure on young boys that they need to fulfill a certain criteria in order to be a man but they truth is that there is a huge spectrum of diversity in interests and talents. Which leads me to my next point….
3. Affirming emotions. “Boys/Men don’t cry” is probably one of the biggest lies that gets passed on to boys. Continuing to teach that to our boys is harmful but when a boy hears from a man that it is okay to have feelings (like sadness) and that it is okay to cry means much more to him than hearing it from his own mother. Jon has mentioned to me that it is a tough balance to teach boys how to both express those sadness feelings and also not be made fun of by peers. Boys learn how to express anger, sadness, and joy from watching other men. Tell the men in your sons lives to draw out their emotions and to affirm them.
4. Risk Taking. Us moms are the nurturers. We tend to tense up and shout out “Be Careful!” when our kids try something new–like climbing up the ladder for the first time at the playground. Our husbands and other men tend to hang back and tell the kids to go for it. Both are important. Kids definitely need nurturing but it goes against my nature to encourage a lot of risk taking. I appreciate that about my husband. I don’t want my sons to be wimps but I don’t think I would be able to teach them how to take a lot of physical or mental risks on my own.
5. Modeling Attitudes And Behaviors Toward Women. My husband is good about pointing out that they are to be respectful toward mommy. He is proactive in teaching the boys to honor women/girls and that they aren’t the “bad other”. It is a normal development when suddenly boys think girls are “yucky”. They start to realize that Barbie is for girls and girls like pink–and that stuff is “sooo yucky”. Sure, they learn it from social cues around them but when boys see other men treating women with respect they will learn it too. We don’t want our sons to think of women as weak or to patronize them but we do want our sons to be chivalrous and respectable young men.
I know that as my sons grow up it will be important for them to have other positive male influences in their lives. As they grow up I will encourage them to spend time with their grandpas, uncles, godparents, and family friends. We have often talked about having an all boys camping trip with some good friends of ours who have a son too (unfortunately we currently live across the country from them). I think creating opportunities for male bonding and influence will come more often as the boys grow older. Together we can shape these boys into the men we want to see them become.