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For Mothers Of Boys: 5 Reasons Why Men Are Important For Our Sons

may-madness-31.jpg 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.

516s83akn5l_sl500_aa240_.jpg 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.

10 Responses to For Mothers Of Boys: 5 Reasons Why Men Are Important For Our Sons

  • Gravatar
    Comment by brittany
    July 17, 2008 @ 8:18 am

    This is SO true. It hard since my husband is always gone for work. I feel bad pulling him in too many directions, but I try to explain how important it is that the boys interact with him. I will definitely make him read this.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Sara
    July 17, 2008 @ 11:46 am

    I would have to agree. But I think ALL children need a dad or positive male figure in their lives. It’s also important for girls to have that positive male model in their home. If it’s missing in their lives you especially notice it during the teenage years.

    But as a mother of 3 boys (no girls) I know how important it is to have my husband involved in the children’s lives. I got lucky and have a wonderful husband who has no problem playing with the kids or taking them fishing. From day one he was a hands on kind of guy.

    #1 Is a biggie in our house. They wrestle ALL the time. Right now even with dad deployed for 15 months they still get their wrestle time in with me but I know it’s not the same. It’s funny how a house full of boys is sooo different from a house with girls. In our house there is tons of “horse play”. They can’t just sit there. They have to be on your lap, jumping on your back, trying to knock you down, or trying to pin one of the brothers down. I know for some moms this would drive them nuts and it does get crazy for me at times. But they are boys and my boys tend to be a little bit loud and playful, that is what I love about them. They enjoy being boys!!

    #2 Our boys are all across the board when it comes to behavior. My oldest loves skateboarding, music, art, reading, and tends to be more creative. Xavier my middle child (3yrs) tends to be my risk taker right now. He loves anything outside. This boy could stay outside all day long. Jayden the baby is just sitting back right now watching. He is 19months but just started wrestling with the boys. They take it softer with him but he could still hold his own. I am curious to see how he turns out. He tends to quieter right now but that could be because of his age.

    #3 I don’t have to worry about emotions with Josh (8yr). He tends to be my child who is the most connected with his feelings and emotions. I have noticed that about him since he was a toddler. Xavier on the other had had that “typical” boy emotion. Gets mad one minute and blows it off the next. Josh will typically think about and reflect EVERYTHING!!

    #4 During the first few years of being a mom I was so overly cautious. It drove my husband crazy. But now with 3 boys as long as it’s not broken we are good. :)

    #5 My husband and I were just talking about this today over the phone. Since he is gone it’s a little bit tougher for him to teach the boys how to respect or treat women. But we both agree he needs to be the one to set the example. Even right now with being half way across the globe he will still put them in their place when he hears them giving me hassle over the phone. The minute I say your dad wants to speak to you they immediately know that is usually not good. Xavier even at 3 knows. Sometimes he won’t even come to the phone. But it’s good for them to know we still communicate and are on the same page. But we agreed when he gets back he has to make a little bit more effort to point out how to treat me their mother because ultimately that is how they will treat women in general.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Jojo
    July 17, 2008 @ 1:25 pm

    These are all really excellent points and especially the one where fathers need to teach respect of women/girls to their sons. I also think in this day and age, it’s important for men to teach their sons against homophobia. A lot of men think homosexuals pose a threat against manliness but boys need to know human beings are all different and this kind of acceptance is one that is taught.

  • Comment by Amelia
    July 17, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

    Sara–I totally agree that dads need to be involved with girls too. I cringe when I think about how my dad influenced me as a little girl. I think I would have made a lot of different choices had our relationship been healthier as a teen. Dads play an influential role in their kids lives no matter what. It would be a good topic to cover how dads are especially important to daughters. I, however, am not the person to write that post :) since we have boy overload at our house-LOL!

    Thanks for sharing how you see your husband playing a positive role in your sons lives and what your life is like!

    My husband used to travel a lot for his job (before he quit to go to grad school) so I know how hard it can be to have a husband away. Brittany and Sara–I feel for both of you!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by katrin
    July 18, 2008 @ 5:47 am

    Really thoughtful post!

    Children watch us and emulate what they see. That’s why so many abused children grow up to be abusers.

    AS parents, we have a profound effect on our children — sometimes so profound the responsibility is daunting! But if we just try the best we can at all times, and make sure to replenish our own energy so that we are feeling balanced and positive, a loving parent will do just fine!

    Katrin
    co-author, Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too
    http://www.momstimeouts.com

  • Comment by McKenna
    July 18, 2008 @ 10:42 pm

    What a great post..and I’m loving the comments! Sara, you are such an inspiration to me! I am going to risk sounding cheesy, but I genuinely mean it when I say “Thank you for your service and sacrifice for our country.” That goes to not only Josh, but you and your boys as well!!!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Stella Blue
    July 20, 2008 @ 7:28 pm

    What a beautiful post! I only have a daughter, but someday she might have a husband so I have a vested interest in this generation’s boys being raised well! I was blessed with a wonderful relationship with my father, and I find that I discover new ways to love my husband when I watch him with our girl. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to think about the fathers in my life (my own and my husband) and how important they are. Hopefully even if we screw up what we *say*, she can see what we *do* and still turn out okay!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Anna
    July 21, 2008 @ 4:17 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with every point in your post. Children are largely the product of their environment, and we have to look to our husbands to get a glimpse of what kind of men our boys will become. Lucky for me (and for my boys’ future wives), my husband does all the cooking and half the household chores. Now, am I the only mommy that can’t stand to watch the roughhousing? I understand that it’s an important part of their relationship, but, UH! I just can’t take it!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by amelia
    July 22, 2008 @ 11:53 am

    Anna, I definitely have a hard time watching some of the roughhousing! Every once in a while I yell out something like, “watch his head!” but the rest of the time I smile, and sometimes I bite my tongue.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by myra
    July 26, 2008 @ 9:47 am

    this is such a thought-provoking post. as the mom of 1 son, i am very conscious of the influence my husband has on our son. we have an unconventional family in that my husband is the stay at parent. i often wish our roles were reversed (and so does he), but i am reminded daily of the positives. my son has such a balanced perspective since my nurturing is countered by my husband’s influence. not that he isn’t nurturing, but it’s from his masculine perspective. i love that jake sees us both pitching in on chores evenly. he is learning how to care for and manage a home from a man. nothing is off limits and i love that. ultimately, i think he is learning about marriage as a partnership, and that is one of the most important things we could model for him. of course jake doesn’t mind the fact that he gets extra time on his dirt bike and doing “guy stuff” because his dad is at home.

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