Between the roughhousing and the belief that “boys will be boys,” handling a boy is no easy ride, and it’s hard not to worry if you’re currently raising one. Luckily, most of these behaviors are more culturally influenced than they are biological, picked up from peers, relatives, teachers, and the media. And since these things are learned, there are things we can do as parents to help guide our boys into becoming good men.
Bright Side gathered a few tips to foster and support boys so that they grow up to become the best versions of themselves.
1. Be a working parent.
As research has shown, having a working mother can positively influence children of both sexes. While girls raised by such moms tend to have jobs with higher wages and occupy supervisory positions when they grow up, boys are more likely to help around the house and care for family members. They also have a more progressive attitude toward gender roles.
2. Encourage him to fess up about his feelings.
Some qualities that are stereotypically considered “manly” — like being stoic and not showing how you feel — are actually very oppressive and restricting. According to a report, men who follow more traditional “manly” behavior, including hiding their emotions, are more likely to be depressed and make high-risk decisions.
As a result, many boys, whose parents subscribed to that mindset, grow up ashamed of their feelings. They become men who can’t communicate well — bottling up or lashing out — which makes it hard for them to relate to others and keep stable, healthy relationships. Therefore, it’s important to teach your son to express his emotions and be able to talk about personal stuff.
3. Show him that chores won’t do themselves.
Studies report that couples who split housework and parenting tasks, more or less equally, are happier than those who don’t. Men today are doing better in the chore department than ever: the amount of housework done by women has declined since 1976, while men have started doing twice as many chores.
Set an example to your son by discussing the division of labor in your household. Boys should learn early on that all family members work as a team. It would also prevent a bias against certain activities and make them much more competent, self-reliant, and prepared for adult life.
4. Teach him boundaries and respect.
Introduce the concept of body autonomy to your son pretty early on. Let him know that he has the right to decide who can touch his body, and the same goes for other people. When he’s older, explain to him that unwanted or inappropriate comments and jokes — toward both girls or boys — are never okay. Discuss ways to talk to his crushes and get their attention, and model what a healthy relationship looks like.
Teach him appropriate affection by example! A study found that teens raised in a positive family climate tend to have better relationship problem-solving skills and were at less risk of being a part of relationship violence. Emphasize being respectful of one another with your partner, putting time and effort into the relationship, showing appreciation, and apologizing when you’re wrong.
5. Tame “tough guy” behavior.
The strong, impatient type and the macho tough guy may be appealing on the big screen, but much less so in real life. Unfortunately, social expectations can make boys feel that they have to be pushy, aggressive, or even violent.
To prevent this mindset, communicate to your son that while anger and frustration are normal emotions, he can’t express them in ways that are threatening or violent to others. Help him find appropriate methods for handling those feelings. It’s also important to have a good father figure around as an example of healthy masculinity, which can be in the form of an uncle or grandfather if their dad isn’t available.
6. Develop good grooming and hygiene habits.
Boys should be taught from a young age what is involved in good hygiene and grooming habits. It’s not only about dressing nicely, but it’s also a question of health and the skills necessary to care for themselves later in life. They should learn how to use an iron, brush their teeth, do their hair, wear deodorant, clip their fingernails, and shower on a regular basis.
Men with poor grooming habits can have relationship issues and job problems. It sends a message that a job or a partner is not important enough to him to make the effort to look and smell good.
7. Be explicit about consent.
With high school-age boys, you really don’t want to tiptoe around issues of consent. Lay out what is considered an inappropriate advance, how to ask and give permission, and how various things can affect a person’s judgment and ability to give consent.
Help your son practice being straightforward. “I like you. Would you like to…?” is a direct but non-assertive line. Teach him to be respectful of the person’s choice, whatever the response. Tell him if the person isn’t interested, he shouldn’t ask why or try to change the answer. And make sure that he understands that all of this applies to him as well!
In your opinion, who would be easier to raise — boys or girls? Why so?