Being a dad to boys isn’t for the faint of heart. So many responsibilities come with raising a son. When you are raising a son, you are creating a man of the future. You want that man to be full of integrity and heart. But, given the current climate, navigating the waters of parenthood in 2020 is more challenging than ever.
Things are changing fast. Many of us are experiencing feelings of fear, confusion, stress, and anxiety in our country and throughout the world. COVID-19 is ever-present, and protests are happening on a daily basis. For many of us, there is a sense of unpredictability—that each day will bring something new to face.
As parents, we need to be responsible in our reactions to events so we can be there for the boys in our lives who count on us to protect, reassure, and guide them. It’s important to keep in mind that every child is different, and every child reacts to and internalizes things in their own way. No one knows your child better than you, so always consider the individual needs of your special boy as you help him grow into a confident, caring, and responsible man.
4 Things to Consider When Raising Young Men
Below are some thoughts to consider as you help your son manage and express his emotions while navigating life’s difficult situations to help set him up for success in every stage of life.
Help Him Manage His Emotions
The stereotypical strong, silent, macho guy is slowly becoming a relic of a bygone era. Today, the good guys are those who understand how to deal with their feelings in the right way. Lay the groundwork for emotional maturity by allowing your son to experience his feelings—whatever they might be. Validate and acknowledge his emotions and then figure a course of action out together. This strategy will allow your son to accept and embrace different types of emotions. The goal is for your son to see his feelings as a guiding light instead of a nuisance.
Research shows that parents ask daughters about their feelings more often than sons. When little girls get hurt, parents comfort them more than boys. As a result, many boys grow up feeling ashamed about their emotions. These boys become men who don’t know how to communicate well. They bottle up their feelings or lash out—which makes it hard for them to relate to others.
Teach Him Empathy
If your son can understand how someone else is feeling, it will make him a better friend now and a better husband and father in the future. Empathy is incredibly important in this day and age. If your son can genuinely feel for others, it will go a long way in preventing him from doing hurtful things. In this way, empathy is by far one of the most important foundations you can give your son.
But, make no mistake, you’ve got your work cut out or you. According to research from the University of Michigan, today’s college students are 40% less empathetic than they were just 20 years ago. According to the researchers, two likely reasons are violent media that numb children to the pain of others, and social media that is filled with virtual “friends” that kids don’t get to know in meaningful ways.
Instill Respect for Others
When a boy grows up obeying his parents’ rules and interacting with people in a caring manner, he learns a baseline of treating others with respect. If this behavior is enforced throughout your son’s childhood, by the time he is an adult, this respectful manner will be second nature.
For your son to understand the concept of respect, you need to model it in your own behavior. Treat other authority figures in your son’s life, such as his mom, teachers, and coaches, with respect and insist that he does the same. Should a conflict ever arise—say, between your son and his coach—handle the situation with grace. Don’t immediately side with your son. Make sure that you listen to both sides of the story, and even if your child is right, make sure he understands that rudeness is never acceptable.
Give Him Affection
When your son is little, he adores your hugs and kisses. Once he hits adolescence, probably not so much. It’s normal for boys to begin separating from their parents as they grow older as a way to establish their independence. But remember, it’s the men who grew up with affection who freely give it, so find ways to show your love and express it often.
At some point, as boys grow into men, affection turns to intimacy. Intimacy is a vital part of life, and it’s crucial to any long-term, loving relationship. Teach your son about the appropriate use of intimacy with appropriate people, when he is ready. Adolescent boys who learn about these things from their parents are more likely to view intimacy and sex in a healthy way and incorporate it effectively into their relationships.
Remember, there is no single right way to raise a son. Just do the best you can, trust yourself and enjoy the company of the incredibly special little man in your life. Above all, take the time to show him complete and unconditional love, every single day.