As the mom of a little boy, I want to make sure that I am doing my part in helping him to become the best man that he can be. Below are the things I believe are important for moms to teach our sons.
Emotions Don’t Make You Weak
So often, boys and men are socialized to believe that men should be stoic and keep their feelings to themselves. To show emotions (especially ones like sadness or fear) is deemed as “feminine” or “weak”. In reality, being able to express your emotions is beneficial for your mental health. When people hold their feelings in (especially negative ones), it can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and failed relationships. Rather than teaching boys and young men to repress their emotions, teach them to embrace and express them.
Chivalry is Not Dead
I hear a lot of people say that chivalry is dead. I disagree. Chivalry is alive and well and you can teach your sons to be chivalrous. In my mind, chivalry is more than just letting women go first and holding doors open for them. It’s more about being helpful and lending your skills to people who may not have them. It’s also about protecting those who may not be able to protect themselves. By teaching our sons how to do these things, it becomes natural for them to hold doors open for people who are entering the same building as them, help people complete tasks when they see someone struggling, and take action when they see someone who needs someone to advocate for them.
Brawn Is Not Better than Brains
While being strong can come in handy throughout life, I think boys are given a false sense of its importance. Whenever you watch a tv show or movie centered around kids or teenagers (especially if it is set at a school), you see the same stereotypes of the athletes/jocks being the popular ones while the smart kids are labeled as geeks and are often ridiculed or bullied. This sends out a consistent message that somehow being strong and athletic is better and more desirable than being intelligent or having hobbies that don’t relate to sports. Reinforce to your sons that while it is perfectly fine to want to be an athlete, it’s also perfectly fine to enjoy learning and to participate in a variety of extracurriculars that may not be deemed “cool”, but that they enjoy. Protect their sense of individuality by encouraging them to be true to who they are and what they enjoy in life.
No Man Is an Island
Men are taught (by and large) that their role is to be the provider. This can translate to feeling like men are supposed to be utterly independent – handling all of the big things on their own. I think we can agree that this type of mindset can lead to stress and burnout – fast. If we commit to doing everything on our own, we stand the chances of making life much more difficult than it needs to be. Teach your sons that there is nothing wrong with getting help. In fact, it is smart because it helps them to get things done more efficiently. It can also teach them how to delegate and outsource (which are key leadership skills).
Love Is Not a Bad Word
Let’s go ahead and get the double standard out there: men are taught to date around until they are finally ready to settle down. Women are taught to wait for Prince Charming to show up to sweep her off her feet. Because of this, many men (especially in the later generations) tend to view love as something to avoid until they are older. In fact, they may also operate under the belief that loving someone makes them weak. Teach your sons that love can extend to people outside of family and even though it can feel scary to be in love, it can also be an enriching experience. It may be a four-letter word, but it’s one of the good ones.
Cooking & Cleaning are Life Skills
I can’t end this list without mentioning the importance of developing certain life skills. Personally, I feel that we do our children a huge disservice if we send them out into the world without knowing how to take care of their homes and their bodies. That’s why I believe that every child should learn how to cook, clean, and do laundry. You can start them as early as when they are toddlers by having them help you crack eggs, pick up toys, and put freshly laundered clothes where they belong. As they get older, they can help with more steps until they are able to do things independently.
Be a Good Sport
Teach your sons to practice good sportsmanship. If they lose a game, they shouldn’t throw a fit and start blaming everything and everyone for the loss. Instead, they should congratulate their opponents (and their teammates) on a game well-played. If they win a game, they shouldn’t rub their victory into their opponents’ faces. Instead, they should (you guessed it) congratulate everyone on a game well-played.
Learn from Mistakes and Failures
While we are on the topic of losing, I think another great lesson is teaching our sons that even though losing is hard, it doesn’t mean it’s all bad. Yes, it can suck to not have things go our way, but there are often lessons to be learned in these situations. It’s up to us to analyze what happened to see if there is a way that we can either avoid the undesired result in the future or do better next time. Learning how to do this can help our sons to avoid feeling like failures or believing that they can’t accomplish challenging goals.
Communication is Key
On a related note, I think it is important for us to teach our sons (who may one day become husbands and fathers) that communication skills are critical. We all need to learn to not only communicate how we feel to others, we need to learn how to ACTIVELY listen when other people are speaking. This helps us at school, at work, and in relationships. Promote positive communication skills with your sons by encouraging them to speak their minds, modeling active listening skills, and praising them when they do a good job of communicating something that may have been difficult for them.
Last, but not least, teach your son to love himself – flaws and all. It’s great to seek personal development and growth, however, all children should be taught that they are powerful, that they are capable of amazing things, that they deserve respect, and that they are beautiful human beings – inside and out. Take some time to have your son actively think about the qualities he appreciates in himself (and don’t forget to add your own to the list). You never know when they will need a reminder that they are awesome.
These are just a few things that I think moms should teach their sons. What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below. I didn’t forget about the girls. Check out my list of things I think moms should teach their daughters.