Raising boys is hard OK! I know this because I have been raising one for 14 years now, many people tell me they think that raising girls is far more difficult. I disagree, raising boys and girls is equally difficult, they face the same issues, they go through the same milestones at the end of the day we hope to raise confident children.
A while back I wrote about raising daughters, and I had wanted to write a post about Raising Boys to be confident, I struggled with writing the topic. How To Raise A Confident Son, the title felt weird or off somehow and I couldn’t quite figure out why it seems so odd to me.
Boys struggle to grow up the same as girls do, they face the same struggles with self-esteem just as girls, and they face the same type of stereotypes girls do. So why did the title of my post cause me such grief?
This morning I woke up, grabbed my cup of coffee and sat down to check out Facebook, a normal routine for me. I scroll through the mindless junk posts, and check to see what my friends have been up to, I watch the odd video and read the latest news.
Something caught my eye this morning that I immediately clicked on, and the answer to my title question was answered! A friend shared a video titled Man Enough, and I am grateful she shared it. I watched for 27 minutes knowing exactly why I struggled with the title and I learned something about my self I didn’t realize was even a part of my thought process.
The video starts off with a group of well-known men sitting down to enjoy a meal together while they discuss the topic of masculinity. They discussed what is meant to be masculine, what society view on masculinity are, and what struggles they each faced with masculinity.
I found my self thinking more than once, Oh My God this is so true! I never even stopped to think about it before, what does masculine even mean? Who came up with the concept? Was I raising my son wrong?!
Are You Afraid To Catch Feels?
You’re singing the song now aren’t you?
The topic of discussing emotions came up in the video, why do men feel like catching and sharing feels diminishes their “power”, yet women can openly and often discuss our feeling with each other as every day normal conversation. I found it interesting to hear these men talk about how they were always afraid to share their emotions and feelings because it would seem as if they were reducing their image of being strong, calm, and cool.
They talked about how difficult it was to share their problems with their best guy friends, and how they noticed women share their problems so openly. They mentioned that they felt for women it was empowering and a way of connecting with each other on the level of the soul, yet if men did this they felt awkward and almost as if they were being perceived as too feminine.
These men expressed how society taught them that men don’t tell others about their problems because a man is supposed to solve problems for their families, friends and themselves. I instantly thought of my previous partner, and my heart broke more, he was forever telling me stories about to grow up as a young boy.
His father always told him to man up, be a man, boys don’t cry, and to toughen up! He struggled with discussing his feelings, he wasn’t always able to openly talk to me about how he really felt inside, he always said things like ” I fix problems, I don’t know how to just listen to you express your feelings without wanting to FIX the problem that’s making you feel the way you do” He struggled with being bullied, and was often picked on to grow up for his lack of height and anytime he expressed feelings they were quickly dismissed. At 40 years old he was still struggling with self-esteem, and was never really able to connect with others very well.
I was fortunate and grateful that he felt comfortable enough to share his true self and soul with me. He struggled with alcohol addiction, often drinking to mask his feelings and emotions, he never could figure out why he couldn’t just be happy. Ultimately his drinking got worse, and was the cause of our ended relationship, we kept in touch, he sought therapy and rehab. But it was too late, the damage was done, this June I received a phone call to inform me that he had taken his own life. I was and still am devastated. Though I can’t say anyone knows exactly why he took his own life, I suspect and feel that his self-esteem, lack of confidence, and depression were in fact deeply linked to his childhood.
A Parent’s Worst Nightmare
How can we prevent these kinds of situations, how do we raise our son’s to be confident, self loving and openly affectionate without them being bullied or teased?
Recently my son came to me with a problem that had been really upsetting him, a so called friend was teasing him calling him gay, relentlessly. While I feel that it was in a joking this friend was attempting to bond with my son and his friends around him, I don’t think he realized the impact the joke would have on my son. Gavin was upset by this, and I couldn’t quite understand why, my brother is openly gay. I, nor my family, have ever questioned my brother’s masculinity, we love him dearly for who he is, and my children have grown up knowing and seeing the dynamics of our relationship with my brother. Being gay was never perceived as a “problem” in my household to grow up, and I hope that I have created a safe and accepting environment within my own home.
So why did this upset my son so much? Why was he truly devastated that someone might think he was gay? How was I am going to handle this situation? Was my son becoming depressed, and worried about his masculinity? Would he turn to drinking? Would he one day end his own life?
Fear, confusion, and worry… these words do not even begin to describe how I felt while watching my son go through this. How was I am going to talk to him, make him feel like what other people say and joke about does not define his self-worth, and value as a human being. All I could do as a mother was let him talk to me about his feelings, listen to him while he expressed himself, offer up comforting words, and reassurance that he is loved, safe and a valuable member of our family. And that some people are cruel and heartless. I explained that some people joke about things without understanding the impact of how that joke makes other people feel.
Raising Confidence In Boys
I have always been an open parent, I share exactly how I think or feel with my children, I talk to them about everything and anything. Not one topic or situation is taboo in my home, my children can discuss farts, poop, body parts, situations, feelings about others, and the world around them freely. Including at the dinner table, which yes can make having a meal rather nauseating.
We discuss what it means to be a good kind human being, we have had conversations about sexuality, and human rights. How everyone deserves to be loved and accepted for who they are. Even if they are not always the nicest or kindest human beings, everyone deserves to feel loved.
I have never associated gender roles, or I do my best not too, it happens, but I have always made it perfectly OK for my son to choose a so called “girl” toy or interest. As it has always been OK for my daughters to choose “boy” toys and hobbies. I allow them to express who they truly are as individuals.
The real problem any parent faces while trying to raise confident children is society! Society as a whole has an image of what it means to be masculine, or feminine. Society tells us what is acceptable or not. Society can be a great thing, and a completely destructive thing.
How Do We Combat Society’s Views
This is a tough question many parents face, a question with no easy answers or solutions.
As a mom I feel the only way we can combat society’s influence is to be open and honest when we talk to our children, or other people for that matter. Being open, honest and not backing down on your own thoughts and feelings, sends a powerful message.
We can set a great example for our kids by being kind, thoughtful, accepting, and expressing empathy while truly trying to connect with other people.
Confidence is a learned behavior, and at some point everyone questions their own confidence. Being mindful about this and changing our thoughts and behaviors empowers us. It allows us to set the bar, showing our children that we are not always confident and that is OK. By continuously trying to learn and change the way we behave, will help our children learn confidence.
The important thing is to admit openly and vocally that we don’t feel confident about something. Talking about it openly and discussing our worries, our fears and personal struggles lets our kids know that it is OK to have feeling and share them. Talking about things and problem solving together builds their confidence and self-worth. It shows humanity, teaches our children to be empathetic and caring individuals. This is extremely important especially when raising boys in a society that tells them this is not “manly”.
Being “Manly” Enough
I hope that I am raising my son to know that the true meaning of being a man, is being a kind good-hearted person! One who does not always think of himself, or worry about what others think of him. I hope that he knows being a real man is about thinking about other people, how they feel, and being a helping hand for someone in need.
It is my hope that he grows to be a caring, open honest and trustworthy human being, one who can be confident in his sexuality, his self-esteem, his thoughts, passions and goals.
Being a parent is difficult, especially in today’s day and age where everyone has an opinion and are openly sharing their opinions with the world. I hope that by sharing my struggles, worries and thoughts helps you navigate through your own personal thoughts and feelings. I hope that you take something from this that helps you be the best parent and best human being you can possibly be.
The Video Is Worth Watching
I hope that you will watch the video with your son’s, let it inspire a conversation between you two. I would love if you shared your thoughts and opinions with me in the comments below.