How to Talk to Your Son About Toxic Masculinity
Times are changing, but one thing that has stayed the same is this need to raise boys into strong, dominant men. And, it is killing them. When little boys learn the way to earn respect is through dominance and violence, we all lose. When we tell young men to “not act like a sissy” or to “handle things like a man,” they only learn to be ashamed and fearful of their feelings.
Toxic masculinity is a public health crisis. News story after news story involves an angry, depressed man who has reacted violently. When you factor in the number of young men committing suicide, it becomes clear that the masculinity we are teaching is genuinely toxic. But, you can affect change. You can raise boys who grow into respectful, amicable, empathetic men. Here are some ways to avoid toxic masculinity in your home:
Watch Your Words
As parents, you must watch your words. The way you respond when your son gets hurt or reacts differently will make an impression on him. It is likely you grew up in a home where you were told to “not act like a girl” or to “toughen up.” Do not fall into the trap of repeating the language of past generations. Instead, avoid using harmful language and discourage your son from using it as well.
Avoid Hardening Them
Boys are often taught that it is weak to appear “too soft.” When boys are taught that certain characteristics make them weak or not masculine, it is hurtful. For example, boys are taught that the boys who act “soft” are feminine or gay as if these are negative traits. Not only is this the wrong message to send, but it is also untrue.
Additionally, boys are often taught that those who are powerful are the most successful. And, you gain power by exerting control or showing dominance. Unfortunately, many boys believe violence is the key to dominating others. You must explain the flaws in this cycle.
Teach Boys to Express Emotions
Let boys cry. Let boys show excitement. Let boys express emotions. Do not teach them to stuff their feelings or bottle up their emotions. Instead, teach your son how to handle emotions. Listen to your son when he is hurting and give him healthy coping mechanisms. Just to be clear – telling your son “men don’t cry” is not a healthy coping mechanism.
Begin teaching your son at an early age that “no means no.” Young men need to be taught that they are not entitled to anything simply because of their gender. You can reinforce this concept by teaching your son the importance of asking and respecting someone’s “yes” or “no” at home.
Toxic masculinity is everywhere, but we are just now talking about its effects. Masculinity is not wrong. However, toxic masculinity where dominance and violence lead to occurrences such as the “Me Too” campaign is not just wrong – it is devastating.