Although much of society still embraces gender roles, much of the world has either rejected them, or has adopted some evolving hybrid version of them. Depending on who is raising our boys, priority is placed on teaching them different character traits. Especially in Western countries, most of our boys are being raised primarily by a mother, grandmother, aunt, or some other female caretaker. I’ve spoken to and worked with many women who recognize the importance of instilling specific traits in their boys – e.g., strength, courage, and leadership. I’ve unfortunately also witnessed mothers who are physically, verbally and emotionally abusive to their sons, because they believe that such treatment is necessary to transform their sons into men. These boys are scolded for crying or showing any “soft” emotions, and even told to stop “acting like a girl” – or “a bitch”.
Interestingly, not much is ever said about the source of mom’s beliefs and what exactly her boy-raising curriculum is based on. From what template are today’s moms drawing? Their fathers? Uncles? Brothers? BET? MTV? Jesus? Their favorite male entertainer? Books and magazines? Whatever the source, today’s boys and men are said to be largely devoid of some characteristics that have traditionally been attributed to girls and women. Many would argue, that those raising our sons should be sure to do better balancing when instilling what may be seen as gender-specific character traits. Here are three “girl traits” that boys surely need:
- Communication: One of women’s biggest complaints about men is their perceived inability to communicate, especially their feelings. Is there any truth to the notion that men are less capable of interchanging thoughts, opinions, and feelings? Few will argue that today’s predominant way of communication among young people – email, text and typing via various social media like Facebook, Twitter and IG, have stunted our boys’ communication skills. Let’s teach our boys to express themselves effectively – verbally, so that violence, intimidation, and emotional suppression do not become the default language of our next generation of young men.
- Compassion: Is your son compassionate? Is he capable of feeling sympathy for others? Is he capable of attempting to relate to the situations of others, even when he is not directly affected? Taking it to the next level, are you raising your son with a desire to alleviate the suffering of others? In a capitalist society, where people are obsessed with what they have, and what material things those around us have, compassion often falls very low on the priority list, especially for our boys and men. Let’s change that paradigm, so that we don’t inadvertently nurture narcissistic and egomaniac personalities in our boys.
- Passion: The word “emotional” is often associated with, and used to describe girls and women. It is also a close cousin to passion. Our boys are often taught to repress emotions, for fear that their emotions will be criticized as a weak female trait. As a result, we have an entire generation of boys, teens, and men largely devoid of emotion, or passion – for anything. Let’s teach our boys to channel emotion into passion, and use that passion to be builders, creators, motivators, and brave leaders worthy of continuing our legacies.