It's an odd concept for me, but one day my three sweet little boys will be grown men. Probably with some form of beard and the ability to finally beat me at wrestling.
With this in mind there's an important question I have to ask myself:
How can I raise my boys to be healthy, happy, wholesome men?
There's a strong, old story of masculinity that is doing us damage. It's summed up in the phrase "Man up". It's passed on by the practice of disciplining emotion, "Stop crying!". It teaches us that expressing how we are feeling is not ok. This process teaches boys to wear a mask of masculinity. To only show strength, anger and competence. But behind the mask fear, hurt and sadness are hiding.
The problem with denying our emotions is that they have to come out somewhere. And often they come out in anger and violence. But this is not a healthy way of functioning in the world. Uncontrollable anger should not be a badge of masculinity.
So how do you parent emotionally connected boys and men?
Firstly, let them cry. Most boys have learnt that it is not ok to cry in public by the time they are 3. Instead, let your child cry, offer them comfort and in their own time they'll stop, without you telling them to.
Secondly, ask them how they are feeling and how others might be feeling. The ability to locate your own emotions and identify what someone else is feeling is called emotional intelligence and it's essential to developing healthy relationships.
Thirdly, model healthy masculinity. Say sorry when you do something wrong. Explain that it's ok to be afraid. Be sad in front of them. Give them a model to follow.
By doing these things we can help them to take off the mask, and never pick it up again.
Thanks for reading,