Hello everybody, welcome to episode 70 of Optimal Living Advice. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. We’ve got a really great question sent in today about parenting – the parenting of boys specifically. I’ll get into it more in the post, but clearly there has been a longstanding issue with how many boys are raised, and we’re going to talk about how to raise them in a more balanced way. Without further ado, let’s get into today’s question…
QUESTION: “Hello Greg. I’m getting ready to welcome my first child into the world – my wife and I are expecting a boy next month. I remember hearing you mentioning how sad it is that most boys are raised improperly a lot of the times with aggression and hostility. I know you aren’t a Dad, but how do I raise a son that’s in touch with his sensitive side while not discouraging him from acting tough like boys naturally want to do?“
Definitions of Masculinity
Heyyyy congratulations, that’s wonderful news. I’m more of a baby animals guy than I am a baby humans guy but I’ve definitely been coming around to baby humans. So again, congratulations, man that’s terrific. I guess answering this question might make me a Godfather of sorts…that’s what I’ll tell myself anyway. But really, thank you for trusting me with this, especially considering, as you mentioned, the fact that I’m not a father myself.
So I’m not sure of the platform on which I mentioned the travesty of how many boys are raised, I want to say it was on Optimal Relationships Daily, but I don’t remember. (Editor's Note: It might have been a reference to ORD Episode 447 on “The Costs of Toxic Masculinity” by LIsa Merlo-Booth).
Let me just catch everyone up a little bit on that, though. Basically what I would’ve been alluding to are the many false ideas of masculinity that a lot of boys are raised with and how we’re taught to suppress “feminine qualities” like fear, affection, sadness, and more. It’s so drastic that it’s hard to even tell which traits are inherently masculine and which are learned at this point.
Harmful Masculinity and Violence
Studies show that this sort of grit or toughness – which really wouldn’t even be an accurate way of describing it – that many fathers instill into their sons is directly correlated to the fact that men are vastly more suicidal than women, vastly more apt to committing crimes than women, etc.
And I won’t keep going on about it but I highly recommend everyone checking out the documentary entitled The Mask You Live In. It’s all about this stuff and it’s easily the best documentary I’ve ever watched. I think it’s still on Netflix, if not you can find it somewhere.
So anyway, that’s the gist of what I would’ve meant and though I like to be pretty open-minded about things, I’m pretty sure anyone who argues with any of that is completely wrong. But who am I to say?
Harmful Masculinity and Violence
If you’re raising a boy and you’re mindful enough to want to avoid this, which you are and which is so great to hear, I think you first need to calm yourself down by remembering how incredibly pliable children are – certainly when they’re babies. So try to think of your son as a person before you think of him as a boy, if that makes sense. Because of the type of conditioning I meant, and the same goes for girls, it’s easy to forget that we all possess the same qualities. Biologically, each person will be more inclined to act in certain ways based on their sex and their unique genetics, but those qualities will only be able to breathe if they’re given an environment to do so.
So if you’re a parent and you have your own ideas as to how you want your child to turn out (as all parents do to some extent), the environment you create for them is going to be a much stronger determining factor in how they turn out than anything else. It’s not like these common, bad attributes of boys are just going to muscle their way through no matter what. Sure, your son will be exposed to all of these things as he ages, but the tools you give him are going to have the biggest say in how he responds to them.
It’s on you, Dad, to model the behavior that you want your son to fall into. Though he might not understand the way that you balance your typically masculine qualities with your typically feminine qualities, he’ll subconsciously recognize trends and mimic them when he’s put into similar situations – especially if you’re the male figure in his life that he looks up to most.
The 3 P's of Manhood
We should talk about those typically masculine qualities, though, because again we don’t want to ignore genetics completely. Regardless of how he, or any man chooses to act on them, men will inevitably come to realize that their roles in society are summed up by what are called the “three P’s”: procreator, protector and provider.
So men are naturally inclined to mate and reproduce, defend their mate and child or others who are more physically vulnerable, and to provide for their mate and child. Way back when, that meant hunting and gathering resources, nowadays it pretty much means making money and then calling it a day.
The three P’s will be a big part of what your son relies on to shape his identity as a man. You can honor this part of what boys “naturally want to do” as you put it. Boys wanting to act tough or assume the alpha position makes perfect sense, as being an alpha will better prepare them to fulfill the three Ps. Model the three Ps for your son in a way that both honors them and shows the other side of them. As he ages and takes more and more influence from his friends, you simply adapt along with his development.
How to Model Good Behavior for Your Son
When he’s a kid, being a good model for the procreator aspect of masculinity means treating your wife with love and respect and doing the same for other important women in your son’s life – maybe any of his aunts or if you give him a sister along the way.
When he’s older and he’s been infiltrated by porn and idiot friends who treat women as objects, don’t belittle him. You know what he’s going through. Support him and help him question his any iffy behavior he displays in this time. Remind him of how good relationships are formed and what proper treatment of women looks like while still acknowledging that the pressures he’s getting from society are natural.
Modeling the provider quality when he’s a kid means reminding him of the purpose behind things you provide for your family rather than giving him things without meaning. As he ages and considers a career path, your modeling switches to show him that career should be about passion and that the money he earns should be spent wisely and graciously.
Showing him how to be a good protector when he’s a kid means teaching him that he should stand up for himself and others in a way that is built on integrity rather than aggression; reminding him that he should only engage in physical violence when absolutely necessary to ensure the safety of himself and others.
That’s my opinion on that, anyway, some might see it differently. But you all get the picture. As he gets older, it’s a similar picture, encourage him to talk through his insecurities rather than beating himself or others to a pulp in an effort to hide them.
Conclusion: How to Raise Boys Today
What’s happening when you demonstrate these types of behavior is that you teach him to consider others. You’re directly embracing the qualities that make for much of his masculinity, but not at the expense of his mental health or someone else’s mental health.
You’re keeping him abreast of – and not shaming him for – the undercurrent of feelings that surges beneath these cornerstones of manhood, and doing so will help him understand them better and act with compassion as opposed to ego.
That brings us to the end, my friends.
Sir, good luck on the journey of fatherhood. Thanks again for reaching out to us with this question. I’m going to bookmark this one should I ever have a son that I’m tempted to start screaming at.
For all you other cool cats and kittens out there, I hope you got that reference, AND I hope that you submit any questions you might for us to our email address at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We’ll answer them for you on the show to the best of our ability. Sound good? Great.
Have an awesome day everybody, thanks for tuning in, and I’ll talk to you next time!