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5 Things I Won't Be Teaching My Son

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Parenting is hard, regardless. But I never understood the depth of that until I had my son and began to see how society and (unfortunately) even family and friends began to pigeonhole him not only into a submissive, "less-than" position but also a toxic gender role from such a young age. It then became crystal clear to me how my style of parenting would be vastly different from others. It also helped me define early on what I would and would not teach my son or allow others to push onto him.

1. Boys don't cry or whine. They man up.

I allow my son to express any range of emotion without instructing him to shove it deep down inside so he can appear strong or masculine. If he's sad, I tell him it's okay to cry and let it all out as long as we don't find a way to make ourselves feel better after a little while. If he's scared, I reassure him that everyone gets scared sometimes, even mommies and daddies. If he's angry, I offer ways he can let his frustrations out or calm down, such as doing some deep breathing or counting. I do not tell him not to feel his feelings. I do not tell him not to express his feelings.

2. Boys can't play with certain toys or like certain colors.

I was the kid with a bow in my hair and a sundress on right in the middle of the dirt pile with a Tonka trunk beside the boys. I also collected Barbies and loved my Easy Bake Oven, as well as going fishing and playing in the mountains collecting sticks and leaves and rocks. My mother never differentiated "boy" and "girl" toys and allowed me to freely choose what I wanted and how I wanted to play. I do the same for my son. A boy playing with dolls won't turn into a "sissy," but he will have a better sense of empathy and how to care for someone else. When my son chose the pink and purple binoculars, I didn't dissuade him by shoving the blue and green ones in his hands because his choice of color was simply because it was bright and fun. A child given the freedom to try different things will grow up more unafraid to express themselves, be adventurous, and and follow their own interests versus do what they think is expected of them.

3. "Boys will be boys" can excuse bad behavior.

We will not abide by outdated tropes used to give anyone permission to not be a decent human in my home. I believe and am teaching my son that "boys will be boys" really doesn't mean anything. Boys are rough and tumble - but now schools are allowing girls that are interested to join football teams because some girls are rough and tumble, too. Being born a male does not give certain permissions for behavior to not still hold consequences as has been portrayed by media, court case defense, and a lot of the general public. Instead, my son is learning that boys will be good humans.

4. Boys can't have long hair.

My son has has long curly hair to his shoulders, a short almost buzz cut, and a swipe swept Beiber-esque hairdo so far in his (almost) 4 years. Since he was about 3 and a half, I've gone by his lead in terms of what his hair looked like. Not only does he have beautifully natural multi-tonal blond hair, it is just that - hair. When he told me that he didn't want to cut his hair, I responded with, "It's totally up to you." Not only did we get comments of "when are you going to cut his hair", we were told that he looked like a girl, that he looked like a hippy, and that he'd "be so cute if he got a haircut." I reassuringly said each time that he's always cute, and it's just hair. His hair, for him to cut or not cut as he wishes. I was asked why I was "allowing him to make his own decision about his hair." As a toddler, his desire to be independent and a "big boy" is emerging with force. This was an easy way for me to let him be independent, as the length of his hair isn't an issue that could affect anything major. If I allow him the express himself in this way, then he gets that win and I can stand firmly on more important issues such as teeth brushing, bathing, or not eating just ice cream for dinner that could have some pretty serious negative effects on his life. This way, we both win and he gets the opportunity to practice a skill he will need for the rest of his life - decision making.

5. Children don't have opinions or important things to say.

I have never been of the mindset that children should be seen and not heard or that my home should not appear as if there is a child living there. My living room is regularly scattered with toys and I always encourage my son to speak up when he has something to say. Is it important that while I'm driving he asks me 17 questions about the road signs? Not to me, honestly. But to him, these questions are very important. He's taking in his world, he's learning, he's adapting, he's growing, and expressing himself is very much a part of all that. I teach him to take turns and be respectful, which he is still learning, but I will never tell him to stop talking or not allow him to be involved in a conversation just because "the grown ups are talking." I will never imply to him that his thoughts and opinions don't matter, that what he has to say isn't important, and that he isn't able to find his own voice.

I practice gentle parenting, and what I'm finding is that a lot of people don't really know what that is. I don't let him run the home or get away with everything, but I also don't respond to all situations by immediately shutting him down. My goal as a mother since before I knew his sex was to teach my child, male or female, to be confident. To trust their gut. To be smart. To be brave, which one can be while also being scared at the same time. To be themselves and have no qualms in expressing that. To grow into a child that speaks up. To grow into a teen that doesn't join the crowd just to join it if their heart doesn't align. To grow into an adult that can handle life stresses and know that they will get through it. To know that I hear them and see them through all of those things. And ultimately, to be able to do all of these things even after I am no longer here to remind them that they can.

The way we speak to and treat our children when they're young becomes their internal voice and original view of self worth. I practice gentle parenting, but something I didn't know about that concept was how tough one has to be as a parent to successfully parent in that way in a world that doesn't always get it. I didn't anticipate the dual roles I would be playing as a loving and understanding mother in my son's eyes while remaining strong and unwavering in the eyes of those that disagree. I didn't expect to have to casually slip reminders into conversations about the types of language to be used with and in front of my son and quietly having to explain later when he's out of earshot why I choose to parent this way when my son is shut down by one of the old tropes I've discussed here, which scarily enough are only a few of the many. But I do it. Day in and day out, again and again and again. Because my top priority is giving my son the best foundation for his future self, I will continue to gentle parent with the strength and willpower necessary to do so and not teach him certain things.


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