How to Raise Your Son to Be a Man

From Internet articles to books to social or religious groups, many people are offering ideas for how to raise a son to "be a man." The advice often irritates me because it relies on gender-based stereotypes that are limiting and potentially harmful.

As a mom to two boys, here are my thoughts on raising a son to be a man:

Your son will grow up to be a man simply because he is male. The kind of man he becomes will depend on his personality, his life experiences, and the values you choose to teach him.

Your Child's Personality

Parenting is an important job; perhaps the most important job, as it shapes the people in our society. However, parenting does not give one absolute control over his or her children. From the time of birth, your son is an individual with his own rights and personality.

Some people are naturally shy and thoughtful, while others are more outgoing and brash. Some excel at maths and sciences, while others are talented in art or music. Whether your child shows promise in academics, sports, arts, or any other areas, it is your job as a parent to encourage his interests while helping him try new things to become a well-rounded individual.

Your son's personality may not be the same as your own. The son of two talented musicians may be hopelessly tone-deaf. Two outgoing individuals may have a son who is shy and quiet. It is important to remember that your son has his own personality. Respecting his basic interests and thoughts, even when they are different than your own, will help your son become a confident, self-respecting man.

Your Child's Life Experiences

The events in your son's life will shape the man he becomes. When your son is a baby, you control nearly every aspect of his life. As your son grows, he will begin to pull away and explore the world on his own. This gradual shift from reliance on a parent to personal independence is an important part of growing from a child to an adult.

As your son grows up, he will begin to have his own ideas about everything he experiences. Parents play an important role by providing guidance, yet children will take parental advice as one source of information. This is particularly true as children get older and begin to look to friends, teachers, and other relatives for guidance as well.

Some life experiences are beyond a parent's control. At some point, your son will experience difficult events, such as the death of a loved one (pet or person), arguments with friends, a broken heart, or anxiety over tests or performances. These experiences teach your son about life. He will learn from his mistakes and from his successes. As a parent, you cannot shelter him from these experiences, but you can listen, offer advice, and assure your son that he has your unconditional love.

Remind your son that a person's character is defined not by his life experiences, but rather by his interpretation of those experiences. It's the lessons that we take away that are most important.

The Values You Teach

Your son will learn the most from watching the example you set. Telling your son not to smoke will have little impact if he watches you puff through two packs a day. What's worse, children watch for these hypocrisies and will begin to see you as an unreliable source of information.

Many parents impose rules on their children without explaining why. This may be important for very young children, but as your son matures, take the time to help him understand why you set guidelines. Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Explaining your reasoning will also help your son begin to look at life from another person's point of view.

The best parents know that they do not have all the answers. Talk to your son about the guidelines you want him to follow, but be flexible when possible. Accept his input, especially as he matures. This shows your son that his thoughts are of value and that he is capable of effecting change.

While parenting brings great responsibility, it also brings great joy. Try not to focus on the man you want your son to become. Instead, focus on getting to know your son and on helping him find himself in his journey toward becoming a man.

1 comment:

  1. This is by far, one of the best articles I have ever seen that summarize child rearing. If I had to change anything, it would only be that this strategy works well with both genders, not strictly boys.
    I raised a healthy young lady and for the most part, followed this strategy. I went a step farther on the fish analogy, by continuing: "... teach a man to pray, and he'll starve on his knees!"
    My daughter is now 23 and has her BA in computer networking and security along with a dozen or so certifications from Cisco and her A+ certification. I couldn't be more proud of her. She now works for a non-profit medical company as a network engineer.
    She doesn't fear death nor hell as she is an atheist. However, I have on several occasion, allowed her to attend church with her schoolmates when she was invited. But knowing the truth about the myths is a bell that can't be unrung, so she found no satisfaction from the service and told me she felt embarrassed for them during the sermon, as she could tell they actually believed the obvious lies and apologetics.
    Excellent article Susan, thanks for sharing! :)