What should we be teaching our boys?

With the recent outcry for justice and the long-awaited change needed within our country, I was left feeling deeply distressed as a woman and a first-time single mama, raising my little boy in this big world.

In a society that has been distorted by the tolerance of what it supposedly means to be a man. My little boy whose essence is man and who I hope I can raise not to be defined by the views of this society. I’d be lying if I said fear has not grappled my heart for what the future holds, or even the next step.

Then it got me thinking, perspective is everything and I could either let my fearful, overly protective and anxious motherly instincts lead my every move, or I could unlearn this natural (yet unnatural) thought patterns I have and actually adapt to a perspective that feels kinda like swimming upstream….BUT worthwhile in its outcome! A vivid and rare perspective that my little boy is in the proximity of my influence for a tiny period only to be propelled into the future to make an impact.

So, how can I equip my son? How do I allow him the freedom to safely explore, unfold and grow into his own person without crippling him with my fears? Fears that snowball into his very non- conscience existence if I continue to feed and nurture it. The pattern of instilling fear into our kids’ imaginations only hinders their creativity and explorative nature.

So where do we start?

With ourselves, of course, our own dysregulation as adults – as parents, so that we can teach our kids how to regulate themselves. Our kids either hear our fears or they hear God’s promises at work in our lives. We need to be dealing with these fears and teach our little boys and girls that yes safety looks like not talking to strangers and staying close to mom/dad when going on trips and outings, but what happens when they do end up talking to strangers?

Safety awareness goes beyond avoidance strategies. Our children need to catch the character traits for living. We need to instil within them that their place of security is the love we have and share.

So, what then do we teach our little boys – the future men?

These are a few of the basic character components that make up higher functioning skills in the brain that will have an impact on all other independent functioning including judgement and safety awareness.

1. Resilience – defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties/toughness. This is something our generation and the younger gen is in deficiency of. The first sign of hardship usually means quit, but what if the first sign of hardship meant we were spurring our son’s on, not to reassure them that it’s NOT that hard, but to reassure them that they can do hard things. What if it meant shifting the course of action to find another way, what if it means perseverance? And it starts simple, it starts from young, through play experiences that foster this, which will, in turn, build character.

2. Problem-solving – another trait that goes hand in hand with resilience – but how do we teach this – again, simply through play – through daily household chores, helping mom or dad with younger siblings, through family times, teamwork and togetherness. We need to impart more of ‘how can you do this?’ or ‘how can we do this together?’, rather than ‘how can I do this for you?’. We help our little ones by showing them how they can do certain things for themselves and thus build healthy independence.

 3. Strength – controversial idea, right?!– we are constantly hearing notions about manly strength being ‘muscular’, ‘boys don’t cry’. This couldn’t be further from the truth of what real strength is all about. We can adjust this notion by nurturing our boys and allowing them to be cared for, to show care and to show them how to channel and express their emotions. How else are they to learn emotional regulation and emotional intelligence? They need to be taught that it’s okay to ask for directions, to ask for help. It’s okay to do things by yourself if you can, but strength also lies in unity. And that’s okay too. 

4. Emotional intelligence – defined by Oxford as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions. So crucial, and yet so tricky as it is mostly modelled through our own behaviour as adults – if we’re reactive, they’re likely to be too. It’s hard. It’s not direct, it’s gradual learning (and unlearning) that starts with us. When we approach them, we leave our place of fear or anger and approach them from a place of security in who we are to them. We may not get it right every time, in fact, we won’t, but we too learn from our mistakes and so they learn too.

5. Creativity – It is NOT a trait associated with weakness as a society may have us think. It is a trait that we are all innately born with. It’s our human design, so how do we foster this? Again – play, play and play, sensory play, imaginary play, books, stories, baking, cooking, helping with meal prep, keeping toys simple and allowing them the freedom to explore… the list is infinite. When we facilitate and build healthy creative minds, we are in essence building an appreciation for their own design and thus the design of others.

6. Respect – This includes respect for themselves – knowing their limits, learning how to set boundaries as children, for example, when they may need time alone. Receiving respect from us as adults, knowing that their No means No and knowing our No means No. Respecting their decisions for play and the simple healthy choices they make. When we can truly try and facilitate this throughout their daily lives, we are more likely to build a generation of men that are ready to respect our empowered daughters.

7. Faith – raising warriors is raising leaders. For a man who trusts in their faith especially in their weaknesses has found the place of true strength.

8. LOVE – Above all, and most importantly, LOVE. A loving home and nurturing, secure attachment-relationship are one of the best things we can do for our children, it’s the one thing that conquers all.

You may be thinking, um, how does this help, I want and need a more immediate solution my fears as a mother, to what our country is currently facing, and yes there are lots of immediate solutions, but the truth is, it took years for our country to silently reach this point of an actual ingrained culture. We must take back our society’s culture, which means, consistent efforts to unlearn what we have been taught. For real and lasting impact, we need to mindfully question our daily auto-pilot behaviour and have the patience and willingness to want to raise a better generation for our sons, our daughters, our families. Even when we fail, even in the setbacks, the mistakes, we will choose to right the wrongs and persevere. We will find the avenues, we will be present and appreciate the present, for the present is all we have. Right now, not tomorrow is where we can start.

starting solids My name is Tasha-Leigh, I am a first-time single mama to my 6-month-old son and an occupational therapist with a passion for paediatrics, women and youth empowerment. I also enjoy writing as a liberating form of expression with the hopes that it may bring both inspiration and encouragement to all those who encounter it.

My website is www.ot2mama.com.

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