How we raise our boys has all to do with how entitled they feel as they grow to manhood—how entitled they feel to hold power over girls and weaker boys, how entitled they feel to do as they please. Our culture is steeped in male entitlement, so we must work hard to support our sons in ways that our culture does not.
As shocking as it is in this day and age, men abusing women seems to hit the news on a regular basis. Date rapes seem to be an acceptable activity among college men. It’s not out of the sphere of our boys to find themselves in such a climate. We must raise our boys to not only shun these activities but to call out their friends to put a stop to it being “cool”.
Sportswriter Dan Wetzel wrote for Yahoo News that, “Rape, experts say, is a crime of power and control more than sex. Underlying all of that is arrogance….A culture of arrogance [can create] a group mindset of debauchery and disrespect, of misplaced manhood and lost morality.”
This is the culture of “toxic masculinity”, as Jaclyn Friedman calls it, which I believe is responsible for misogynistic put downs and jokes, sexist discrimination, the on-going world-wide culture of rape, submission of women, and unequal pay for equal work.
Much of this will not change except from the ground up. Let’s make sure that ground is firmly supporting our boys to be sensitive and respectful of all other people’s feelings and experiences. In order to develop that, our boys must experience our sensitivity to theirs.
One of my proudest moments of my son happened when he was playing soccer against another town. My son was goalie and that day every ball sailed past him into the net. When the boys were leaving the field, a boy from the other team taunted him with, “You suck as goalie.” My son came back with, “Yeah, I guess I’m having a bad day.” Many parents would have felt embarrassed, wishing he had retaliated, even punched the other kid. I was proud that he was not ashamed of his temporary weakness. I was proud that he didn’t see his poor performance as a failure. I was proud that he knew how to deflect a hurtful comment and stand down a bullish remark while standing tall. The wind was knocked out of the other boy’s bravado. My son came out the stronger of the two.
Parents must start early raising boys to be respectful, open, emotional men. We must acknowledge how important it is to:
- Allow boys to have and express their emotions.
- Teach boys that crying is healing and kindness wins them friendship and respect.
- Make sure they know mistakes are just mistakes and how to make amends.
- Intervene when seeing “pack mentality”, often a result of team sports.
- Empower them to speak out when they see injustice and bullying.
- Encourage boys to babysit, do their own laundry, cook.
- Teach that true bravery means having courage when you are scared. It doesn’t mean not being scared.
- Provide acceptable outlets for aggression rather than stopping aggressive impulses.
- Refuse to accept that “boys will be boys” when they take out their aggression on others.
- Stay present in your sons’ lives.
- Say, “I love you” and “I’m sorry” over and over. Snuggle and kiss daily.
- Change diapers, give baths, kiss boo-boos, hug, nurture.
- Do household chores together. Enjoy their company.
- Admit mistakes, make amends, cry.
- Model vulnerability. Express emotions.
- Respect all women. Never tell sexist jokes. Especially not in the company of your sons.
- Teach the lesson to never touch a girl without her consent.
- Talk about “toxic masculinity” and the pack mentality of the entitled male. Share stories from the past that can teach lessons. Share news events appropriately and use them for letting your son know what you think.
These interventions require self-reflection and vulnerability—something that does not come easily for most men. We must look hard at what our culture not only accepts but supports in male behavior and change that culture in our homes. We can and must put a stop to male entitlement once and for all.