Raising boys to be who they want to be and to grow up as gentlemen is something that mum of two little boys, Jana, is very mindful of. Here's how she's doing it...
During one of my recent (rushed) morning beauty routines before work, my two year-old son politely asked if he could borrow one of my makeup brushes. This was fine by me because a) he used his manners and b) I use vegan, cruelty and paraben-free makeup (thank you, Kat Von D). I was quite surprised, however, that my Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practicing husband laughed it off too. But what happens if my son wants to contour or cover up his dark under eye circles? The answer is simple: I’ll just let him be. I’ll let him explore and figure things out on his own. This did get me thinking about how I should be raising my boys, and how I can best instil a sense of ‘it’s okay to be who you are’. Here’s what I am working on in the hope that my two little boys will end up being perfect little gentlemen, now and always.
How to raise boys to be gentlemen
1. It’s okay to cry
It’s important for me to know how my son is feeling. If he’s sad, angry or happy, knowing that he is able to express his emotions in a responsible and respectful way saves me from a lot of heartache. At around age five years, many boys are told to ‘stop crying’ or ‘toughen up’ because they’re ‘big boys’ now. The result? They can end up bottling up their emotions and burying their true selves. Why shouldn’t boys be strong AND sensitive? I frequently tell my little ones that it’s okay to cry, and that they can always tell me how they are feeling. Encouraging them to show their emotions now will help them be more understanding and empathetic towards others when they’re all grown up.
2. Smash those gender ‘norms’
As a boy mum, I want to raise them to be good men. I want them to be like their dad who always opens doors for me, who’s openly affectionate and respects me. I want my boys to understand that this is the way they should also treat women, as equals: mums can work and dads can change diapers. Mums can do martial arts and dads can wear pink (and look damn good in it too).
As a team here at HoneyKids, we’re really trying to bring our boys up in an environment that is free from gender stereotypes. You’ll find our sons playing with My Little Ponies over Transformers, and painting their nails just like mummy does. And with the current popularity of gender neutral clothes, society is embracing that kids should be kids, and not necessarily boys should be boys and girls should be girls. A boy playing with a toy kitchen is not going to determine whether he leads his adult life with a wife, a husband (or neither) any more than having black hair or blue eyes will. Conforming to gender stereotypes is becoming as archaic as dinosaurs, and should definitely be consigned to the history books.
Toxic masculinity needs to become a thing of the past. Thanks to the powerful #metoo movement, boy mums all around the world have taken on the responsibility of raising respectful men who understand consent and think twice before acting on aggression and confidence. This generation of boy mums are hopeful of raising boys who are trained to handle their emotions and deal with them in a healthy manner. This is certainly something I am very mindful of bringing up my own two.
3. Manners are important…
Leading by example will always motivate a child to follow suit. Kids are smart little human beings. When we tell our two year-old that we want him to pick up his toys after he’s played with them or say please and thank you, we need to be doing it ourselves. Because none of us want to raise impolite little toe rags, after all. Make manners a big part of daily life, always. And remind your children that kindness costs nothing.
4. Respect one another
Children notice everything (they are basically super spies in tiny packages), so if your relationship with your partner is lacking in respect, the little ones will learn by example. Parents need to show their boys (and all kids) that everything that is contributed to the family is valued, no matter who brought it in, regardless of whether it’s of monetary or emotional value. Encourage your kids to respect one another, respect their things, respect the world around them and also, respect themselves.
For a little boy to watch parents treat one another with respect, understanding, patience and empathy is everything.
Here’s to changing the world, one good man at a time!