Note: Last week’s post focused on being a girl…if you missed it you can check it out here.
“It’s a Boy!” I was in shock at that moment when I realized that the ultrasound technician had been wrong and our baby girl was actually a boy. In an instant my perceptions of my newborn changed. Gone were the thoughts of a sweet gentle girl replaced with the images of a rough and tumble boy. Even the way people interact with him is very different compared to my daughter. The gender biases are very apparent.
Cultural expectations are about raising boys into strong stoic men, versus men who model courage and compassion. Boys are trained from a very early age to act tough and show no emotions except for anger or rage. Washboard abs, perfect hair and ripped bodies are reflected in the toys, movies and heroes that are offered to our boys. Through the onslaught of influences that affect boy’s body images one remains the most powerful…parents. (Check out this abstract from the Journal of Pediatric Psychology that shows that “parent weight-related behaviors, both direct and indirect, are positively associated with child’s weight-related attitudes and behaviors.”)
Parents and caregivers can help boys form what it means to be a man in today’s society versus having their identities shaped by the media’s definition of masculinity.
Here are some tips to get you started:
- Confront stereotypes about masculinity. Challenge what culture defines what it means to be a boy/man. Provide examples of successful boys/men that are celebrated for their brains and unique talents versus brawn, such as Craig Kielburger, Jamie Oliver and Spencer West.
- Grow real relationships. Develop strong and open relationships where boys don’t feel judged for choices or interests that many not fit into the typical masculine ideal.
- Keep it real. Point out that the images of men that are seen in the media have been altered to produce a false reality, such as this photograph of George Clooney.
- Express yourself. Encourage boys to talk about their emotions and find positive ways of working through their feelings.
- Promote physical activity. Provide outlets for physical activity to help boost self esteem.
By taking deliberate steps in redefining our own personal definition of masculinity we broaden the opportunities for our boys to define for themselves who they are.
Share your experience:
For more information about promoting a positive body image or to share your own experiences of raising a son and building self esteem in your children please connect with us by:
- Leaving us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
- Talking to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
- Emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dialing 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
About this guest blogger:
Angela De Maria, BScN, RN, is a Public Health Nurse on the Elementary School Team and works with schools in Burlington. She is a wife and mother to 2 under 4. At home she practises her parenting skills as a short-order cook, human jungle gym and toy room mediator.