Navigating the Challenges of Raising a Son in a World of Toxic Masculinity

Emily Ann Richmond, Marketing Coordinator at BAMSI

During my pregnancy, I was told that having a boy would be easier than having a girl. However, as my son enters his mid-teens, I see him drowning in a sea of toxic masculinity. I constantly question if I’m doing enough to raise my son to be true to himself, rather than forcing him to conform to my expectations of who he should be.

When he was young, I presented him with both stereotypical boy and girl toys and allowed him to grow his hair long. However, he gravitated toward traditionally masculine toys and cut his hair short. He never showed any interest in girls, and his classmates seemed to share this attitude. At birthday parties, they engaged in stereotypically boyish activities, creating an environment where conformity was expected, and individuality was punished.

This pressure to fit in with societal norms only increases as he grows older. My son is becoming more aware of the expectations placed on him as a man – stoic, strong, a provider, and a protector. Unfortunately, he has embraced the most toxic aspects of masculinity, lifting weights, getting into fights, and prioritizing physical strength over emotional intelligence. I can’t help but wonder if it’s society’s poisonous influence, rather than anything I did as a parent, that is shaping him.

As a parent, it can be challenging to navigate the expectations of raising a son in a world that perpetuates toxic masculinity. It’s essential to acknowledge that the pressure to conform to traditional gender roles is ever-present and can have a lasting impact on our children. Here are a few tips for helping your son navigate these challenges:

  • Encourage open communication and emotional intelligence: Teach your son that it’s okay to express his emotions and that emotional intelligence is just as important as physical strength. Encourage him to communicate his feelings, ask for help when needed, and be empathetic towards others.
  • Model healthy behavior: As a parent, it’s important to model healthy behavior and challenge traditional gender roles. Show your son that it’s okay to be vulnerable, that there is no one “right” way to be a man, and that it’s essential to treat others with respect and kindness.
  • Encourage individuality: Emphasize the importance of individuality and encourage your son to embrace his unique interests, regardless of whether they align with traditional gender roles. Foster an environment where he feels comfortable exploring his identity and expressing himself.
  • Provide positive role models: Surround your son with positive role models who challenge toxic masculinity and promote healthy behavior. This can include family members, friends, teachers, coaches, and community leaders.
  • Challenge toxic behavior: If you notice your son engaging in toxic behavior, such as bullying or aggression, it’s essential to address it immediately. Teach him the importance of accountability, and work together to find healthy ways to express his emotions and manage conflicts

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