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6 Tips to Help Teach Our Sons Balance

“Oh you have your hands full!”

Regardless if you have all girls, all boys, or a mix of genders under your roof undoubtedly someone is going to speculate on how that makes your hands more full than the next mom. I don’t envy any mom’s lot, we each have our own challenges, though I do agree that what toddlerhood brought my way is nothing compared to the tweens and teens I’m dipping into the waters of now!

Today, though, I’m learning from and sharing the tips Betty-Ann Heggie highlighted in her latest blog post about raising sons. Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails be damned, as mothers and fathers we are fully capable in 2017 of raising our boys to be sweet too.

Here’s how she suggests we can do it:

1)    Allow your son to explore the full range of his emotions. Support and empathize with him when he says, “I am sad; I am uncertain; I feel hurt or I am scared”. Let him express this openly and without recrimination.

2)   Avoid gender labels. Instead of saying, ‘two boys are playing” say “two friends are playing” or “two kids are playing”. We may not see any harm in mentioning gender but the more we do, the more likely it will be that our children segregate and adopt gender-stereotypes.

3)   Make a mix of toys available to him. Offer building blocks along with doll carriages, racing cars and creative kitchens. Children learn from play and you’ll be teaching your son that these are all parts of himself.

4)   Let go of gender expected behaviour by encouraging your son to daydream, become emotionally tuned to others and accept caregiving responsibility.

5)   Have your son spend time in the company of girls so he can adopt their conditioned attributes by osmosis and also become comfortable sharing power with them. These early lessons in ‘even-distribution’ will better prepare him to share child-care and family finances in a twenty-first century family.

6)   Expose him to strong women through books or movies and discuss examples of men who support these role models.

My son is thirteen and I’m still learning how I can teach him to develop both sides of the ‘typical’ gender attributes. He plays football, therefore we want to teach him to be aggressive on the field and have confidence to make the play. He has two little sisters who look up to him, so I want to ensure he has empathy and nurturing abilities. It’s not that we need to overthink it, but rather be aware of the words coming out of our mouths and the actions we’re demonstrating.

Which of these tips resonated most with you? We’re asking you to share how you utilize one of these tips already, or how one of these inspired you to try it at home, in our monthly PayPal contest!

We love discussion! Enter your name and email address in the form below, then click BEGIN to enter to win a $100 PayPal giveaway. The mandatory entry: leave a comment below sharing how you teach your son (or grandson, etc.) to have balance.

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  • With three little boys in my family, some of these things have come more naturally and some have taken a more direct effort. People do not naturally give traditional “girls” toys as gifts so I have had to purchase dolls and play food to try and direct more nurturing type play.

  • Number 1. My brother was quite emotional and cried easily. He was picked on for being a cry baby. Boys and men should not be afraid to show emotions.

  • I agree with most. I have three sons and one daughter….the daughter being the youngest. We have raised our boys to be gentlemen….open the door for others, respect their elders, protect and look out for each other. I personally don’t see that there needs to be a big concern over the whole gender stereotypes. I grew up playing with dolls, but can change oil and swing an axe just as well as any male. My boys play ponies and Barbie’s with their sister, she in turn can wrestle and water fight with the best of them. Let kids be kids, they always figure it out in the end.

  • I raise a girl and a boy and anything went at my house, my son adopted one of my daughter doll and my daughter played with is cars and Ninja turtle. I never had a second though that my son slept with a doll.

  • Have a mix of toys available to your son resonated with me. I remember buying a Kitchen set when my daughter was young and my son and his friends had the most fun playing with it and she mostly ignored it. Having a daughter also makes it easy to have a variety of toys but one could pick them up at second hand stores.

  • I raised 3 girls and 3 nephews came over to our house often..each one was treated equal..boys helped with the dishes and tidying up when a mess was made. There was no job that both genders couldn’t or wouldn’t do..take our the garbage as well as cutting the grass. Also my nephew wanted to take dance lessons and we encouraged him to do whatever made him happy..he loved to tap dance

  • Tip #3 resonated with me most: Make a mix of toys available to him. I think this is a great idea and by having dolls, play kitchens etc. available it will help to develop and foster different skills and emotions .

  • I have five grandsons and one granddaughter and I get such a kick out of seeing the boys playing with barbies and baby dolls, my granddaughter is quite persuasive!

  • Tip 6 resonated with me the most. There are so many more movies and books that center around a male character so I think it is important to expose our sons to heroines and strong women!

  • My daughter played barbie dolls with her cousins who were boys My daughter likes a lot of items that are boys I think both boys and girls can pitch in girls can take out garbage and boys can do dishes and make beds and vise versa.

  • 5) Have your son spend time in the company of girls – hits home the most for me when my son was growing up with me being a single mom most of my friends had girls so they always played together and got along great and in his teen years he loved babysitting, and the people he babysat for didn’t mind at all that he was a male, the kids loved him

  • I let my daughter’s play with cars and they do see my husband cry so they get both sides being able to play with cars and seeing a grown man cry

  • My son is not quite 2 but we encourage play with toys that are considered typical ‘boy’ toys but as he has an older sister he also plays with dolls, studies, and wears her clothes when he wants to dress up. I am really trying to be aware of moderating those gender stereotypes that come naturally from family and friends and us, his parents too.

  • Fortunately, my twin boys have their twin older sisters so there has been a lot of gender-neutral toys, books, dvds as well as a feminine influence on my boys. There are amazing bonds present.

  • I like the tip of having boys spend time with girls to learn by osmosis – I think many learn better that way by sight and exposure rather than just talking about it

  • Tip #2 resonates with me. I also try to avoid saying boy or girl when possible – for example when reading a story book to my child I will say ‘child’, or ‘little one’.

  • My brother grew up with 2 older sisters, so he adopted a metrosexual attitude. We never told him boys don’t cry and he became one awesome adult who is very considerate of other people’s feelings. He will be a great father someday.

  • I really like the idea of letting boys play with a mix of toys, including those that are normally “girl” toys.

  • I think providing role models is key. In our house there aren’t “gendered” jobs and we continuously provide examples of how anyone can be responsible for any of the tasks to be done.

  • The tip that resonated the most with me is: Avoid gender labels. Instead of saying, ‘two boys are playing” say “two friends are playing” or “two kids are playing”. We may not see any harm in mentioning gender but the more we do, the more likely it will be that our children segregate and adopt gender-stereotypes.
    Our 7 year old grandson is very social, he has several boy and girl friends and they all enjoy playing together as a group.

  • We have two boys and we’ve tried really hard to make sure that they can express themselves fully. My older son is naturally more sensitive and caring while the younger is more outgoing and feisty. They are both around girls quite often and are told to share and be gentle. We also have a mix of toys at our house. They have their cars and hockey nets, but they also have a kitchen where they like to whip up a great “cake”. We never tell them “oh this is a girls thing to do, or this is a boys thing”, everything can be done by everyone.

  • My son is 13 and I try to offer him all sides. He has a sister who is one year younger so they have always played their toys together. When he was little he put on her crown and used her magic wand and she played with his cars.

  • I like boys playing with girls. When we were little there weren’t too many kids period, girls or boys, we’d play with everyone, and never thought about it.

  • All of the tips make sense. I was thrilled to find out that my son has girl friends as well as boys at school and sees a value in both.

  • I like the second. It has always been a peeve of mine that almost every time a child is born the first question is to find out the gender. Does it matter?

  • I like all these tips, especially second and third ones. I’m working on encouraging them to express emotions more.

  • WE have 2 boys and a girl and we are conscience on what toys we offer our children. We don’t really have gender specific toys, but rather a toy box filled with blocks. We would never say our sons can’t play with dolls or our daughter can’t play with cars. We let them explore.

  • 3) Make a mix of toys available to him. Offer building blocks along with doll carriages, racing cars and creative kitchens. Children learn from play and you’ll be teaching your son that these are all parts of himself. — this is a good training

  • We definitely make a mix of toys available – everything from pink fairy wands to bat man lego has a place.

  • I like tip number 3. We don’t limit our boys to only “boy” toys, if he wants a doll or pink anything, he can have it

  • I have a little boy with long hair and a gender neutral name. We are also a household with a stay at home dad. We never really thought about gender roles and never intended to go against gender norms in our life. That being said we hope that this upbringing will give my son a balanced look at life.

  • I think I did well with my son, I never sterotyped him or told him it was a ‘girls’ toy. I always tell him to be proud of what ever he wants to do and I love him no matter what.

  • Number 1 resonated with me the most. My sons were taught that all emotions were normal and okay to feel. Boys can and should cry if they feel hurt. Unfortunately influences from outside had too much of an impact as they hit the preteens. Friends would tease if they shed a tear or showed any weakness. I hope as they enter their adult years they remember that they can allow all emotions to be there rather than try to avoid or cover them up.

  • Avoid gender labels. It will be quite getting used to because we I am used to doing this because it is what is visible. It is like when kids are playing games I am used to grouping them boys vs. girls. Practice will become a habit and change is good.

  • This is a lovely, thoughtful list. I especially like exposing them to strong women in pop culture. I would also add avoiding over-sexualized depictions of women, which are everywhere. Not only are women vastly outnumbered in film and television, they are presented in very different ways. I love the new Star Wars posters that show Rey dressed in perfectly normal clothing. We see her as a warrior, not an object. And how exciting is it that Leia, a princess, becomes a senator and a general?

  • Make a mix of toys available to him. Offer building blocks along with doll carriages, racing cars and creative kitchens. Children learn from play and you’ll be teaching your son that these are all parts of himself. I agree fully ! I always just had toys , there is no boy toy or girl toy ! Just let them be them self with a doll a car or any toy they love !

  • Avoid gender labels really hit home with me , you don’t think about it when you are around the kids . All jobs are equal not girl or boy jobs.

  • My 7yo boy has autism and one of the ‘gifts’ he received is not being particularly aware of gender norms. His favourite colour is pink and he’s played with dolls/doll houses along with more typically ‘male’ toys. Tip #3 definitely resonates! I love that he breaks all kinds of stereotypes and is just the sweetest, happiest little love. Thanks for the great post.

  • I really like the tip to have a range of toys available so you child can make the choice for themselves where their interest lie without parents only providing gender-biased toys to influence the stereotypical choices.

  • I try to avoid gender labels around my nephews and definitely encourage them to play with a variety of toys, my nephew has dressed up as a princess – and I think that is great!

  • Spending time in the company of girls resonates with me. My oldest had a girl for a best friend from age 6 through 12 and I saw how good that was for him, in terms of being in touch with his feminine side and being really comfortable around girls.

  • I have twin sons and I always wanted to avoid calling them “the twins” instead we call them “the boys” now I feel like we will need to reword that too.

  • Probably number six. So many of these tips can just be filed under teaching your son to be kind though.

  • I think tip number 3 really hits home for me. My in laws were not very welcoming to the idea that my son wanted a baby doll, the fact that I bought him a baby stroller and baby crib for his doll really offended them. While my parents encouraged it, his parents were really hesitant with the idea. I think it is important for children to be themselves and not be shamed for wanting to play with certain toys or to play certain roles. Thank you for posting this article, it was very informative and really reinstated what I am trying to teach my kids. I loved it!!!!

  • My daughter and son played together with each others toys. My son let my daughter cut his hair and do his nails. They get along really well and look out for each other.

  • Guess the tip which resonated with me was letting my son express his feelings: be it anger, happiness, fear, sympathy, sadness. The adage that MEN/BOYS shouldn’t cry – never believed or encouraged. We all need to purge to heal.

  • When our sons were growing up we always allowed them to explore the full range of their emotions. We always supported them and emphathized with them. Now they do the same with their own kids.

  • #3 Our son was supposed to be a girl, but came out a boy, so we had quite a few pink girl toys. Why would we not let him play with those?! He also plays with his younger sister’s toys (rocking a baby), while she plays with his boy toys. We love that they pick what they want to play with!

  • I really like the tip about letting go of gender expected behaviour because that is something that kids can easily pick out and it can direct their self esteem and attitudes to self and others.

  • Letting go of gender expected behaviour is a big one for me. We try not to have toys/items that are specific to “girls” or “boys”, allowing our children to follow their interests and personality instead.

  • While I think both 2 and 4 are very important ~ I’d have to say that #5 strikes me as the most important. It seems so kind of common sense and yet sadly it is not.

    In fact I think the principle here applies to girls with boys too and all of us with people of different backgrounds, ethnicity, etc. We all need to learn how to TRULY “acclimate” to each on a day to day basis and in all kinds of different contexts and situations!

  • I think that its hard for boys to show emotion because of the stereotype roles that Media shows us (tv, movies, even books). As well I know I have asked the guys to do things that I say I can’t do, lots of times to do with trying to lift something etc. I know that women CAN lift as much as men and that we all have the same muscles but I honestly can’t do quite a few things (I’ve had to have 3 surgeries because of lifting something too heavy) , I think we as a society make it that guys are conditioned to think they are the stronger sex (And therefor have to take care of the lesser folk) and that strong people don’t show emotion.

  • My little one is 8 years old and plays with both girls and boys. I don’t make a big deal about it because it shouldn’t be one. The tip that resonates with me is to avoid gender labels and stereotypes. A multitude of toys and books are available. Whatever they gravitate to and show interest in is perfectly acceptable and ever changing.

  • I like the tip about making a mix of toys available so that there’s not bias between developed about them!

  • I really appreciate point #2 – I have a tendency with our toddler to say “look, there’s a girl to play with”. It’s made me realize it doesn’t really matter if it’s a boy or girl on the playground, everyone should play together!

  • I like talking about feelings. It is so important since boys don’t always like to talk to about it or know how to describe how they are feeling. My oldest loves to play with little girls. It is really nice.

  • I like number 1. When my son was young, I taught him that emotions were good and now I’m trying to show my grandson the same.

  • I think letting go of gender expected behaviour is my favourite tip from the list. I think it could be the most helpful in the long run. They learn so much from us.

  • Avoiding gender labels really resonated with me, especially as I work with children. Often the children are sorted by their sex, I need to reflect on the words I am using.

  • 6) Expose him to strong women through books or movies and discuss examples of men who support these role models.

  • I have both boys and girls and they all play with dolls and cars. The kids should be able to play with what ever toy then want

  • 4. my dad and grandpa believe that boys play with trucks girls play with dolls i do not agree when my son got a doll for Christmas one year my dad freaked my son loves that doll and i will never take it away because he is a boy I believe children should be happy regardless of what they play with. i also let me son cry and express himself something else my dad and grandpa do not agree with but my son is a well balanced kido with no problems cause he is allowed to express himself.

  • I always let my son’s chose the toys they wanted to play with whether it be cars and action figures or barbies and My Little Pony

  • Our little guy is only 1 year, but we plan to let him play with a variety of different toys (for example, one of his fave toys right now is my old Baby Sparkles). I also really like the idea of saying “two kids are playing” instead of “two boys” Great tips!

  • The fact is that gender is gender, and boys will be boys and girls will be girls. However letting both genders spend time in the company of each other is a great way for them to grow and respect each other. Our son is as comfortable in the kitchen as he is on the farm tractor, the reverse of that is our daughter is also perfectly capable of driving a tractor.

  • Sharing and supporting empathy stands out for me. No matter gender that is a highlight for me. Letting a boy have an outlet to his feelings and emotions is foremost to understanding others.

  • All kids should be allowed to play with whatever toys/games they are interested in. Boys and girls both learn the basic necessities like cooking, cleaning and that includes kitchen duties, gardening and garage chores. Exposure to this helps them cope as they get older.

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