I sent a text to a friend recently asking her to be "Thoughtful and generous to our son on his 8th birthday."
Awks! It was, of course, intended for my sons, not for her.
The aim of my text was to avoid the birthday morning crush as they steal my A4 from the printer (rude) to make a quick card coz they've woken up and seen the presents on the table. So lame!
We get a few short years to raise good men and our influence can be instrumental.
I sat in a cafe recently, with my husband and my latte in front of a table full of dirty dishes and leftovers. It was a case of stand, walk out or use the only free table. (Time pressure dictated the latter). The waiter came along with food but was very resistant to the idea of clearing the table.
A woman on the next table asked whether we, as mothers, are at fault for that attitude in men. Great question. Perhaps it's a commonly overlooked privilege that we can be influential. We have this amazing opportunity throughout the childhood and teen years of boys to raise a generation of men to rise to their challenges and put others first, and to consider that their skill set could include chores, gentleness, and other traits that are actually strengths.
So how do we do that? The first thing to change is the mind set. Boys will be boys! He's a bloke! is a disempowered mindset. If we resign ourselves to this low benchmark, then yes, we as parents will be at fault. We'll have sold them short.
Men and women are different. But there are many characteristics which are wrongly attributed to men or to women. Whether you're in a wonderful marriage or going through a horrible divorce, you will have an idea of the sort of characteristics a man should have. Stop briefly and ask yourself what they are:
Could gentleness and kindness be among them? If so, how do we inspire that in our boys?
It starts with an expectation. Raising the benchmark a little and believing that they've got it in them. Then there's the gentle coaching and encouraging. Resignation won't get you anywhere. Have some goals. You might find they're born out of disappointments! eg - I don't like it when they're rude, sexist, rough or thoughtless.
I'm not talking about nagging. That's far too easy. I'm talking about inspiring them:
What sort of a man do they want to be (I realise you can't ask your baby that! But even four year olds can handle conversations like these.)
Who do they admire? - It can be someone they know or a famous person.
Who they don't admire. - Tricky ground, but can be carefully done.....then ask what things they could add or avoid to be less like that.
What sort of things make a man manly?
Challenge their perspectives.
Tip them off with ideas and suggestions, they won't always remember for themselves (just make sure you text the right person!).
I may not have completely cracked the birthday card issue, but I did get a spontaneous breakfast in bed this morning from a manly little man in the making.