Moms Who Raise Better Men
Note: This is a rework of a previously published article I made for GMP. I thought it was appropriate to give it an update as it was deserved a re-visit and re-evaluation.
Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.
William Makepeace Thackeray
With Mother’s Day rapidly approaching (Sunday, May 10th for those counting), I thought it might be appropriate to comment on a topic of interest to most of our women readers, how a mother can raise a better man.
Although I usually avoid telling women how to be women (I think the reason is pretty obvious as to why), many women have mentioned how they struggle with wanting to raise their sons to be gentlemen. Being women, they feel limited as to how to teach sons how to grow up into proper men, the kind of men this world so desperately needs. Just as a man’s eyes are opened about gender inequality and a Machista society women deal with every day as soon as they become a father to a daughter, women quickly realize the challenges men face as soon as they become mothers to sons. This is specially challenging to single moms raising boys.
As many women today challenge traditionally restrictive female gender roles most of their lives, they want to avoid imposing restrictive male gender roles onto their own sons. Yet, these moms are confronted with a world that offers few positive male role models, a culture that force feeds toxic masculinity to boys, and a society that judges men in a negative light simply because of their gender. To further complicate the issue for moms, social media reinforces the notion that proper manhood rests solely on the shoulders of men, as we are told time and time again that only men can fix what’s wrong with men.
To be honest, this is bullshit. Raising better children should be the responsibility of everyone, regardless of gender. We all have a responsibility to be role models to those around us. As a boy, I was taught to be a proper gentleman with a sense of respect, to myself and to others, mostly by the efforts of my mother, so it’s not something that only men can teach. It’s interesting that most gentlemen I know show the respect they do to women thanks to the women who helped raise them.
You see, as women you can give your boys the female perspective no man can properly give. You are the first impression your sons will have of how a woman is supposed to be and on how they are supposed to treat a lady. This is crucial to the formation of any man, if for no other reason than women make half of our society!
If you are unsure of your ability to help shape a boy into a better man, just consider the men you have met in your life and how they women. Now consider how just how much of what they know about treating women was learned by how they treat their mothers. So you must ask yourself: being the mother whose sons the next generation of ladies will have to put up with, what kind of son do you want to raise?
As I have said many times before, good parenting doesn’t guarantee a good man. But it helps. Most of the comments below will be generalizations to one degree or another. Some are about learned behavior and some are about breaking some of the social chains we have. Good kids can come from bad parents and bad kids can come from good parents. With all that cleared up, let’s look at five things you can do increase your chances of raising a proper gentlemen.
They Will Learn Respect By How You Respect Yourself.
You are the first example your son will have of what a woman is. In simple terms, you are the foundation of how your sons view the rest of the women in the world. If you want them to know the importance of respecting women, you must first respect yourself.
Consider how you treat yourself and how you care for yourself. Do your actions demonstrate a sense of self-respect and self-worth? Instead of telling your boys to respect women, start by showing them how a woman respects herself. Self-respect and self-love are contagious, but so is self-loathing.
Just think about the kind of woman you are. Is that the kind of person you would want your son to bring home?
Maybe it’s time to start giving yourself some love. Between life and kids, parents forget about themselves. I know that you have enough on your plate, but you know deep down that kids learn more from your actions than from your advice. How you treat yourself will be reflected by your sons on how they treat themselves. Be an example for them. Teach them respect by how you respect yourself. You have to treat yourself right, take care of yourself, and try to create some order and stability in your life. Your son’s behavior will follow suit.
They Will Treat Others By How You Let Them Treat You.
As I mentioned above, you are the foundation of their image of what a woman is. You will become the bar to which all other women will be compared to. Set the bar high.
Do you let your boys raise their voice to you? Swear in front of you? Let them make sexist comments in your presence? Allowed them to put up tasteless posters objectifying women in their room? Have you laughed off any of this off with “boys will be boys”? If you said yes to any of these questions, you can’t really complain about the kid of men we have today.
Everything you let them get away with is what they will expect others to put up with. Teach them to respect others, especially you as a woman and as their mother. They might have their room and their space, but it’s your home. They have to abide by your rules. They learn from you how to live with others and how to carry a home, as sooner or later they will move out to create their own niche in the world.
This way they will learn that they don’t have a personal maid or chef in the real world (and if they do, these services cost money). Make them realize that being part of a household means contributing to it. Teach them about the work it takes to keep up a home and their obligations of being part of a family. Teach them how to cook for themselves and how to take care of their own clothing. Too many men move out from living with their mothers, expecting to will find someone to fill that will that role. Teach them independence and self-reliance.
They Will Treat Women By How You Let Men Treat You.
The men you surround yourself will influence your boy’s behavior. If you are with a man who ignores and neglects you, your boy will see this as normal relationship dynamics. If you are with a man who is encouraging and supportive, your boy will see this, again, as how you treat your partner.
If your spouse abuses you, verbally or physically, stop reading this, get out, and look for help. (Here is the link for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Gentlemen, this link works for you too if you are being abused. Abusive behavior does not discriminate by gender) If you stay in that relationship (please don’t), your sons will learn that abuse is acceptable behavior and might even think that this is how love is shown.
Insist on respect and attention from your partner. Insist on them treating you like a lady. Whatever way your partner treats you, one way or the other, your sons will view this as what women ought to expect or, worse yet, what women actually seek in a man.
They Will Put Up With How You Treat Your Partner.
Take a minute and consider how you treat your current partner, how you have treated your past partners. Now consider how you would react if someone treated your son that way.
The same way I mentioned you might forget about paying attention to yourself because of life, you might end up doing the same to your partner. You might not have noticed just how you treat them, or might have noticed and don’t really care. Yet your son does notice, and learns from it. He learns that how you treat your partner is how he should expect to be treated. He will put up, expect, or even search out to be treated the way you treat your partner. With that in mind, what kind of daughter-in-law do you want?
Teach Them That Women Are Self-Reliant.
When you stay within a relationship because you can’t “be on your own”, you teach your son that women only are with them out of need and will put up with a lot out of that need. Teach your children that women are self-reliant. Teach them that no woman will stay with your son just because he is the “man” in the relationship. Teach them that a partner is just that, a partner. Boys have to learn that if they treat a woman badly, that woman will leave! Men who see their partners as dependent tend to stop appreciating them because they are convinced they can’t lose them.
As your son understands that a strong woman is self-reliant, he will learn to avoid women looking for a “sponsor” for their lifestyle and will stop being intimidated by powerful and independent women. They will look for a woman who is his equal, one they respect as they respect themselves.
The world, especially any future in-law, will appreciate your teaching them these vital lessons.
Eduardo García is an architect, artist, and writer, as well as a husband and father looking to define the contemporary gentleman as one who achieves a balance between old-school values with the ability to adapt in an ever changing society in his blog Being Caballero. He is also a regular contributor to MNSWR Magazine , The Good Men Project , and Gentlemenhood as well as being an Advisory board member to the National Council on Women and Girls and the National Council on Men and Boys .