We are constantly fed conflicting messages about how to be a man. and these mixed messages can be confusing and harmful to children. If you let the media teach masculinity to your son, he might be drawing on a plethora of bad examples of “manliness”: Men not caring what others say, using anger to get their way, or thinking that the world owes them something simply for existing.
However, modeling healthy masculinity at home can help your son get a real grip on what being a good person looks like, and show your daughter how a well-behaved man should act. Here are five traits of healthy masculinity and how you can teach masculinity by modeling them at home:
What it is: One of the most important aspects of positive masculinity is the idea of being just. To be just means being fair and doing the right thing even when nobody else is around. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably a dad who wants your child to be a good presence in the world and being just leaves a great impression.
- Looks out for others
- Makes sure everyone is treated fairly
- Holds other people accountable.
Teaching it: We can teach masculinity through just actions by being judicial at home. If your child does or says something inappropriate, kindly and calmly let them know that their actions and words have power and consequences. When we’re just, we work actively toward making the world a more equal and fair place.
What it is: Acting with integrity can take many forms, ranging from being honest to doing hard work. Either way, all forms of integrity demonstrate a trustworthy competency. When we act with integrity, we show others they can open up to us and rely on us.
- Keeps his word
- Admits when he’s wrong, how he can grow
- Tells the truth
Teaching it: It can be hard for us to admit our faults, but it’s so necessary. Showing our children how to be trustworthy and maintain our word is crucial, and you can do it from home. Make sure your son knows he can always tell you the truth, that you appreciate him, and that you are honest with him. Being able to admit when you’re wrong, change your mind, and thoroughly listen to others’ words can show your child it’s OK to make mistakes and let others take the lead.
3. Emotional Openness
What it is: Men tend to freeze up when it comes to showing emotion because it has been framed as “weak” or “feminine.” However, being able to show and manage our emotions is as important for health as a good workout.
- Channels his anger properly
- Shows affection to those around him
- Isn’t afraid to let others know his feelings
Teaching it: Emotions are often labeled as feminine things, so lacking feelings is thought to be more masculine. This false perception creates a damaging precedent. It tells young men not to show love or ask for help — two of the most important things all humans need.
At home, your child can greatly benefit from seeing you when you’re hurting, when you’re proud of them, or even how much you love them. You teach masculinity in a positive way whenever you let your child know feelings are nothing to be ashamed of.
What it is: How many times have you let other people’s opinions define you? One of the most important aspects of being a good man is to be confident in yourself and to embrace who you are. It’s great for children to see their dads let their personality shine, so they don’t feel embarrassed of their own identities.
Another defining feature of confidence is approaching situations and saying, “I can handle this.” Whether it’s a father-daughter dance, fixing a car, or disarming a bomb, confident men know they’re up to the task. But they also know how to say “I need help,” as over-confidence can be a vice instead of a virtue.
- Says “I think I can do this.”
- Allows himself to be happy and likes his interests.
- Knows that he deserves a place in the world.
Teaching it: To demonstrate confidence at home, practice giving your child pep talks or reveal your own self-motivation strategies. Encourage them to surround themselves with friends who accept them for who they are. Also, try to remind your child that sometimes even the most prepared person can be in over their head.
5. Leading by Example
What it is: You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk? A big part of how to teach masculinity in a positive way is leading by example, showing your child what “doing right” looks like! They’re going to look to you for guidance so don’t be scared to show off. When your child sees you take initiative, they will see the value of tackling problems and acting selflessly.
- Being curious about the world
- Asking “What can I do to help?”
- Doing the hard work that needs to be done
Teaching it: To show how setting a good example is a masculine trait from home, show your child what good behavior looks like. Yard needs mowing? We get out there and mow it! Need to stop at the store? We surprise our partners with flowers! Pick up that piece of trash, say thank you, and do what needs to be done.
Teach masculinity step-by-step starting today
Now, some of you might be reading this article and saying “wow, that sounds like a lot,” but these are all abilities you already possess!
As a dad, it can be tough to know how to raise a son to be a great person. Modeling healthy masculinity helps you raise your son into the good man you want him to be. While these five actions are only pieces to a healthy model, they’re a great place to start!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of Talking to Teens, a ghostwriter at Write It Great, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.