Should I Encourage My Son Toward “Feminine” Things?

boys-playing-with-dolls-devany-med

I’m publishing some thoughts on motherhood and feminism, particularly as they relate to raising boys. The first article addressed whether there are enough differences between boys and girls to warrant raising boys in a majorly different way than girls. This article is a continuation of that question.

It’s one thing to accept a boy who falls outside of gender norms. It’s quite another thing to raise a boy to step outside of those gender norms.

That is, if my boy ends up liking sparkles and pink even though I’ve dressed him in khakis and blue polos all his life, I can accept that — that’s just who he is. Masculinity and femininity are just two ends of the spectrum of human expression, right?

But I’m much more reserved about providing a pink, sparkly onesie as an equal option to khakis and blue polos. Alarm bells start going off: Will I confuse him about his gender or sexual orientation? Will he grow up into some warped creature? Will I doom him to a life of bullying and ostracization?

I can say I support equality for men and women, I can cite the research proving boys are more similar to girls than dissimilar, I can rationalize in my mind that there’s nothing inherently anti-boy about pink or sparkles. But there’s still a fear that femininity twists a boy’s innate nature. As one man (who clarified I could not call him a misogynist) described my future son after Monday’s post, “Sorry to say, you’re going to raise a girl-child.”

Heaven forbid.

Like I’ve pointed out elsewhere, we don’t have this same fear for girls. It’s more or less socially acceptable for girls to travel up and down the masculine/feminine spectrum in their interests, activities, and self-expression. “Tomboy” isn’t an insult like “girl-child.” Feminism has made great bounds in opening up girls’ opportunities in STEM fields and other male-dominated areas. There’s no woman card to lose.

Not so for boys, as my own fears betray.

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning: Is It Wrong to Influence My Son in General?

This is a silly question in light of all I know about child development and parenting work. If I influence my son is not a choice I get to make as a mother — of course I will influence my son. Nurture is a huge part of a child’s development of self.

Children are born with endless capacity. It’s their experiences that begin to limit that endless capacity. As Dr. Christia Spears Brown points out in Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue, babies’ brains create thousands of synaptic connections every day in the womb. This prepares them for the myriad of potential experiences life brings after birth. She gives the example of language: babies are born capable of distinguishing every sound in all languages. After a few months, they begin to lose that infinite capacity, focusing only on their parents’ native tongue. Whatever is used is strengthened; whatever isn’t used is lost — permanently.

The same is true for gender differences. The statistical effect size of differences between male and female infants is 0.21 — that is, negligible. As children grow and encounter peer pressure and gender stereotypes, certain traits can get exercised more in boys than in girls (and vice versa), producing the ubiquitous gender differences we see today.

To use another example from Dr. Brown’s book, the differences observed in how children play at recess — competitive, team-based, active play for boys and more one-on-one, low-energy, relational play for girls — comes from a small gender difference that gets exacerbated through socialization. Girls are slightly more likely to prefer low-energy play to active play. Since children fall prey to in group/out group thinking, even the average high energy girl will quit a game of kickball to play hopscotch or kitchen with her “tribe” on the sidelines — the other girls. And even the lower-energy boys will prefer to join in the game of kickball with the guys just to be with his in group.

The way children play affects how they interact with the world as adults. Since girls often spend much of their time playing low-energy activities in small groups, they’ve got lots of practice with empathy and relational problem-solving. Since boys often spend much of their time playing highly active games in large groups, they’re socialized less in interpersonal behavior.

But these gender differences, while prevalent, aren’t permanent. To complicate this even further, you can turn these gender differences on by priming a person to think of himself or herself as his or her gender, or level the playing field by priming a person to think of himself or herself as a gender-neutral identity (such as a student). Cordelia Fine, in her book Delusions of Gender, cites countless studies that show how men and women possess roughly the same skills in, say, math or empathy when they’re not thinking of their gender. Only when they’re triggered to think of their gender — perhaps by marking their sex at the beginning of a test or even being the sole representative of one’s sex in the classroom — do men outperform women in math and women outperform men in empathy.

All that to say, even though boys and girls aren’t born with significant, innate differences, socialization and experience begin to cull and shape their previously unlimited capacities. I’ve known this as an educator: The child who eats only French fries and chicken nuggets will likely not eat her vegetables as an adult (even though she’s perfectly capable of eating veggies). The child who doesn’t read over the summer loses two months of reading education, culminating in two years of learning loss by the end of grade six (even though she’s perfectly capable of reading over the summer). The child who uses iPads to entertain himself over creative, unplugged play will suffer a loss in imagination and attention span (even though he’s perfectly capable — you get the point).

Experiences can limit, or they can expand. This is childhood development 101.

As a parent, I have the responsibility to limit negative traits, interests, and activities and expand good ones, shaping my child into the best he can be. That’s not controversial. That’s just parenting.

What’s the Harm in Letting Boys Be Boys?

What is controversial is whether there is anything negative in traditional masculinity that I might need to limit or anything positive in traditional femininity that I might need to introduce to my son, if he’s naturally inclined to the stereotypical male model.

Is it really a big deal, I wondered, if boys and girls get socialized into their respective gender stereotypes? Will my son really suffer if I don’t introduce him to some of the great things about Girl World? Again, it’s nice to think my son will turn out more well-rounded than the hyperactive, truck-loving, gun-toting, strong, silent type who goes to college for business on a sports scholarship, but if he starts heading that direction, is it necessary for me to step in?

After all, I fulfill most of my gender’s stereotypes, and I turned out okay! (Until I ask myself again, and realize my life would be far better had I crossed the line on the gender stereotype spectrum and done more math, science, spatial reasoning, and sports as a kid.)

Another way of spinning my question is if gender stereotypes are inherently harmful. My research and gut instinct is pointing to yes. Both femininity and masculinity, as equally human traits, as the fullest expression of both humanity and the image of God, express important characteristics from which all children benefit. A steady diet of boy stereotypes for my son is like letting him read nothing but Pokemon graphic novels — there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Pokemon graphic novels, unless they’re the only thing he reads. You’ve got to get some Dante and Dostoevksy in there, or his mind will atrophy.

Since we know that boys and girls are innately more similar than dissimilar, and girls are not at all harmed by their flexible interests, we should expect that intentional exposure to a variety of interests and activities will produce positive results in boys. It will encourage them to be themselves; it will combine the best of the masculine and the feminine; it will make them interesting, well-rounded individuals. How is that a bad thing?

When I look at the masculine stereotype, I think the biggest drawbacks are the lack of emotional awareness, self-regulation, and interpersonal skills; and the huge push towards aggression — the lie that men shouldn’t be expected to be nurturing, empathetic, and expressive because they’re primarily made to grunt, punch, and shoot things.

Boys and Baby Dolls

For a while, I felt embarrassed about listing a doll on my BabyList registry. First, everybody says the only way boys play with baby dolls involves some sort of experiment with physics (i.e., smashing or throwing). But mostly, I fretted, people would think I’m intentionally trying to emasculate my son.

This is silly, I know. Angering, even, when I stop to examine it. I think it’s absolutely horrible that many people not only fail to encourage boys to get in touch with their emotions and develop nurturing behavior but actively discourage it. It’s disgusting how the masculine culture celebrates aloofness and a lack of self-awareness. Women, too, for shame — we complain so much about the blank stares our husbands give us when we burst into tears, yet we continue to say, “Boys don’t cry.”

Articles keep popping up in my newsfeed about the lack of platonic touch and affection men receive. Men, predominantly, keep getting exposed as abusers, adulterers, and anger addicts. The majority of school shooters are male. I think this all points to a masculine culture that lacks empathy and emotional intelligence, to an inhumane idea of masculinity that suffocates our boys. (See Michael Kimmel’s research, particularly Angry White Men.) Men just stuff it…and then it resurfaces into something ugly.

Not my son.

I want his emotional needs met — meaning, I want him to be able to identify, express, and meet those needs in healthy ways. Not porn, not anger, not depression. I don’t want to find out that my son shot another kid because he couldn’t verbalize his feelings about being bullied. I don’t want to wake up to find my son dead of suicide because he felt he couldn’t trust anyone with his demons. These are extreme scenarios, but they are sadly far too common.

Emotional intelligence is absolutely critical for mental well-being. It shouldn’t be cute, faddish, or feminist to explicitly teach it to our boys. It shouldn’t be the rare man who can understand and express both his and others’ emotions. It should be the norm, the baseline, the first line of attack against the violence, anger, and lack of self-control shrouding Boy World.

And so I will teach him to rock his baby doll.

Boys and Guns

The stigma of boys playing with baby dolls comes from the mistaken idea that men are inherently more aggressive than women — and that since it’s just “boys being boys,” aggression should be allowed and encouraged as the dominant masculine trait. Only sissies and their liberal mommies complain about boys and guns (though we might draw the line at Call of Duty).

In Christianity, male aggression and proclivities toward warfare are celebrated as the essence of what it means to be a man, signs that a man is ready to be the provider and protector of the family.

There’s nothing wrong with providing and protecting others, being physical, or even, I would argue, knowing how to throw a good punch if necessary. Courage, bravery, strategy, innovation, adventure, physicality, and many other virtues associated with combat are, indeed, things I want for my son (and my daughters!).

But Christians go crazy for cocoa puffs over warfare itself. Certain authors go out of their way to redefine and strip any possibly feminine part of men’s identities — like love. The other day I read a quote about courtship from an article called “Wooing as Warfare”:

The young man who pursues marriage enters a foreign land where he wages war. On the hinges of that battle lie happiness or shame.

But though a potential bride may be deeply loved, she’s also at some level the foe. To achieve victory the young man must not only win her, he must defeat her and her family, snatching her from their bosom, converting her to himself, breaking her natural bonds with father and mother, brother and sister, nurse and friend, dog and home. There’s little that’s tender about it.

That’s sick — that in order to excite young men to marriage, you must twist the most intimate, loving, and yes, tender relationship on earth into something violent. That’s toxic masculinity, right there.

It’s common for Christians to “woo” other men to involvement in their family and church with the promise of warfare, to make peace, love, humility, and vulnerability into the image of aggressive masculinity. And I know, I know, I’m just a woman who doesn’t understand the male psyche’s need for war, but I’ll say it anyway: I find Christianity’s marriage between masculinity and violence one-dimensional and unhealthy.

I’ve been thinking how this will translate practically in our household. No cowboys and Indians? No guns? No violent video games? No books on weapons?

I don’t know what it will look like, and I don’t want to be extreme (weapons, after all, are just tools, and my husband’s strategy games all involve killing and capturing magical creatures), but I know this: if my son’s experiences shape his brain and his preferences, I want him to play in ways that form him into a person who can handle real life challenges in a real life way.

Hopefully, he will not grow up during a time of war or conflict where violence is necessary for survival. He will more likely face the evils of bullying, prejudice, and interpersonal conflict than war. You cannot solve school bullying with guns. You can’t fight prejudice with your fists. And since his struggles and conflicts will revolve around these non-combative evils, I want to equip him with non-combative solutions — namely, empathy, understanding, intelligence, courage, vision, etc.

I want my son to be a peacemaker, a builder, a life-giver — dare I say a man like Jesus.

So I will teach him to diffuse a bully’s anger rather than throw the first punch, discern and meet a wife’s emotional needs, and fearlessly speak out for what is right.

And even if that’s a more “feminine” way to handle conflict, there’s nothing sissyish about that.

Photo Credit by Devany at Still Playing School, via 30 Photos of Boys Playing with Dolls That Will Make You Go “Awww”

P.S. The more I work with little boys at my preschool, the more I am amazed at how silly our fears about boys being “feminine” are. The two-year-old boy who knows how to put his friends into wrestling headlocks also loves to play with the sparkly My Little Ponies and turn his tube of diaper rash cream into a cherished baby. Boys are so much more complex and unique than we typically allow them to be.

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33 thoughts on “Should I Encourage My Son Toward “Feminine” Things?

  1. Lea

    I think it depends on what you consider ‘feminine’. I played sports as a kid and didn’t consider them masculine. I’m pretty sure we played a lot of kickball and tag on the playground. I didn’t like dolls, I liked stuffed animals. I probably wouldn’t buy a little boy a doll unless he asked for it just because I buy things that appeal to me until the kids start asking for specific stuff but I would buy and have bought stuffed animals and all my nephews seemed to like them. What you buy kids when they are babies is a lot more about you than it is them, imo.

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  2. JustHeretoTalk

    Good article, I do think your overthinking the issue a little bit although its good to be concerned. I think for the most part let your child be a child and that means experiencing both sides of the spectrum. But on the other hand putting effort into things like expressing your emotions and gaining emotional intelligence and such isn’t a bad idea. I do think some lines do need drawn on certain things like guns. I had some toy guns as a child but it was instilled in me there is a difference between shooting your brother with a water gun and how to handle a real gun. I knew from a fairly young age that real guns required respect and were not something to be joking about. I do believe that electronics such as ipad’s, videogames etc require a lot of limitations. Main reason is that I want my kids to play outside and not become too attached to a screen. I see so many kids that all they seem to do is play video games and watch youtube and although I think they are still good kids I question this actually damaging their social skills.

    To sum up though I think the main thing is to give your little boy choices and let him decide how masculine or feminine he wants to be. I would have certainly liked to have been given those choices growing up and some of the way I am today is that my parents pushed me to fit more into that masculine role. Still today I struggle as I feel like I need to fit into a version of masculinity defined by my parents and the culture. I have come to realize though that I just need to be me and if that means I exhibit some feminine behaviors so be it. I get upset fairly often because my wife isn’t very emotional and regularly doesn’t know how to meet my emotional needs. Just because in this case our roles are reversed it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. maygrrl

    Another good one, Bailey! I was looking forward to the follow up!

    So guns… I come from gun collecting Southerners, but I am a borderline pacifist. With video games, I’ve said, “As long as you aren’t shooting people, I don’t care.” Of course, then I get “What about zombies, mom?” LOL. We also have toy guns though my boys are just as happy to turn a branch into one if we didn’t. However, we just finished reading all of the Harry Potter series as a family so now it’s all wands (made out of chopsticks) and they have spell wars.

    Speaking of Harry Potter, a child psychologist told me that reading together and talking about the characters was one of the best ways to build empathy in kids. Consequently, my favorite time of the day is when they climb in bed with me for an hour before bedtime to read together, and that doubles as touching time too. We’ve had great life lessons from the books we’ve been reading since they were tiny. It’s probably the best parenting practice we’ve got.

    As far as “girl toys:. They have dress up clothes, dolls, and a big set of kitchen stuff that they play with all the time. Our strategy was to make it all available to them and let them settle on what they liked the best. Though apparently, it’s chopsticks.

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    • Bailey Steger

      Haha! I love your wand chopsticks. ;) I’ll definitely be reading aloud Harry Potter and many other books too!!! Read alouds were my favorite part of childhood, and so much good comes of them.

      Like

  4. marymtf

    My children’s librarian sister says that boys (mostly) prefer non fiction to fiction. I’ve noticed that boys will turn a tablecloth into a cape and tear up and down the corridor with their capes flying behind them My
    Granddaughters, on the other hand spread them on the table and pour tea for their dollies. My grandsons took said dollies apart to see what they were made of. I’ve always expected my boys and girls to love and respect each other. We are the first port of call and the strongest influence on our children how they turn out depends on how we have raised them. Do as I do is my
    philosophy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Frannie

    You have so much more brain capabilities than I do because these things don’t even cross my mind let alone forge their way into a well written article! :)

    As a new mom of a darling boy myself can I add something?

    It’s not this complicated.

    As a woman who had one brother who played dolls with his sisters, learned to knit during read allowed time, and prefers writing to roughhousing I have experience. As a woman married to a wonderful man who was the only son raised by a single mother I have experience. As a woman who is now mother to a son who spent 7 months in the NICU fighting for health and life I have experience.

    It isn’t that hard.

    I think these issues will resolve themselves as you enjoy your child for who he is … a precious baby boy who turns into a precious and independent boy who turns into a precious, independent teenager and so on.

    Teach your son simply to care for what Jesus thinks and the rest will follow.

    Because we do live in a culture that is extreme either way (“don’t cry” to “here’s a pink onesie for you, son”) your son will never be off the radar for bullying or criticism.

    So teach him to only care about Jesus.

    And Jesus was both emphatic and brazen. Jesus was “the man’s man” and also the woman’s. He got things done, work hard, said bold and true things while holding children, listening to his mother, and being in complete submission at all times.

    I know I’ve written a novel already but here’s one more thought.

    I didn’t have an easy pregnancy. My water broke at 24 weeks, my son has “brain anamolies” that led doctors to wrong diagnoses that let to them saying he was blind, likely deaf, and that he’d had delays. I had some doctors give up on him, only willing to treat his issues till he became too burdensome for us.

    Now, thank goodness they were wrong about SO many things.

    But my point is this … my experience has shown me that every emotion, every milestone, every smile or laugh, every swallow, every successful breath (my son was on a breathing tube for months and now has a trach) is a miracle.

    The crazy thing is that it isn’t just my son who is miraculous. I now see that every human just doing human things is pretty amazing.

    So simply let your boy be and enjoy the ride. Let him enjoy your motherly, womanly, feminine ways and interests and let him enjoy your husbands manly, fatherly, masculine ways and interests. Teach him not to care what the liberals or conservatives think but to simply enjoy being and caring what Jesus thinks.

    Pretty soon he’ll show you his interests and talents and you can begin pursuing them.

    So excited for this precious babe that has entered your world!

    Like

    • Bailey Steger

      My heart breaks for the hardship you’ve experienced with your sweet baby’s health problems. Thank you for sharing the perspective those problems brought you. I love hearing from mamas who are actually in the trenches. Belated congratulations on his birth!

      Part of me knows it is this simple, and now that I’ve written about it and gotten it out of my system, it’s good to hear reminders that it’s really not that complicated. But I spent the majority of my life with certain ideas about gender and child-rearing and, well, everything, and the way I work, I have to intellectually reconcile with what my instincts and “common sense” know to be true. And I have to, if only for my own benefit, defend what’s not complicated to the Christians and the culture who make it super complicated with their rules of do’s and don’t’s on what it means to be a man or a woman. Hence long posts discussing child raising theory. ;)

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  6. Frannie

    One last fragment …

    That war aspect of courtship and Christianity … BLAH.

    Yuck, gross, icky.

    I’ve spent enough time chasing “labels” to place over myself that I’ve gotten sick of it. (Thanks INTJ husband for helping me with that).

    My point is that isn’t Christianity. Yes, there are war related aspects of Christianity (the end times for example) but that is NOT the Jesus we are taught to follow.

    Ew. Yuck. Gross.

    The end. ;)

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  7. WorkingMama

    Congrats on the baby boy, Bailey!

    Like several other people said, it’s not that complicated.

    I have two high-energy boys who love to pretend they are superheroes, run through the house screaming, and fight imaginary dragons with toy swords. They also love to play kitchen, sit on the countertop and “help” me cook, and carry their stuffed animals around wrapped in baby blankets. My oldest son even tried to feed real food to his favorite monster truck one time, because he thought the poor thing was hungry, LOL. He also has an imaginary wife who he is very protective of, but she has her own sword and she helps him fight the imaginary dragons. I know, it’s complicated.

    Being brave and tough can actually go hand in hand with empathy and compassion. I frequently pray Proverbs 31:8 over our sons and explain its teaching to them — the idea that someone who is strong and powerful needs to stand up for those who are vulnerable, and speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. I would emphasize this teaching just as much to a daughter, if I had one.

    I think a lot of it comes down to both parents showing the children, by example, how to be decent human beings. It’s also important to talk them about their feelings and the feelings of others. I think playing with siblings and other children is really important, and it’s a great opportunity to teach them and talk to them about empathy and kindness.
    But you know all that already.

    If I could just give one piece of parenting advice, it would be, go with your gut. Your gut isn’t always going to be right, but most of the time, it will be, because you will love that kid more than anything in the world, you will know him and understand his needs more than anyone else, and your gut will tell you to do the right thing for him.

    Don’t worry. You got this! You and your hubby are going to be awesome parents.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Lea

        “They also love to play kitchen, sit on the countertop and “help” me cook”

        Aw. That’s so cute.

        I bought my little nephews aprons and they always wanted to cook with me. Pro Tip, zesting limes is apparently super fun and worth fighting over!

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  8. gabriellerivas

    Nice article! I follow a youtuber who gets hate for letting her son paint his nails because he wants to be like his mom. It’s interesting hearing mothers discuss this topic because it’s one that can attract hate or judgement from others. Thank you for being strong in writing this and relating it to the Bible and Christianity.

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  9. Steph E

    Have you read “The Well Informed Parent?” they go over a lot of the research on various ‘hot topics’ in parenting (everything from “can I drink coffee while pregnant’ up to how to potty train!) but they had a really interesting section going over the research on guns and the research on tv/video games. If I’m remembering correctly, what it basically comes down to is there’s nothing wrong with your little kids playing video games or watching TV, but when young children are exposed to high levels of violence through the media, they do become more aggressive, and they mimic what they see without understanding. They basically said if your kids are playing with toy guns, or games like cops and robbers but still “writing their own scripts” about what happens in the game, it’s not going to hurt them. When they start acting out or mimicking the violent scripts they watch on TV or in video games, that’s what’s really bad for their development. … Something like that anyway! I read it a while ago! :D
    Thanks for these posts! These are things we’re thinking about since we have a boy, too!
    Also, have you watched “The mask we live in?” it’s a netflix documentary on toxic masculinity, and a ton of these gender researchers are interviewed.

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  10. Mike Stearns

    It’s not really about being “girly” as much as about being “graceful.”

    What you really want to do is show your son how to be cultured, polite, and confidently smooth. A lot of boys get into hostile, aggressive, and violent hobbies because they’re outcast, anxious, and lacking a deep sense of self-respect. They’re trying to prove something that really doesn’t need to be proven. Keep in mind these are different from adventurous hobbies that are just about exploring something out of genuine curiosity.

    This kind of goes hand in hand with the difference between raising a child to be obedient versus being disciplined. An obedient child does as one’s told. A disciplined child cares about the cultivation of technique to pursue ambitions which includes social ambitions. Your son deserves to know the ins and outs of how people interact on a deep level, and you should teach him social strategies so he isn’t prone to social outbursts that don’t make sense.

    For example, you might teach your son how to dance. Boys don’t usually get into this, but it’s OK. If you teach him how to hold someone close and be charming while doing so, he’ll appreciate it as he gets older. Your husband should be involved with this too obviously since he’ll help your son overcome what it feels like on the inside to endure and overcome anxiety.

    You might teach your son how to talk with girls from interpreting words in unusual ways on purpose to tease them to starting out light-hearted before getting deeper. Also, you really need to teach him about how girls go through puberty before boys do, so sometimes, girls will behave weirdly around him when he’s younger in a way he doesn’t grasp because he doesn’t have that set of feelings activated yet. A lot of boys get interpreted as lacking empathy because they don’t grasp this, but in reality, it’s just normal development taking place at different tempos.

    The real goal is you want to raise your son to be a gentleman. That won’t get him bullied. That will make him an impressive leader who others want to follow.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Mike Stearns

        Eh… I don’t know if it’s sexist really. Chivalry has problems, but being a gentleman (or lady) is about being polite while expressing your feelings in a passionate way instead of being puritan or promiscuous. For example, a lot of boys aren’t confident in whispering flirtatiously into a girl’s ear. They either go over the top in saying something nasty or don’t go far enough and say something awkward. The same thing goes with wrapping your arm around a woman in some guys either wrap around her shoulder or around her hips when they should really be wrapping around her waist.

        Basically, you just want to teach your son how to use figurative mannerisms suggestively that are up for interpretation in case she’s interested, and you want to teach him to be gradual in his approach. Teach him not to back down if she asks him what he’s up to and to stick with being suggestive in order to present himself confidently while remaining comforting.

        Aside from how he should specifically interact with females though, you want to teach him how people can behave with many motives, and that social strategy entails anticipating the many motives those around him can have while not getting overwhelmed in the behavior itself. You also want to teach him that part of this involves risk-taking in discovering people’s motives, and that the more ambitious he wants to be to accumulate status, the more risks he’s going to take.

        Anyway, we can talk about this more elsewhere in other posts where things are more specific.

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  11. colleen55

    It doesn’t have to be that complicated, but at the same time I’m glad that you are putting so much thought into how to best raise your child. And congratulations! I wish more people did this. Like many have said, let them experience everything, as much as they can and talk about it every step of the way. Don’t be afraid of their questions – its a good thing. And don’t be afraid to say you don’t have all the answers – show them how to look for the answers. Bottom line is – there is no “one way” to live life. A successful person is a happy person – however that may be.
    One thing I have learned from my 3 boys as well as my career in teaching, is that children learn what they live. They will, in many ways, turn out to be little replicas of you and your spouse. They will pick up on how you treat others, how you view politics, how you speak and the words you use. For example, my children use the term “literally” as a regular word in their vocabulary because I use it all the time. I bought my boys a kitchen and a boy baby doll. My kids play hockey but they also like to bake with me. My husband hunts so they are aware of guns and respect their use. They enjoy watching movies but also love to spend hours outside fishing, hiking and camping. There is not limit to what your child can learn, love, become and enjoy. Welcome to the adventures of parenting!

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    • Bailey Steger

      Thanks, Colleen! Your example is such an encouraging reminder of what kids can become.

      I had forgotten what little sponges kids were until I started working with preschoolers. They mimicked EVERYTHING I did. I’ve got to get working on my own life instead of merely abstractly ruminating!! Mini Baileys and Erichs are going to be, uh, quite the handful, as our character currently stands. ;)

      And I think it’s adorable how your kids say “literally.” That made my day!! :D

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  12. ridicuryder

    Hello Bailey,

    I trust that some of your overthinking is not so much to “engineer” things. I’ve heard previous comments for you to relax. I think you’ll do fine. The one thing I would add is a strong mother figure is just as important as a strong father figure. The quality time you spend with your kid (not where you’re distracted by multitasking) will do a lot to shape his appreciation of the feminine. Much of this is common sense- lead by example, but the more he sees you as a firm feminine example, the more he will seek to engage and emulate that in his environment.

    Cheers,
    RR

    Like

    • Bailey Steger

      I just recently heard a young man mentioning exactly what you said — he, sadly, did not have a father figure growing up, but he was inspired by the strong women in his life and felt that was sufficient and valuable for him.

      Liked by 1 person

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