Empowering Boys: 7 Essential Messages Every Father Should Share

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Don’t be stingy with how often you tell your son “I love you.

Even the best fathers are sometimes guilty of withholding affectionate words from their sons. They may struggle to express their love or resort to unhelpful adages instead. Phrases like “stop acting like a baby” or “you’re fine” are commonly said when boys cry over trivial matters. However, such advice does more harm than good. It’s crucial for fathers to break this habit and communicate their love more openly.

According to Michael C. Reichert, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of “How to Raise a Boy: The Power of Connection to Build Good Men,” society has been preoccupied with outdated ideas of masculinity, ignoring the basic emotional needs of young men. This emphasis on stoicism and “manliness” often leads to emotional shutdown, anger, isolation, and disrespectful behavior. Reichert argues that parents must redefine masculinity, encouraging vulnerability and emotional awareness in their sons.

To bring about this cultural change, parents, educators, and mentors should provide better advice to boys, helping them develop socially and emotionally. Here are seven simple phrases that all fathers need to tell their sons more often:

1. “I’ve failed a million times.”

Kids often see their fathers as infallible, believing they never make mistakes. It’s essential for young boys to know from an early age that their fathers have experienced failure far more times than success in various endeavors. Reichert explains that this acknowledgment demythologizes the masculine ideal, making it more relatable and attainable. By admitting to their mistakes, fathers show their sons that imperfection is a part of being human.

2. “You have to make yourself happy first before you can make others happy.”

Boys need to learn the importance of self-love, self-awareness, and self-advocacy. They must understand that taking care of their own needs is vital for their well-being and relationships. Sacrificing oneself should be a conscious choice rather than a default mode. Encouraging boys to prioritize their own happiness equips them with the emotional tools needed to care for others effectively.

3. “Was that really your best effort?”

When fathers notice their sons half-heartedly approaching a task, it’s important to call them out and ensure they give their best effort. However, the manner in which fathers approach this situation matters greatly. Reichert’s research reveals that boys thrive when held to high standards by teachers, coaches, or fathers who know them well. By demanding excellence with love and fairness, fathers can inspire their sons to surpass their own expectations and achieve remarkable results.

4. “Treat people as you want to be treated.”

Teaching boys to treat others with kindness and respect extends beyond social interactions. This lesson applies to school, team sports, and instills the values of loyalty and community in young men. It challenges the notion of individualism and emphasizes that collective strength surpasses individual achievements. The idea of “leaving no man behind” fosters a sense of unity and empathy.

5. “Hurt people hurt people.”

Boys should understand that individuals who hurt others, either through words or actions, often do so because they have been hurt themselves. This concept, known as “traumatic reenactment,” helps boys gain perspective and compassion. By recognizing the pain behind hurtful behavior, they can navigate difficult situations with greater understanding.

6. “Don’t always blame yourself.”

Young boys often believe that the world is fair and just. When faced with disruptive events, they tend to blame themselves. It is crucial for fathers to communicate that not everything bad that happens is their son’s fault. Countless factors contribute to any given situation, and attributing blame solely to oneself is not only inaccurate but can also be emotionally burdensome.

7. “I love you and understand you.”

Expressing love is fundamental in the relationship between a father and his son. While some fathers may struggle to say the words “I love you,” it is crucial to convey this message through both words and actions. Reichert emphasizes that love should go beyond mere sentiment. It should be substantial, based on understanding, and attunement to each other’s emotions. When fathers say “I love you,” they demonstrate acceptance of their sons as unique individuals.

In conclusion, fathers play a vital role in shaping their sons’ emotional development. By embracing vulnerability, openness, and empathy, fathers can create transformative relationships that empower boys to grow into well-rounded men. These seven phrases offer a starting point for fathers to communicate love, support, and guidance to their sons. Let’s redefine masculinity and raise a new generation of emotionally aware and connected individuals.

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