Raising a son to be thoughtful, caring, and inquisitive is a challenge for anyone, especially with so many societal pressures and a changing perception of what “being a man” even means. Let’s sweep that off the table and look at how you can raise a well-rounded son. Following these simple tips can help give you traits of a great dad.
1. Let him show his emotions.
Even in the modern day, boys are expected to stifle their tears, to grit their teeth and smile through the pain. As long as he isn’t being destructive, acting out, or presenting a danger to himself or others, let your son express his emotions, whether it’s from watching a sad movie or experiencing a great loss.
Once the tears stop, you can talk to him about his feelings and why he felt them. From there you can label the emotion—sad, angry, disappointed, hurt. Help him understand that all of these emotions are valid.
2. Offer plenty of physical affection.
Boys need just as much physical contact as girls. Hugs, cuddles, and kisses will help your son feel safe, secure, and loved. As they get older, they may shy away from physical affection, especially when they’re around friends, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop altogether or that they don’t want that affection. Sneak in a quick hug when no one is looking or give them a shoulder squeeze when you’re working together in the kitchen.
3. Encourage his interests.
Whether he wants to dance, skateboard, cook, paint, or play basketball, encourage and support his interests. You’ll instill a strong sense of self, which will build his confidence and self-esteem.
4. Don’t quell his energy.
Most little boys are bundles of energy. That energy can get pent up if he doesn’t have the opportunity to run, explore, and play. Just make sure he understands that there is a right time and place to expend his energy. Remind him that the dinner table and the classroom are places where he might want to pullback.
5. …but don’t worry if he’s not energetic.
We’re all prone to our moments of quiet solitude. If he wants to spend time inside drawing, reading, or imagining, don’t force him to go outside. These moments of introspection are just as important to his development. Ask him if he’s feeling well, and if he appears to be doing fine emotionally or otherwise, leave him to his own devices. He’ll be running, hooting, and hollering in no time.
6. Read often.
You can never start reading to your son too early. Reading to a preschooler encourages reading skills and language development and opens up whole new worlds for imagination, creative thinking, and problem solving.
7. Don’t worry about him being “masculine enough.”
People often describe masculinity with words like strength, courage, and independence. There are countless women who exhibit those same traits and plenty of men who don’t, so don’t worry about your son being masculine enough. Let him be himself. You will find that he is definitely enough.