Masculinity has long been looked upon as one of the greatest qualities of a man. Yet in a society as diverse as ours, masculinity can be perceived in so many different ways. What’s considered a masculine trait to one person may be totally different than how manliness is perceived by another. In the past, the typical stereotype of a masculine man portrayed him as having strong facial features – chiseled face and jaw, stern mouth and piercing eyes – to go with a tall, muscular body. However, many women today feel masculinity has less to do with physical appearance and more to do with what they consider the traits of a real man, i.e. integrity, courage, determination and moral character.
When raising their children, parents want to see their sons develop the traits they consider worthy in a man. Physical attributes will only go so far in helping young men make their mark in the world. When teaching boys how to be masculine, parents shouldn’t overlook the character traits that will help them grow into responsible, caring individuals that can make a positive impact in their community.
Masculinity has been generally defined as demonstrating behavior and characteristics that a culture considers compatible with the male gender. Such traits may vary from culture to culture. The stereotype of masculine boys in Western society has them growing up wearing cowboy boots and blue jeans, climbing trees, playing with toy cars and action figures and being tougher and rougher than their female counterpart.
In the home, this stereotype may play out by chores being divided into a “male” and “female” related category. Parents are more likely to ask their sons to take out the garbage, mow the lawn and clean the garage as opposed to wash dishes, cook a meal or do the laundry, as these are typically considered a woman’s responsibility. Career wise, masculine men are expected to hold such positions as CEOs, engineers, doctors, lawyers, race car drivers, etc. while women become nurses, teachers, secretaries and cosmetologists.
There are dozens of stereotypes that can give young men an inaccurate picture of masculinity. Here are a few more:
- Men bring home the bacon and women cook it.
- Men are natural protectors of the women, who are considered the weaker sex.
- Taking care of the house and children is a woman’s responsibility, not a man’s.
- Men run the roost in their home – women follow.
- A masculine man doesn’t cook, sew, do housework or wash the laundry.
- Men should have full control over the finances, with women being allotted a monthly budget.
- Men should be in charge of home and car repairs as women know so little about these subjects.
By separating truth from fiction in these stereotypes, parents can help their sons grow up with the right attitudes towards masculinity. Rather than teaching stereotypes as the norm, parents can help their kids to see men and women as individuals, sharing jobs, responsibilities, careers and family obligations equally. Gender alone should never define who a person is or hinder him or her from reaching his or her full potential. Shedding unrealistic viewpoints of manliness can free men to be who and what they want to be, without being labeled or scorned for their individuality.
How to Be More Masculine
If masculinity is more than a chiseled jaw, brawny body and stereotype list of manly things to do, then what exactly can parents teach their boys about how to be a manly man as they grow into adulthood? Parents can start by explaining what masculinity really means. Fathers can play a key role in helping their sons understand true manliness by modeling the traits of a man who is honest, courteous, generous and loyal to his family. By being role models for their teens, fathers can have a positive influence in molding their character, behavior and actions.
It’s not uncommon for pre-teen and teen boys to want to be more “manly.” By providing them with a more accurate manliness definition, fathers can help shape their sons’ character and help them grow into men of integrity. True masculinity comes from the heart and can be demonstrated by:
- having faith and determination to accomplish your dreams
- having courage to persevere when the going gets rough and things don’t turn out the way you expected
- having the self-discipline to take control of your life and make wise decisions that will benefit your future
- living a life of integrity and honesty
- showing generosity and kindness to those in need
- treating others with dignity and respect
- protecting those who are weak and incapable of protecting themselves
- being a gentlemen to the ladies in your life
- providing for your family
Fostering Manliness in a Teen
There are many ways in which parents can help foster manliness in their teens. Although all teens need a guiding hand, discipline and support, they also need independence to make decisions and grow. By being overly protective and not allowing their teens and pre-teens to make decisions on their own or commit mistakes, parents can hinder a young man from growing in self-confidence and learning valuable lessons that can help him in the future. By establishing rules and boundaries for their children as they enter adolescence, parents can minimize the risk of their making monumental mistakes that could have serious repercussions on their future.
One of the hardest parts of parenting is letting go. As children grow into adolescence and young men and women, parents need to relinquish control of their lives so they can become the men and women they were meant to be. Here are a few ways in which parents can help foster manliness in their teen so he can transition into a confident adult capable of handling adult responsibilities:
- Don’t coddle your teen or pre-teen in an effort to protect him or make life easy for him as he grows. Working through difficulties and problems will help your teen develop character and teach him valuable lessons for the future. Struggles are not always bad as they can help people become stronger.
- Encourage your son to hone up to his mistakes, learn from them and move on. Complaining, making excuses and blaming others for mistakes in life only serves to make people weaker. Taking responsibility for mistakes, even if they are not entirely your child’s fault, gives your son the opportunity to learn from them and grow stronger.
- Help your son develop a positive attitude in life, learning to see the good in situations and others. Negative thoughts can poison and ruin a young person’s life before they really have a chance to get started. In contrast, a positive attitude will give him strength to face any situation head on.
- Give your son responsibilities at home early on as this will teach him the value of hard work and accomplishment. Many a success story can be attributed to hard work, perseverance and determination at getting the job done.
- Be a positive role model for your son in living by Godly principles and values, so he can follow your example. He may not remember everything you teach him, but your loving and self-less acts will be ingrained in his heart and mind forever.
What Women Love About Men
Media campaigns on television, magazines and the Internet picturing women drooling over men with handsome faces and brawny bodies can give teens the wrong idea of what women really admire in a man. Women may be initially attracted to a man’s appearance, but looks alone is not enough to keep their interest for long. When it comes to a long term relationship, most women look for attributes of the heart. Some of the traits in a man that women consider most important are:
- gentlemanly behavior
- compassion and understanding
- dedication to his family
- loving behavior toward children
- perseverance to succeed
- commitment to uphold Godly principles and moral values
As a boy matures into adulthood, he faces many challenges in life. Proving his masculinity is one of them. Knowing what manliness is really all about can make a big difference in how he goes about accepting this challenge. Boys who grow up with a mature understanding of what it means to be masculine will be more capable of adjusting to whatever role they play in life. They will also be more content knowing they are fulfilling this role to the best of their ability.