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Jun 252012

As little boys we’re like sponges just soaking up the world around us. With the guidance of our loving parents we traverse life’s obstacles and learn to find a place in our own bodies. Little boys in particular are very resistant to change and are pretty sure, most of the time, that what they know is right. Of course, parents have that responsibility to teach their children the rights and wrongs of life.

Which leads me to my next point. Perhaps many parents, in their very best effort to “do right”, actually wind up assisting their children in unlearning what is actually true. This belief rests on the principle that we are born with all the inherent qualities we have as humans. The inherent qualities I speak of include compassion, lovability, thoughtfulness, sensitivity, vulnerability, creativity, and many others. I believe one of two things happen as young children. Either we are reminded about what is already true about us (the inherent qualities) or we unlearn what is true and are taught the opposite. The opposite being not lovable, not good enough, not worthy, etc.

My wife had her phone on her and asked my son Jake (he’s two) if there was anything he wanted to say to his best friend “Connor” (who is also two). Without prompt this sweet little boy told his best friend that he loved him. My wife sent the video to Connor’s mom and he too wanted to send Jake a message back. Of course, his message was just as touching as I think you’d agree.

Jake and Connor were both born loving, lovable, tender, sweet, thoughtful, sensitive, vulnerable, creative, and sensitive. These qualities are clearly present in the video. Yet for the average “Jake” and “Connor” at 18 or 28 or 48 for that matter they would not be described that way. Men aren’t typically described as sweet, tender, vulnerable, sensitive or loving. So where does this get lost?

For now, I think it’s best that we’re all reminded what’s true about these two boys and every other boy. No matter what they unlearn down the road they’re all sweet, loving, lovable, tender,and sensitive among hundreds of qualities. They don’t have to win anything, do anything better, faster, or harder. They’re already everything they should be. So if you’re a parent reading this I invite you to consider that perhaps as, if not more, important than what our children have to learn is what they need to be reminded of. Those same things are what we can remind ourselves about. After all, we may not be children anymore but we still have all of those qualities we see in these two little boys.

What are some of your favorite ways to remind your son or daughter what’s true about them? How about yourself?

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  8 Responses to “

What Can Men Learn From Boys?

    I really enjoyed this thoughtful post.

    My youngest, our son, has never been to public school. I look at what could be deemed as “immature” boy behavior from him (high degree of empathy, actively playing with girls, freely enjoying shows traditionally “for girls” with his sister along side “boy” shows like Star Wars & Justice League, etc) & know that would not be the case if he was public schooled in our community. Negative reinforcement is very strong with boys, it is hard for them to act in a way, or like things, that are deemed “not for boys.”

    And I’m so indoctrinated by society to believe boys should act a certain way as they grow up that I occasionally worry I’m “stunting” him by not exposing him to this societal negative reinforcement.

    How effed up is that?

    But parents will worry no matter what, I suppose. If he was *just like* the boys in his soccer team, I’d mourn the loss of his sweet, caring, free self.

    Your son & his best friend are adorable. I’m glad they have each other & I’m glad they have the parents they do. Some dads may feel like they need to teach the boys to fist bump the camera. Not that that wouldn’t also be adorable. ;)


    I did a word cloud of all the wonderful things about boys. You can see it on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheAchillesEffect. The adjectives I chose for this graphic are not, in my opinion, used nearly enough to describe boys. I hope this image helps change that.


    Thank you for writing this.

    As a boy, I grew up where people expected me not to show my soft side at any cost (not cry when I was upset, only play with other boys, etc.) And now as and adult and as a parent, I’ve kind of expected the same for my son.

    Reading your post, along with Eryn’s comment made me realize that this was something I see everyday and not given a single thought about the negative effects to children in the long run. I lost my best friend six years ago to an accident and I wish I had told him more about how much I appreciated his friendship.

    The story of your son’s friendship with Connor is very inspiring and your article is something I should remind myself of as I raise my little boy as well.


    I agree that at that age boys can be sweet but it is sad that men can’t have a sweet attitude without people thinking other things about them.


    I have to say that this hit home with me. I am about to be a new dad and the thing I worry about most as a new dad is making sure that my son will be an emotionally healthy and well rounded person.
    Looking back on my childhood I feel like I learned way more, about how to be a man, from watching my father than I ever learned from what he told me.


    I believe that one of the most important messages I can give to my children is that their job is NOT to take care of themselves. They can do some learning about that, or pretending to do that, or play games in which they pretend to take care of themselves, but all that is important in that is the learning, pretending and playing. Kids grow up too fast, and they really don’t have to, especially in middle-class United States. It is important for kids to feel that they are safe to take risks, make mistakes and fall flat on their bottoms.

    I think an important part of giving this to children is being strong as a parent. Showing confidence, having some control of the environment living up to one’s values, being protective… giving children the message, “Yes. I got this covered. You go play. Welcome back.”



    I’m going to be a new dad very soon (first child!) and this post really just confirms for me that I will have a lot to learn from my son. So excited to meet him and witness things like this!


    Great post! I wish i vould wrote this good

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