When your relationship ends after you have children, you may worry about many things.
Work-life balance, guilt for not being able to spend as much time at home, and fatigue from trying to carry the entire load — emotionally, cognitively, and psychologically.
And if you’re raising sons, you may have an additional worry: How do you raise them to exhibit the positive qualities of manhood?
Boys need positive male role models who can show them traits of positive masculinity.
But what if your ex-husband has no plans to financially, socially, emotionally, or mentally raise your son to be the man you want him to be?
The first thing I want you to do is to take a deep breath and remember this: Don’t believe the hype! You can do it!
Did you know that Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, and comedian Kevin Hart are just a few successful men that have been raised by single mothers?
What does positive masculinity look like?
The second thing is to think about masculinity. What is it? Who can be considered positive male role models?
In a 2020 Psychology Today article written by Ronald F. Levant Ed.D., he stated that there’s a misconception held by many in our society in that many believe masculinity is synonymous with being male.
In fact, few people realize that biological sex is different from one’s gender performance.
In other words, are you masculine just because you’re male? Can it only be taught by a man?
In our society, there’s still a set of beliefs that define manhood in 4 essential norms:
Men should not be or act feminine.
Men should strive to be respected for successful achievement.
Men should never show weakness.
Men should strive for adventure and risk, even accepting violence if necessary.
If we continue to define boys by these four qualities, there are negative results.
If you teach your son to focus on your son’s masculine traits over traits that may be considered feminine, you’re not teaching him how to be more empathetic, caring, and understanding of other people’s experiences.
If you teach your son to focus solely on your son’s achievements, he will equate failure with inadequacy and, instead of dealing with failure openly, he will suffer in silence.
If you teach your son not to show weakness, according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, it can lead to a number of consequences, including mental health disorders.
Suppressing emotions can lead to depression and anxiety. But for men, especially, it can also increase their risk of suicide.
Men are much more likely to commit suicide than women. In 2018, men died by suicide about 3.56 times more often than women did.
If we expect our sons to be total risk-takers and thrill-seekers and the pressure to conform to expectations of dominance and aggression, it may heighten the potential for them to engage in general acts of violence including.
This includes but is not limited to bullying, assault, and physical or verbal aggression.
Are these the type behaviors necessary to be considered a man?
Absolutely not! This is where positive masculinity comes in and, yes, it’s possible.
Positive masculinity is when men use their physical and emotional strength to champion healthy behaviors and communities.
It’s about displaying vulnerability, emotional intelligence, and moral courage. In other words, these are behaviors that can be taught, whether you’re a man or a woman.
As a single mom, how do you ensure that your son is taught positive masculinity? Here are 6 ways.
1. Provide space to explore the world on their own, but make sure they know they can come to you.
Allowing him to make his own decisions — within reason if he’s a minor — but only stepping in when your instincts warrant it absolutely necessary.
This goes a long way in establishing a healthy mother-son relationship.
2. Be tough and tender.
It’s easy to implement an element of toughness when it comes to boys. But it’s more important that he sees your vulnerable side, too.
When he sees and feels your “humanness,” you’re indirectly creating a young man that will be compassionate and empathetic — qualities that are necessary for maintaining healthy relationships.
3. Ask questions and keep asking them.
As they grow and develop as a man, their inclination is to pull away.
You, as a single mom, will have to push through this obstacle. It will help him feel connected and develop a way to process and communicate his feelings, especially in future romantic relationships.
4. Establish a friendly co-existing relationship with his father, if possible.
This is critical. It will help him to understand that relationships don’t always work out, but it’s imperative to maintain a cordial working relationship.
You don’t want the relationship to be bad because of your behavior.
5. Respect is a must.
Boundaries are very important, not only to his development but also to you, as his mother.
You shouldn’t put undue expectations on him like he’s the man of the house.
6. Foster an independent but disciplined mindset.
It’s important that boys be allowed to experience independence early in life. Doing everything for them will only cause them to seek partners that demonstrate those same characteristics.
Having an independent mindset will help your son be assertive, make good decisions and be their own advocate.
Single moms, you’ve got this!
Parenting and teaching positive masculinity to your son is not anchored to gender. You’re either good at it or you’re not.
Just by nature and time, boys will become men but with your guidance, you will help your future man become a better human.
Keith Dent is a certified relationship coach and the author of “In the Paint, How to Win at the Game of Love.” If you’re struggling with developing your son to his full potential, please contact Coach Keith now at [email protected] for a free 30-minute consultation.