WTF- Or: Social Influences On My Kids

My 9-year-old son was running with his cross country team and took a pretty bad spill, bloodying his knee, elbow, palms and bruising his side. When I picked him up his coach said, “he fell but he took it like a man and didn’t even cry.”

I looked at the coach and said, “yeah, it would have been okay if he did.”

Two minutes later I said, “Who cares if he did? Are we teaching kids to not show emotion?”

Actually, I just said that last part in my head. I’m definitely the queen of hindsight. Would he have said that to my daughter?

Seriously. That exchange has had me thinking the past few days.

Kids should be able to show emotion. Boys shouldn’t be told to ‘be a man’ if being a man means not crying, not showing their feelings.

In the 2014 documentary, “The Mask You Live In,” Joe Ehrmann, a former NFL player, shared his take on the phrase “be a man”. According to him, “The three most destructive words that every man receives when he’s a boy, is when he’s told to ‘be a man.’”

Countless articles have been written in magazines like TimeandHuffington Post, and dozens of bloggers have shared stories about the damage that outdated stereotypes can have on kids, as well as adults.

When our daughter was younger she dressed up as princesses and fancy characters, but we never called her a princess outside of dress-up when she was Princess Anna or Princess Merida. One day we were walking around a market and the men in the booths started calling her princess, “Hey princess. Come here princess.” Figuring she’d drag me to their booths and talk me into buying a trinket. Later that day she asked, “Why did those men call me a princess? Do I look like a princess? I don’t really want to be one.”

“I think they thought you’d like it,” I told her.

A few years ago, I overheard my husband stop himself from telling our son to not throw like a girl. Talk about a stereotype! He didn’t say it. He stopped at ‘throw’ and said something like, ‘don’t throw… like you don’t care.’ I cringed so hard but was glad he realized what he was about to say. It was a phrase that was thrown around easily when we were kids, as an insult.

I don’t know where we’re going but we’re going fast.

Navigating parenting is hard. We’re all just trying to raise our kids to be the best people they can be. To be kind and respectful of others. To make good decisions and be brave when you need to be. I didn’t fully anticipate the influences outside of our house but as we’ve encountered them over the years I think it’s helped me parent better.

I’m interested in what first hand experiences you’ve had that have shaped how you parent. Please take a moment to share them?

Writer. Likes travel, dark chocolate and good coffee. Believer of karma. www.katierbromley.com

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