Parenting is not just a personal project to make sure my own kids turn out all right. It is a social project that can change the world.
Parenting is about the little things we do, but it is also about the larger ideas we hold to be true. In fact, the two are connected. The tips, tricks and strategies we use are influenced by the bigger ideas we hold. These core beliefs can be those that were passed on through our parents or those we have chosen for ourselves.
One of the biggest ideas that informs our parenting is our idea of gender.
Many of the problems we see in the world today can be traced back to the way we raise boys.
- we build women’s shelters and offer self-defense classes for women
- we build prisons that are filled with men
- we watch corporate CEO’s (mostly men) turn a blind eye to the environmental damage they are causing
- we accept food banks – largely used by women and children
- we watch men start and carry on the business of war
But we never look upstream and ask where all this is coming from. It comes from a system that is perpetuated by the way we raise boys.
Most men operate on two emotions – anger and fear. The emotion most repressed is the desire for love – transformed into a futile search for sex and power. Boys and men are seldom given the opportunity to practice behaviours that girls and women take for granted:
- nurturing behaviour of all kinds
Around the world, women were and are oppressed. Men are repressed. Women are denied access to political and financial power. Men have been denied access to their own emotional lives.
In the past 50 years we have changed the way we raise girls. They are becoming stronger, more confident and well-educated than ever before. A big idea that found its way into parenting. One problem remains: they can’t find men they want to marry.
As girls and women have surged forward, men and boys have pulled back. They have retreated into cyberspace – mainly video games and pornography. We are losing a generation of boys.
For thousands of years, men ruled the world. That is quickly coming to an end. Women are moving into positions of power and having an influence on culture they never had before. Women in the West have surpassed men in educational attainment levels and employment levels. Men are confused, angry and frustrated. They feel they have lost something.
What can we do differently?
Encourage boys in non-traditional jobs. This is not just an ideological goal. It is an economic necessity. Women make up 77% of those working in healthcare and education – two of the fastest growing job sectors. Men make up 73% of those working in heavy industry and manufacturing – two of the fastest shrinking job sectors. Globe and Mail, 2017
Modelling, allowing and encouraging emotional expression. Boys and men have deep emotional lives, but are socialized to repress them. This could be reversed by parents, teachers and role models of all kinds – with words and hugs.
When men take care of children, the world will change. Children allow us to live out our natural empathy, nurturing behaviour and joy. Men who take care of children are more well-rounded people.
Men do not have to give up their masculine nature. They have to redefine it. They don’t need to be warriors for territory and power over others. They can be warriors for peace, the environment, social justice and equal rights.
Men do not need to become more like women. They need to become more fully human, more in touch with who they are, free to achieve their human potential, including the full range of emotional expression.
Social change happens one person at a time. When we change the way we raise boys, we will change the world.