11 Times You Don't Realize You're Shaming Your Son

Ad failed to load

Parenting is not easy, and even the best parents can get it wrong, especially when they're trying to help their kids navigate a world full of bullsh*t gender roles. I consciously work to raise my girls to be strong, confident and independent. However, sometimes I forget about how our culture hurts boys, and how there are times when you don't realize you're shaming your son.

In our culture, boys and men are expected and conditioned to be masculine – strong, aggressive, ruthless, rational, emotionally inexpressive, destructive, even sexually promiscuous, and especially violent. Arguably even worse, boys and men are often given a pass for harmful behaviors, because that’s all our society expects of them. "Boys will be boys," and all men engage in "locker room talk," and we shouldn't ruin this poor young man's future because of a "youthful discretion," (another name for rape and sexual assault and domestic violence, apparently).

Men and boys find themselves in a reality where not being masculine enough or not conforming to social norms around "what it means to be male," results in shame and even physical harm. However, the alternative is being a bully, or engaging in harmful behavior. This puts our sons at risk because, well, they're essentially damned if they do and damned if they don't. If our sons are openly gay or unapologetically feminine or gender nonconforming? Well, they can feel a seemingly endless amount of shame for simply choosing to be themselves, which is nothing if not toxic.

Ad failed to load

So, just like I'm focused on raising strong, confident and independent girls, I'm focused on avoiding the following so I can raise empathetic, confident, and independent sons, too.

Ad failed to load

When You Say "Be A Man"

What does "be a man" even mean? Violent? Non-emotive? Rational? Tough? When we can't even answer that question, how do we expect children to understand what we want from them when we say the aforementioned?

Same goes for saying things like, "Real men do..." or, "Real men are..." or, "Be a good boy and...." Who are we to decide what a real man or a good boy is? A real man is someone who identifies as a man. All children, male and female, are good children.

When You Tell Him Not To Cry


Considerable research has been done regarding children’s emotional development and the differences for girls and boys. I was surprised to learn that male infants are actually more emotionally reactive and expressive than females. From age two onward, boys become less emotionally aware, expressive and empathic. Every time we tell them, "Boys don't cry," or rush to the aid of a crying girl, while telling a boy to walk it off, we condition them to not feel or express emotion. That makes me want to cry.

When You Expect Him To Be Just Like His Dad (Or Another Male Family Member)

It's really easy to view your children as mini-versions of you and your partner. However, it's not necessarily a great thing to do, especially when those shoes are hard to fill or those expectations don't align with who our sons are or want to be.

Ad failed to load

When You Expect Him To Be Athletic


Not all boys are good at sports, or even particularly like sports. Can we please let this stereotype die? See also, growing up to be "big and strong," liking cars, wanting to serve in the military or be a police officer or firefighter, looking like a superhero or really every stereotype about gender, ever.

When You Say, "Boys Will Be Boys"

Saying "boys will be boys" is not only harmful to women and girls, it shames boys, too. We shouldn't expect less of our sons because they identify as boys. We shouldn't contribute to rape culture by giving people who do harmful things a pass or worse, teaching our sons that it's OK or expected of them to treat women and girls poorly. We should expect more from our sons.

When You Tell Him What He Should Like


Boys. Can. Like. Pink. There is no such thing as a "girl color" or a "boy color." Same goes for princesses, nail polish, long hair, tiaras, and dolls. No, it won't make him gay. (But, then again, there's absolutely nothing wrong with being gay so if it did, who cares?)

Ad failed to load

When You Only Buy Him Balls And Cars

When you only buy your son stereotypical "boys toys," you teach him that these are the things he should like. When you also buy him dolls and My Little Ponies, you give him the opportunity to develop his own interests, likes, and dislikes. He deserves the right to become himself and not feel limited by a tiny box that says, "boy."

When You Don't Teach Him To Cook And Clean


Just as we shouldn't make assumptions about likes and dislikes, we also shouldn't reinforce stereotypes about who needs to learn to do what has been traditionally considered "woman's work."

Teach your sons to cook, clean, and *gasp* how to change diapers. Let them see their dads, grandpas, uncles, and other adults do these things. Smash the patriarchy one little feminist at a time because, really, all you're teaching your son to be, is a freakin' adult.

When You Assume He Likes Girls

You have absolutely no way of knowing what sexual orientation your son will identify with so, yes, your son could be gay. Wrap your head around that and hold it in your heart. You may want to (no, actually, you should) stop referring to his future partners as girls or women. Don't assume he'll marry a woman (or that he'll get married at all) and that you'll have a daughter-in-law some day. Don't assume that he likes or will like girls. Please, please, don't tease him about having a girlfriend or liking the girl next door. Stop.

Ad failed to load

When You Assume He Identifies As A Boy


We shouldn't assume that our kids even identify as the gender they were assigned at birth, or even on the gender binary. It's our job to gently guide our children towards adulthood, and they rely on us to support them. If your child is transgender or gender-nonconforming, they are going to need your support. Don't inadvertently shame your sons by assuming you know who they are. Wait for them to tell you.

When You Don't Show Him Affection

If we want our sons to grow into emotionally mature, sensitive feminists, we need to show them love, and that it's more than OK to be affectionate. Go ahead and give hugs, kiss their bumps and bruises, and snuggle with your boys. Love on them at least as much as you love on your daughters. Show them that it's OK to feel emotions other than anger, to express those emotions, and to ask for a hug when they need one.

Boys need hugs and kisses, too.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

21 Moms Share The Most Surprising Part About Having A C-Section

Honestly, I don't think we, as a culture, talk about C-sections nearly enough, especially considering so many mothers experience them. And because of a number of factors, the little we do talk about it always seems to be a familiar narrative: "It's n…
By Jamie Kenney

13 Yummy Instant Pot Recipes To Make Under 30 Minutes

An Instant Pot seems to be the must-have appliance in every kitchen these days. If you are anything like me and never knew the beauty of a Instant Pot, you are about to have your life changed. Basically, you put some ingredients into a pot, set the t…
By Kristin Manna

9 Things The First Six Months Of Motherhood Will Teach You About Your Baby

Personally, the first six months of motherhood was a mixed bag. I learned some harsh lessons about myself that made taking care of my baby seem overwhelming. For example, I was clueless, and no amount of research could help me feel like anything but …
By Steph Montgomery

These Photos Of North West Then & Now Will Take You On A Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane

When Kim Kardashian welcomed her first daughter, North West, with her husband, Kanye West, in 2013, her whole life was changed. The social media and reality TV star became a mom for the first time and her Instagram presence took a very adorable turn.…
By Casey Suglia

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

This Is What It Means If Your Pregnancy Test Changes Overnight

The time between when a woman suspects she might be pregnant and when it is confirmed for sure is the longest of her life. Regardless of whether you are hoping for a positive or a negative result, the odds are good that you are sweating bullets when …
By Shannon Evans

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack