Courtesy Megan Zander

I'll Never Let My Sons Play Rough, Because It Reinforces Toxic Masculinity

Ad failed to load

The other day, I was dealing with the usual post-preschool chaos - unpacking half-eaten lunches, hanging up backpacks and going through folders for notices about yet another fundraiser — when one of my four-year-olds started play-fighting with his twin brother. This has been one of their favorite games recently. What starts out as a playful hug devolves into both of them rolling around on the floor.

As I always do when they start to wrestle like this, I busted out my Mean Mommy® voice and told them to cut it out. I don't tolerate rough-housing in my house, and they know that. Usually, my voice dropping two octaves is enough to get my kids to separate immediately and move on to other activities, but this time Lolo stayed perched on top of his brother's neck, which was starting to turn just a tiny bit blue. "It's OK, Mommy," he told me with a grin. "Our teacher said we can wrestle at home."

I managed to keep my cool in front of my kids, but instead I was seething. Everyone seems to think it's fine to encourage my sons to play rough with each other. They seem to think it's innocuous behavior, because "boys will be boys." But I refuse to believe that we need to let "boys be boys," or that playing rough is an unavoidable part of raising sons. For me, letting my boys wrestle with each other only reinforces toxic masculinity, and I want no part of it.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Megan Zander

Whenever I call out anyone who tries to encourage the boys to rough-house, the excuse they always give me is that boys are wired to play rough, and that they're inherently more aggressive than girls. But science doesn't back up this claim. According to a 2014 study, men aren't "hardwired" to be violent (though they might be slightly more prone to acting violent than women, due to structural differences in the brain). And according to multiple studies, women are just as prone to anger and aggression as men are — it's just the gender norms we force upon our children as a society that shapes their temperament and brain development. It's the constant message that girls are supposed to play house and be polite, while boys are supposed to be noisy and dirty. Telling our boys they're supposed to play rough is precisely why it's bound to happen, not because there's something in their DNA.

Boys don't need to play rough with each other in order to understand their gender identity. "Boys will be boys" is merely an excuse for bad behavior.
Ad failed to load

Boys don't need to play rough with each other in order to understand their gender identity. "Boys will be boys" is merely an excuse for bad behavior that we've allowed to linger throughout generations. Anyone who tells me they roughhoused with their brothers growing up and turned out fine is missing the point. Think about men who don't have siblings, or men who were raised in a house full of sisters. They (likely) didn't have anyone to take this so-called inherent aggression out on, yet they still manage to make it to adulthood with their male identity intact.

Courtesy Megan Zander

My kids may get physical sometimes when they're left to play alone together. One of the boys will have a toy his brother wants, or Remy will want Lolo to sit on a certain spot on the couch, and Lolo will refuse. But that's not aggression — it's frustration. At 4 years old, they lack the vocabulary and emotional maturity to settle their disagreements through talking, and that can lead to them trying to settle it Fight Club style. I don't want them to grow up to have fist fights in parking lots because they don't know how else to handle confrontation. The best thing I can do for them is to help them verbalize their frustrations instead of placing bets as to which twin has the stronger headlock.

Ad failed to load

My uncle once told me that my sons will be "sissies" if I don't let them wrestle with each other on the floor. I know he meant it as an insult, but I sort of took it as a compliment. I think it's a good thing for boys to be in touch with their emotions, to know how to use their words instead of their fists. It's not that I'm afraid of my boys using their physical strength, it's just that I don't see roughhousing as an appropriate use of that energy.

Teaching my sons that playing rough isn't OK is a lesson in both self-control and consent. They need to learn that no means no.

I also want my boys to have a rock solid understanding of consent, and I strongly feel that discouraging them from wrestling with each other will foster a better awareness of this. I understand sometimes they both enjoy roughhousing with each other, but many times it's hard to tell if they're both having fun. There are times when the situation will start out playful, but one boy will have enough and want to stop, and his brother will keep going because he doesn't think his brother is serious. This is literally the excuse I've seen rapists give as to why they assaulted their victims. I want better than that for my sons, and for the women they may encounter in their lives. Teaching my sons that playing rough isn't OK is a lesson in both self-control and consent. They need to learn that no means no.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy Megan Zander

My sons attend a preschool where they happen to be the only boys in their class, and I love the fact that they get exposed to a lot of play that's viewed as stereotypically girly and to them it's just playing, full stop. They come home with stories of playing house at school, and they tell me they want to help bake cupcakes or climb a tree like their peers do. I like that they see the girls in the class as friends and equals, and I want it to stay that way. But when their own teacher tells them it's OK to wrestle at home, she's telling them that boys and girls play differently, and that these are things only boys can do. Both the feminist and pacifist in me has a huge problem with this.

Roughhousing isn't a rite of passage for young boys. It's a way of condoning sexist behavior. My boys aren't losing out on their masculinity or becoming "sissies" by not wrestling with each other. Instead, they're learning what it means to be well-adjusted boys, who will hopefully grow up to be well-adjusted men.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

6 Early Signs You're Going To Have A Short Labor, According To Experts

As far as I'm concerned, a short labor is right up there with winning the lottery in terms of lucky life events. (And when I was actually in labor, I would absolutely have traded a bucketful of lottery winnings for a speedier birth.) While some women…
By Kelly Mullen-McWilliams

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In March

You can always count on Netflix to keep it fresh: though there are already so many movies and shows to choose from, every month there's an influx of new content to keep your entire family entertained. As February enters its final weeks, it's time to …
By Megan Walsh

Here Are 10 Ways To Boost Your Baby's Immunity To The Flu

As I'm sure you've read in the thousands upon thousands of articles written about it this winter, the flu is spreading like wildfire and it's bad. Really bad. This strand of flu is the worst we've had in a very long time and it's the most widespread,…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Khloé Kardashian Asked Twitter About Her Bump, & Moms Totally Delivered

Like her younger sister Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian managed to keep most of her pregnancy a sort-of secret. But unlike Jenner, Kardashian chose to publicly announce her pregnancy several months before the baby's due date. While there's no wrong wa…
By Sophie Hirsh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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