Why Our World Needs Strong Boys More than Ever
- Monica Swanson
- 2020 16 Mar
It’s been years, but I can still see them now: My first three sons lined up in our back yard, capes tied on shoulders, barefoot, just grass and dirt and their imaginations.
They were Batman, Superman, or whomever they saw in the last movie they watched with Dad. They flexed their muscles and got lost in their own world. Hardly noticing me there at all, they would jump off a great city building (our short rock wall) or lift massive trucks (large rocks) to save a life.
They took down bad guys and blew things up. A lot of things. And at the end of the day they would come inside covered in dirt and sweat and around the dinner table they would tell the tales of their manly adventures.
My first three boys absolutely embraced their emerging masculinity. There was no shame in it and I, personally, loved every minute of it.
We read stories of great men of history and taught them most of all about heroes of the faith.
Nearly seven years after our third son was born, we added a final boy, Levi, to the family. And in a few significant ways Levi is growing up in a different world from the one his big brothers knew.
The spotlight has shifted to Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and girl-power everything. Strong females have taken over cartoons, talk shows, and bookshelves at our local library. Our culture is different. Not all bad, but different.
To Be Clear: I’m All for Strong Girls
In fact, I like to think of myself as one. I have, after all, raised and educated four sons, and I can still beat most of them in a game of basketball.
I am physically strong, and I like it. My parents raised me with the message of “you can do anything you set out to do in life” and I believed them.
I ended up choosing what I felt was the best job in the world — that of being a stay at home mom, but my family has cheered me on in every dream I have pursued. I am grateful that I feel encouraged and empowered by the men in my life. My dad is proud of me and my husband is my biggest fan.
And if I had a daughter? I’d raise her to be strong, too. I’d want her to be able to defend herself, physically and emotionally.
I’d want her to know how to think, and to articulate her thoughts. I’d also make sure she could shoot a basketball.
But I don’t have a daughter.
God gave me sons.
Four of them. And I feel a great responsibility to raise them to embrace their masculinity. Even in a culture that is not exactly focused on that.
In fact, if my husband and I trusted our current culture to shape our sons, I’m afraid they might see their masculinity as a deficit. Something to be ashamed of.
Because though Levi still has grown up wearing capes and flexing his little boy muscles, it’s not exactly popular to make a big deal of that.
Culture around Masculinity Is Changing
The memo today is loud and clear: it’s the girls’ turn.
And, of course, the girl-power movement is happening for good reason.
After many years of women being overlooked, underpaid, and abused at the hands of men in positions of power, the pendulum is swinging to the other side. There is so much to celebrate and I cheer for the women brave enough to step forward and tell their stories. And demand change.
My husband and I have had plenty of conversations with our boys about all of these things, because they are important. We talk about stories that come out in the news, and we do what we can to raise our sons with great respect for women.
But empowering girls is only one side of the coin.
While our culture cheers on girls to be strong and capable, I’m afraid there may be an unwritten message to our boys that they would be best to...sit back and cheer on the girls.
But this is where I beg to differ.
I believe it is our job as boy moms—as boy parents—to also empower our boys. To teach our boys what a strong man looks like. What true masculinity is.
And what it is not.
In fact, I’d say this may be the most important time in history to be very intentional about raising boys to embrace their masculinity, not to shrink back from it.
Because, as that pendulum swings, my boys are growing up and they’re trying to figure out what that should look like.
What Is a Man?
Where do I fit into this world?
The last thing I want is for my sons to be embarrassed to be men. To feel like their strength is unwelcome, or the testosterone-filled surge of masculinity pulsing through their quickly growing body is somehow wrong.
Because it is not wrong. It is altogether right. It is God’s creative design and it is wonderful.
I suggest that a great part of our job as the parents of boys is to teach our boys what a strong man really looks like. To teach our boys the truth about masculinity.
We need to teach them that true masculinity is far from toxic. That a true man has strength, and self-control. He is a protector; he would risk his life for another person—especially a woman or child.
A real man honors others (men and women) and makes great sacrifices for the benefit of others. A strong man esteems and appreciates women and if given the chance will love and serve one for the rest of his life.
Jesus Is the Best Example of a Strong Man
I can’t think of a better example of a strong man than Jesus.
Jesus crossed cultural lines to speak to women. Jesus cared for women, healed and forgave women, and then hung out with them. Jesus exemplified meekness, which is not weakness, but strength under control.
1 Peter 2:23 says that when (Jesus) was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
We need to point our boys to Jesus, and men like him to aspire to be like.
So, while our world does the important, hard work of teaching girls to be strong and capable to protect themselves and speak up if they can’t, I’ll be here doing my part, too.
I will keep strapping the capes on my boys and dusting the dirt off their knees while doing the less popular but equally important work of teaching them how to be strong men. I’ll admire their muscles and cheer on their awkwardly changing voices.
I’ll keep teaching them to open doors for ladies, if they get the chance. I’ll keep pointing them to the few great role models in the world today, and most of all I’ll keep teaching them to be disciples of the greatest example in all of history
To the girl-parents out there: I’d like to assure you that I’m not raising boys to compete with your girls… to conquer them or quiet them. My husband and I are doing our best to raise the kind of boys I think you’d want to be near if ever your daughter is in danger.
The kind of boys you might want your daughter to bring home to meet you one day. The kind of boys who will cheer your daughter on while she does great things.
And to the boy-parents I want to say: Please keep doing your job as well. This world needs your boys to grow up to be strong and noble. This world needs examples of good and godly men to look to.
Never shrink back from raising healthy, masculine sons. This is good and important work.
Because there really is room for strong girls and boys in this world. And parents, if we all do our job well, we can hope for a future generation of young women and men who appreciate each others’ differences and celebrate each others’ strengths.
Monica Swanson is the author of “Boy Mom: What Your Son Needs Most from You” (WaterBrook) and host of the Boy Mom Podcast. She and her husband, Dave, have one son in college and three more boys, who divide their time between homeschooling and surfing. They live on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. Visit her at monicaswanson.com.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Robert Collins