Raising Well-Rounded Men
What if instead of sentencing your future daughter in law and granddaughter to struggling with a verbally frustrated husband and father, you raised your son to be more verbally expressive.
Talk about impacting generations!
In this episode, Vanessa shares practical ways to raise confident men who can enter a woman’s world even of he doesn’t want to stay there.
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Homework: Build Your Son’s Word Bank
Encourage and empower your son to express his thoughts and feelings clearly. Some ideas to get you started:
- Reading to him from an infant and, as he gets older, supplying books he’d read on his own
- Supplying toddler boys with the words to describe anything of interest, but especially their big feelings
- Use reach words when speaking with him. Words he’ll either have to use context clues to understand or look up in a dictionary.
- Include open-ended questions in conversation and pause for him to answer. Avoid making conversation with yourself!
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Need a good journal?
Journal from the Heart is a great every day journal with an encouraging verse or affirmation at the bottom of every page. If you’re working through any kind of loss, the journal, My Journey Through Grief and Loss, helps you acknowledge the significance of your loss while honoring the memories you’ll always cherish. And if you meet with a counselor or a coach, you need a journal to keep track of breakthroughs and aha moments in between sessions. A copy of the My Reflections Journal for guided post-session review would be perfect for you.
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Episode 48 transcript
Hey there Mama Bare. Vanessa here with compassion, candor and clarity for you, the mom from Venus raising a boy from Mars with a significant language barrier.
And as a mom who’s still there, doing that and owns all the t-shirts, I’m so glad you’re here to discuss a big part of our responsibility in raising men, in Episode 48 of Motherhood Unmasked.
I never read the book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, mainly because it came out when I was otherwise occupied with my organic chemistry textbook.
Understanding why men were so completely other than women was low on my list of priorities. That is, until I was ready to get married.
If you’re in a relationship with a man—be it your father, brother, boyfriend or husband—you know what it’s like to ask him a question about his thoughts or feelings on a subject.
For a surface level question, you’ll get an immediate and brief answer. But if you’re looking for any depth, he typically responds with an “I don’t know” and a shrug.
If he’s really fancy, he’ll give you his version of a minor panic attack. He’ll dart his eyes back and forth, as he shifts a bit in his seat with a nervous laugh before looking off in the distance confused. And you’re wondering, “Wow, how far is Venus from Mars?”
And when I think about my dad, whose mother passed away when he was 15, it makes sense that easily sharing his thoughts and feelings wasn’t high on his list of priorities.
But when my uncharacteristically talkative husband struggled with meaningful exchange, I thought to myself, who raised you aka what’s up with your mom? Until I realized the significance of temperament in verbal ability. Gender aside, the more extroverted temperaments are more verbal than the introverted ones. So if you’re an introverted mother, as my mother-in-law is, you’re less likely to pursue engaging conversation with your son—unless you recognize the significance of it and prioritize it.
But honestly, it just doesn’t occur to most mothers to teach their boys to express themselves fully. It’s not a societal expectation like it is for girls, so we spoil our boys by filling in their sentence blanks instead of creating space for them to develop their own word banks.
Then we wonder as wives why we have so much trouble getting our husbands to engage in authentic communication. They didn’t learn how.
So, recently when I got a long text from my oldest son, I could have done a back flip. Well, let’s say a cartwheel—it’s been a while. Because a long text from any 17-year-old is miraculous, but this text was major!
In it, my son admitted being upset with me from the night before about something I said, and he went on to say that instead of staying mad, he decided he’d get it off his chest. So, he proceeded to clearly and respectfully share how he felt misunderstood, what he’s doing to problem solve his situation and what he needed from me in terms of support.
And when I tell you I cried as I read that text! Not tears of guilt for how I’d frustrated him—although I did apologize—but tears of joy and delight. Because of our two sons, this son is the most reserved.
He’d love for me to read his mind all day long and just show up offering what he secretly desires before running off to leave him to bask in the glow of his own thoughts. But that’s now how you live as a functional member of society or have a thriving relationship of any kind—especially a marriage.
And as a senior in high school embarking on his next steps, it encouraged me to see my young man honor his voice, advocate for his needs, and do it all with respect. To know that since he did it with me, he could do it out there in a world that expects him to have little to say and so often portrays men as goofs who grunt their wishes. Where a Barack Obama is more an enigma than an expectation.
Now my husband and I both have parts to play in raising these young men. He models for our boys how to honor your word, follow through in commitments, work with excellence, and provide for and protect your family by the grace of God.
And of the things I teach my sons, the most important are communication skills. To use that bravado men are always applauded for to courageously engage in conversation—even to learn a language that’s not your native tongue. Because if you’ve ever been in a situation where you need something but you don’t speak the language of the people around you, you find frustration quickly follows.
And while frustration is a culturally acceptable way for your son to express himself on a football field, it’s not acceptable with a boss, a client, his wife, his child or himself. Yes, himself. The inability to confidently and clearly process your thoughts and emotions and express them to others is a cause of low self-esteem, leading to acting out and depression.
So that’s why I read books to my children from the time they were infants to their early elementary years. Sure it’s guidance any good pediatrician gives but for boys especially (who tend to use fewer words than girls overall) it gives them vocabulary for their feelings.
Emotions they practice sharing with you when they get home after a long day at school, or around the dinner table or after a tough game lost. A skill that will help him create intimacy with his wife and connect with his daughter while modeling well-rounded manhood for his own son.
And I know how tempting it is to anticipate your son’s needs and meet it without him asking, because getting him to tell you is like pulling teeth, and you have a million other things to do.
But with all love, can I tell you, it’s not about you and your comfort. It’s not about mine either. It’s about raising your son to become a man of impact, and doing your part in equipping him to verbalize ideas and feelings. Because if not you, then who?
This week’s homework is to build meaningful exchange into your dynamic with your son. For the record, I know there are girls less verbal than the norm. The same principles could be applied to them, but since the topic is raising men, I’ll stick with them as the focus.
How you go about it will look different depending on the age and stage of your son. Read to him from day one and encourage him to continue the rest of his life. My other son is the only avid reader I have. I make his siblings read.
For toddler boys, I suggest naming things, especially what he points to, and offering simple terms to describe how he feels, especially during tantrums. Terms he can use next time he’s experiencing those big feelings.
For your elementary aged son, challenge him to use context clues to figure out the meaning of words you’re using. I’m a big fan of stretching kids’ vocabulary, so instead of talking down to their level all the time, mix it up and use words whose meanings he’ll need to figure out or find the definition of in that smart phone you bought him.
Middle school and up is the land of open-ended questions and embracing silence. That embracing silence part is a tough one. And by that I mean asking the question and being quiet while you wait for the answer.
That’s tough—especially when you’re multitasking and don’t have the bandwidth to wait or probe with more open-ended questions. But you need to allow for the silence because it forces your son to find the words to express how he feels.
If he misspeaks, you’re there to suggest the word he may be looking for. But without that pause you’re just asking and answering you’re own questions, teaching your son that all he needs to have a conversation with a woman is a pulse. She’ll do all the work!
No, you can do better by your future daughter in love and grandchildren than that. You can do better by you as his mom, today.
We’re just about at the end of October, which is National Book Month and if you haven’t been already, I hope this episode inspires you to read to your littles and encourage your older children to keep on reading because it’s the most economical and effective way to invest in their development.
But the same goes for you. If you’re alive, you should be growing and healing is a major part of growth.
So, I encourage to invest in your healing by putting together a small reading list of books to help you navigate issues that still trip you up. And if your father was absent or emotionally disconnected, I recommend my book, DADDY’s Girl Forever, because it addresses the big impact your little girl experiences have on the woman and mother you are today.
Many women, like you and I, found the truths in DADDY’s Girl Forever liberating.
Well, since we talked about raising men today, it’s only right we talk about raising women next time. That’s my plan and I look forward to you joining me.
In the meantime, please remember, when it comes to you being the mother of your children, you are the woman for the job. Take care.