At one point in life I was studying to be a counselor, and while I never finished that, human behavior has always intrigued me. After sitting through a rough few days in court with a lot of violence of all types, I flashed back to my Gender & Violence course. Two of the concepts that have resonated with me over the years are related to the concept of manhood, and its connection with violent behavior.
1. Manhood, unlike womanhood, is earned and not permanent. That is, a girl will inevitably become a woman, but a boy may not always be expected to become a man. This status can be withdrawn and withheld by others in his social group as punishment or threat.
2. The threat, implied or implicit, of withdrawing manhood is often enough by itself to precipitate violence.
This interests me not only because I have seen it play out, but because I am raising sons. How do you communicate that their manhood does not have to be earned? Do you think it does? If you are a man, do you feel you earned yours, and how, if you feel comfortable sharing?
I'm trying to raise both my son and daughter equally, as a team. (less about the individual) and I encourage them to play with whatever floats their boat. While they were in preschool, Tyler would play dolls with the girls and rough & tumble with the bigger boys (the 5 year olds adored him) - everything was Tylers choice and he's thus far quite confident in his choices.
I tend to lean towards Rogers, in that, I believe our sons are good people and know whats right. I'm also a fan of Glasser, in that, our sons know they have choices. Our duty perhaps is to help them understand that all choices have consequences, and sometimes you will be faced with a bad choice and a worse choice. Also, from the Criminology side, I don't want to label my son because it will limit his choices.
Manhood feels like a label, as does womanhood. My children are people. I hope that they are people who contribute positively to their community. Right now, I can say that at 2 & 3 (they'll be 3 & 4 in August), they are better people, than I am at 35.
How do we avoid the labels? I think by placing more emphasis on their self confidence, it will in turn empower them to easily deflect anyones attempts to label them. Also, acknowledging that some boys enjoy being rough and tumble, thus finding an activity where they can focus that kind of energy into something positive.
On a side note, my husband and I are incredibly protective about who we expose our children to. This may not be an option for every parent, which is why I think a strong confidence, may help our boys from getting dragged into negativity.
You're doing the best that you can, but at the end of the day it will be our sons choice as to the kind of person that they want to be.