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Fathers Help Shape Masculinity Traits

What is masculinity?

Understanding masculinity can impact the emotional well-being of men and boys, their social relationships, and the ways in which they view and treat women. As I became a husband and a father, my understanding of masculinity played a big role in the way that I chose to approach fatherhood and marriage.

Toxic masculinity is the idea that manhood is defined by power, sex, and aggression. From the outside, the term toxic masculinity can feel like an attack on the qualities of manhood that boys and men strive to possess. However, toxic masculinity is not saying that being strong, brave, or hardworking is a bad thing. Instead, it means that if we limit ourselves – and our sons – to only those traits, it can have a negative impact on our social-emotional development and relationships.

As men, if we hold in our feelings, we develop an unhealthy pattern of addressing our emotions. If we feel like we have to be tough in every situation, then it becomes hard for us to decompress and ask for help. If these behaviors go on for a while, they may begin to impact us negatively in different aspects of our lives.

The traits of manhood also play a role in the way we interact with women. Being dominant, aggressive, or emotionless all the time can be harmful to our relationships with our wives and daughters.

How does this relate to fatherhood?

Whether raising a son or a daughter, fathers play an important role in the social and emotional development of our kids. We want them to learn that they don’t have to be limited to certain qualities solely because of their gender. We want to allow them freedom to choose their toys, sports, or entertainment because it interests them and not because society says so.

One of the best ways to teach children is by modeling behavior. If you’re a father raising a boy, you want them to know that it is okay for men to be gentle and caring, to relinquish control, and to solve conflict with words rather than with aggression. As I raise my daughters, I hope to teach them that they can be courageous, assertive, and play rough if they feel like it. Through my interactions with their mother, I also model how to be respectful toward women and value their thoughts and opinions.

Modeling these behaviors can be a challenge when it goes against everything that we were taught about what a man should be. I invite fathers who would like to talk more about this topic to join me at the next Dad Talks Discussion in March. Learn more here. I hope to see you there!

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About Z. Andrew Jatau, LPC

About Z. Andrew  Jatau, LPC

Z. Andrew is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the founder of Mylemarks, an online company that develops social-emotional resources to use with kids and teens. Through that company, he creates content such as digital downloads, workbooks, and children’s books. He’s an adjunct professor in the Human Services department at Old Dominion University, and serves as the Fatherhood Consultant for CHKD’s Dads in Action program. When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, cooking, and listening to music.