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April 9, 2017

Raising Fathers, not Fighters.

What values do I want to make sure to instill in my boys?

As a young mother, I found it difficult at times to decide what my overarching message should be. Be strong? Be smart? What qualities are most important to being a man?

Now, as a grandma, I can tell you that the thing I am most proud of having put emphasis on was for my three boys to be kind, gentle, and genuinely loving men. Without the slightest doubt, I would put those values over monetary success or the ability to fight any day.

There are many theories to raising children, but I have experienced two methods primarily in my life. The first method is punishment and reward. For every action, there is an equal, deserved reaction. I have read more times than I can count on the internet, “I was spanked, and I turned out fine.” I get a chuckle when my cynical mind chimes in. “Oh yeah? Are you sure about that?”

Hundreds of psychology and parenting books and hours of therapy later, I know that most of us have no clue what trauma we carry from our upbringing. The experiences of our childhood are our “normal,” so we are actually very poor judges of whether or not we are emotionally healthy.

The other prominent method of parenting—and my personal style—is natural consequences and emotional intelligence instruction. Instead of saying “do it this way because I said so,” I prefer “if we do it this way, we help this and prevent that.” In my opinion, this creates a broader view of the possible effects any single decision may have.

Critical thinking and emotional intelligence contribute to building an inner compass for morality, rather than just an “I will get in trouble” reasoning. I hoped to actively create consideration of the bigger world.

Parenting is a powerful and important job. Now that I am a grandma, I wish that I had spent more time following my heart and less time worrying what the world thought of my parenting. I see how much parenting impacts our culture, how we mold ourselves and our children according to the ideas we accept as truth. Our every parenting decision has a ripple effect that reaches far out into the world.

Without a doubt, we all benefit from educating ourselves and taking the time to consider our parental actions with our motivations. I ran across this amazing TED Talk while working to create a compelling homeschool curriculum. I’m not sure any one speech has had so much relevance and brought such clarity to me.

The influence it had on my husband and I changed our sons’ worlds.

There is a missing link to the of raising boys—a critical flaw that none of my books on parenting had ever touched upon. It is so logical and astoundingly simple, I can hardly believe I didn’t notice it glaring me in the face before.

I would like to share this talk with you just in case you too missed the forest while admiring the trees. Let’s watch it, share it, and discuss it with the men and boys in our lives. It is also a treasure trove to share with our daughters, as they are the future mothers—the world is in their hands.

Here are some terrifying statistics that give further context to the gravity of this issue:

>> 1 in 5 women will be raped/sexually assaulted.
>> 1 in 4 women will become the victim of domestic violence.
>> 1 in 4 women experience sexual assault on a college campus.
>> Before the age of 18, approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused.
>> About 4,000 women die each year due to domestic violence. Of the total domestic violent homicides, about 75 percent of the victims were killed as they attempted to leave the relationship or after the relationship had ended.
>> 73 percent of male abusers were abused as children.

Dr. Phil has a saying I love: “You teach people how to treat you.” If that is true, we are doing something wrong. There is a empathy deficit in our country. To fix it, we have to find its source and make changes to help redirect the current path.

We all have the responsibility and power to change this world. We all stand to benefit from becoming a more empathetic society. Whether or not you agree with my methods, surely we can agree on what I hope to be the prescribed outcome.

As the victim of a sexual crime and the mother of three boys, I believe it’s time to teach love and respect from the heart.

Let us keep in mind that to be a man is to be gentle, protective, and loving. The men we raise ought to be fathers, not fighters, and that ought not to be viewed as “unmanly.”

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Author: Traci Burnam

Image: Pixabay

Editor: Molly Murphy

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Traci Burnam