Plan International USA (Plan) and Promundo released a parental how-to guide on raising boys to embrace healthy masculinity. Global experts at the two organizations have drawn from their decades of U.S. and global research and experience to provide nine concrete tips to help parents navigate talking to their sons about healthy masculinity, self-expression, and becoming the best men they can be.
The tips include practical, evidence-backed guidance on how parents can: encourage personal expression when it comes to toys; challenge harmful stereotypes when it comes to outfits and expression; use play and imagination as a way to define positive values and qualities; be clear about consent, and more. Read all nine tips here.
In recent months, the topic of raising caring, respectful boys has become one of concern and interest for many parents. Across the country, gender equality, power, cultural norms, harassment, and gender expectations are being discussed openly, in unprecedented ways. Women and girls are speaking out and being encouraged to challenge traditional gender stereotypes, but the messages we are giving boys and men have largely stayed the same.
In Plan’s recent survey of adolescents’ views on gender equality, the organization found that boys perceive and internalize societal pressures to be tough, physically strong, and for some, ready for violence. The research also found that parents play a large role in shaping boys’ views, particularly around expressing their emotions and developing their systems of values and beliefs.
“Girls and women cannot bring about change on their own. To address gender inequality, we also have to engage boys,” says Dr. Tessie San Martin, President & CEO of Plan International USA. “Empowering girls, arming them with the skills needed to compete is crucial. But we also need to remove the mental and societal barriers that create unreasonable expectations of boys and hold them back from reaching their potential.”
Promundo’s research from more than 30 countries finds that if children see their parents share care work more equally, they tend to do the same as adults. The recently-released State of the World’s Fathers 2019 report, produced by Promundo on behalf of MenCare: A Global Fatherhood Campaign, finds that an average of 85 percent of fathers (across seven middle- and high-income countries surveyed with support from Unilever, Dove Men+Care) say that they would be willing to do anything to be very involved in the early weeks and months of caring for their newly born or adopted child. However, they are still taking on far less than mothers are in terms of care and domestic work.
“We need all parents to take a proactive role in their children’s lives, and we need fathers to take on their share at home,” says Gary Barker, President and CEO of Promundo. “When men – as fathers – take on an active, involved role in caring for their children, and in helping them break out of gender stereotypes, it can have positive, long-lasting impact for children, women, and men themselves, and it can accelerate progress toward gender equality for this generation and the next.”