5 Conversations We MUST Have with Our Sons, and Books to Help You Start Them

When talking about the devastation caused by a lack confidence, it’s common to immediately picture a young woman. Unfortunately, boys are also quite susceptible to the effects of poor self-esteem. Boys are thrown into a chaotic world of unreasonable expectations from an early age. They’re assumed to be good at some sport. They’re assumed to like cars, balls, and dirt. They’re supposed to be forceful, unbreakable, and strong. Boys are constantly measuring themselves against one another all while the media bombards them with “manly images” that have long-term effects on how they interpret what being a man means.

Like many great qualities, self-esteem takes years to build and only seconds to destroy. Boys go through a long, intense, period of sensitivity. They’re insecure and unsure of their place in the world. How we treat our sons’ maturing egos can lift them up, or shatter them.

Here are 5 conversations we MUST have with our sons starting at a very young age, and book recommendations to start those conversations.

1. Being a Man Does Not Mean Sucking It Up

It is absolutely okay to cry. In fact, it’s actually a healthy sign of brain development. Crying increases your heart rate and causes you to sweat. Then, the nervous system responds and the brain helps solve whatever the problem is. If it’s pain, for example, the brain sends endorphins to combat it. Hindering a child from crying simply because of gender seems barbaric, given what we know about brain development.

Try Tough Guys Have Feelings, Too

Tough Guys Have Feelings Too
By Keith Negley

Tough Guys Have Feelings, Too features macho-looking characters with a soft side. The message is sound, and any book featuring superheroes is sure to be a win. One thing to be aware of; it’s most notable spread shows a motorcyclist, covered in tattoos, mourning a squirrel he accidentally ran over.

2. It’s Important to Learn to Love Yourself

Research continues to show that boys, even as young as eleven-years-old, who display signs of low self-esteem are significantly more likely to be dependent upon drugs and alcohol by age 20 than those who have a healthy self-image. Drug prevention starts long before they reach their teens with a strong emphasis on self-love.

Try You’ll Always Be Enough.

You'll Always Be Enough
By Laura E Kuehl

Fresh on the market, You’ll Always Be Enough has begun making waves for children learning to love themselves at any age. One reviewer said, “You’ll Always Be Enough is taking the children’s book world by storm by offering a gentle message of self-appreciation combined with vivid illustrations assured to attract children of all ages.” -How We Mommy The cover may feature pigtails, but rest assured, animals of both genders take a staring role.

3. Showing Emotion is a Good Thing

Just as it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be happy or sad. Every emotion is valid, and it’s important to learn how to share those feelings appropriately. Bottling up the way we feel has catastrophic effects at any age. Throw in childhood insecurity and hormones, and there is a true recipe for disaster.

I ask my boys to tell me how they feel multiple times a day. Sometimes just identifying what they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it gives them a jolt of pride.

Try The Way I Feel

The Way I Feel
By Janan Cain

The Way I Feel is an excellent reminder for children that their feelings aren’t inherently good or bad. It encourages them to name their feelings in an appropriate way, regardless of what they are.

4. Boys Can Like Dolls, Too

After all, they may be fathers one day. There is nothing emasculate about a boy playing with dolls, kitchen sets, or even wanting to pretend to clean the house. If the goal is to raise healthy, independent adults, we certainly shouldn’t shun them for experimenting with essential parts of life. I encourage both of my sons to engage in play. It’s how they learn. I love watching them make connections in their play that will create great qualities in a husband and a father.

Try Williams Doll

William's Doll
By Charlotte Zolotow

Williams Doll features a young boy teased relentlessly for choosing a doll as his favorite play thing. As it turns out, William is practicing parenthood. Once it becomes clear to others what he’s trying to do, his confident choice is appreciated by others, too.

5. Please, Never be “One of the Guys”

Inherent in human nature, there is an undeniable urge to fit in.  In the animal world it’s for self-preservation. In the human world, it’s often at the expense of our own individuality.

While you and I may be trying to teach our sons through these vital conversations, not everyone is. There is still an unfortunate amount of homes encouraging the very gender stereotypes we’re desperately trying to eliminate. We have to work exceptionally hard to teach them not to conform to the age-old stereotypes.

Aggression is not an example “boys being boys.” It is not okay to cat-call or make unwanted sexual advances. A relationship should never have power imbalance, one way or the other. Not all boys drink or smoke. They don’t by nature seek overtly sexual relationships.

Please, teach your sons: It’s okay to be a guy, but please don’t be “one of the guys.” In fact, just be you. Beautiful, wonderful, you. 

Try Tough Boris

Tough Boris
By Mem Fox

In Tough Boris a boy boards a pirate ship and meets Boris the pirate. Boris is mean, harsh, and cruel. In fact, he is exactly what is expected of a pirate. Except, there is more... Beneath the surface, Boris feels more; he’s just a bit afraid to show it and move past the stereotype.


About the Author

Laura Kuehl moved to Appleton, Wisconsin, from the Madison area. She holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice client services and spent several years working for a local domestic violence agency before deciding to become a full-time stay-at-home mom. She runs a local mom’s networking and support group, and serves avidly on her child’s school’s Parent-Teacher Organization. Passionate about helping people, Laura has decided to continue advocating for families by writing books for children with an uplifting message. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and three beautiful children, as well as thrifting, reading and gardening.

To learn more, visit www.bapplebooks.com


Related Articles