Raising Sons

August 31, 2016 | 33 Comments

“We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”

Gloria Steinem


My friend Kelly tweeted the above quote the other day and it really got me thinking. Then a Facebook friend Dave shared this piece and I was like: “Thank you universe! You’re keeping to theme”. The latter story about a little boy who liked to wear tutus and was ridiculed by a stranger for doing so, really made me angry. But what a hero is his Mom? That’s a fierce mama bear right there and she’s inspired me to write this blog post.

Because just the other week we had friends over with two daughters, so it was Ben and his older sister and then two other little girls. They decided to get dressed up, as you do. They were wearing tutus, Tinkerbell dresses, Elsa outfits, pirate eye patches and holding wands. They were flinging “powers” at each other and roaring like lions and playing hide and seek.

And so Ben, obviously, wanted his turn to be Elsa too – so I dutifully put the ice blue velvet Elsa dress on him (complete with cape). Then he wanted to be Tinkerbell in sparkly purple and lime green. Then he wanted to wear the tiara so he could have a turn to be in charge of all the little people (as of course he should). But it caused me to stop and think and wonder if other parents would think this was fine and dandy too. Because although we are encouraging our daughters to love Spiderman and become engineers and play soccer and conquer the world, it seems that society has not quite caught up with encouraging our sons to explore their more feminine sides. And I think this is where we are missing a trick.

It’s a constant battle though, as you realise immediately if you walk into any toy shop. The dolls are all in the “girls” aisle because heaven forbid that any little boys should practise caring for babies and one day grow up to be, Ah I dunno.. A FATHER! Boys are taught that they can’t wear pink or purple or anything sparkly, even though I say repeatedly to Rachel and her brother that look! Daddy wears pink shirts! (and also lumo orange and every colour of the universe because he’s never been a blue suit kind of guy).

I’m not saying this means raising our boys or conditioning them to be exactly like little girls – that would be a bit…unusual. I’m just saying give your son trucks to play with and balls to kick and muddy ponds to squish around in, but if he asks for a wand, a tutu, a doll or a toy pram, or to watch Barbie (Ben’s favourite!) or to have his toe nails painted (just like mom), then who are we to deny him those choices?

The world, and indeed this country, needs more men that are not afraid of showing emotions, expressing themselves and being who they really are. We need men with empathy, not more men eager to start a war. We need men that are loved and accepted and grow up knowing that they are safe to be whoever they wish to be, whether this is a sports-mad jock or a sensitive writer or someone who occasionally likes to wear a tutu. And this starts with us and how we parent.

Because it doesn’t seem fair to open up all the possibilities in the world to our little girls and tell them they can be anything and anyone they choose, and then limit our little boys to staying within the tight confines of what WE think it means to be masculine or male. I’m with Gloria on this one – what do you think?

Raising Boys




  • Reply Christine Kenny August 31, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    I love this post. Every word resonates in me. As a society we are all for girls learning how to be strong and independent, showing them they can be and do whatever they want as they grow up, but we always tend to keep our boys locked in this frame of what a man can and cannot do. We need men who are not afraid to show and share their emotions and men who can stand as equals with their respective partners and respect and understand their decisions.

    Thank you for sharing…

    • Reply Belinda Mountain August 31, 2016 at 7:37 pm

      So glad you agree Christine…thanks for your feedback!

  • Reply Cassey August 31, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    This, so much of this. Great post lady 😀

  • Reply keri August 31, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Yes!!! Thank you for writing this you lovely human! (Catching up on all your posts so expect lots of comments haha) and I love your husband’s colorurful shirts x

    • Reply Belinda Mountain August 31, 2016 at 7:38 pm

      Haha – that orange sweat shirt has been worn copious amounts of times! #civilian

  • Reply Kim Muller August 31, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    I totally agree. I have 2 boys and there are times when I have to tell my eldest that it’s okay to cry. He has started this thing where he tries not to cry (I think the creche is saying to him that boys don’t cry) and I need to address this with them. He also has a little doll that he claimed from my niece that he plays with. He’s had his nails painted as well 🙂

    • Reply Belinda Mountain August 31, 2016 at 7:39 pm

      That creche needs to be told what’s what! Love that he has a doll and funky nails;)

  • Reply Sam August 31, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Yes! When I had Gems Kade used to pretend he was “breastfeeding” and even now he plays with her dolls and Barbies. He used to love having his nails painted until we went to a picnic and some older boys teased him badly – he doesn’t do that anymore and it makes me really sad.


    • Reply Belinda Mountain August 31, 2016 at 7:40 pm

      Ah peer pressure can be so cruel Sam but with a mama like you that young man is all set for a great future. x

      • Reply Sam September 1, 2016 at 9:48 am

        Thank you B, that means a lot

  • Reply Wendy August 31, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    Love this. With a son and two daughters, my little guy ends up playing babies and having tea parties most days of the week!

    On the subject of gender segregation in the toy stores, oh my word they drive me mad. But what I must ask, is why has Lego started to split their ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ products so much? (Nothing to do with your Duplo giveaway, it’s just been bothering me for a long while now). It used to feel like the last outpost of ‘genderless’ toy options.

    • Reply Belinda Mountain September 6, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      Yes I hear you about the Lego Wendy! Although my daughter does gravitate towards the more girly Lego and I’m just chuffed that she’s still building things and having fun so I don’t mind too much (but I agree, why must it all be so pink?!).

  • Reply Fran September 1, 2016 at 7:01 am

    Great post B, I was the older sister to two brothers and we played barbie, dolls, gi joe, Lego, cars. And sport in the garden, I also used to dress them up and I think they have both turned into great brothers, husbands and fathers- they wear pink and look good! I can’t take all the credit, my parents must have had something to do with just letting them enjoy and be themselves. I like Gareth’s colourful shirts too.

    • Reply Belinda Mountain September 6, 2016 at 7:57 pm

      Haha Frannie – glad you like those shirts! And sounds like your brothers turned out just fine. x

  • Reply Cam September 1, 2016 at 10:41 am

    In COMPLETE agreement, Belinda!

  • Reply Cath September 1, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    I love this post – so true and it really resonates with me. When I was buying Will a pram the other month the salesman in the shop tried to stop me from doing so when he found out it was for a boy…I was so taken aback!

    • Reply Belinda Mountain September 6, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      Ha yes, luckily Ben just inherited his sister’s prams although he only really liked them because they had wheels (even though I tried to show him how to push/care for a doll!).

  • Reply Bridget McNulty September 1, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Absolutely! I bought Arthur an oven for his second birthday and have been ‘complimented’ on thinking outside the box – what?! He went straight for the dolls and prams at playschool and I’m hoping it means he’ll be a considerate big brother soon 😉

    • Reply Belinda Mountain September 6, 2016 at 7:55 pm

      Haha exactly Bridget – like men are not expected to one day grow up and cook their own food?! Ridonkulous.

  • Reply Caley September 1, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    So thought-provoking and something that I had never given much thought to! But you are so right, we definitely steer away from letting boys get in touch with their feminine sides x

  • Reply Jane September 2, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    My three-year-old puts ‘lipstick’ (actually lip ice!) on everyday! That he takes off my desk at home everyday and spreads liberally all over his mouth!!

  • Reply Jane September 2, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    My three-year-old puts ‘lipstick’ (actually lip ice!) on everyday! That he takes off my desk at home everyday and spreads liberally all over his mouth. I love it.

  • Reply Theresa September 4, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    Great post. We can do our children the biggest service by allowing them to choose their way. Not the way of perceived gender conformity. Thought your Instagram devil was a perfect example!

    • Reply Belinda Mountain September 4, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      I know Theresa – my little devil was totally proving this point yesterday!

  • Reply Gaelyn September 5, 2016 at 8:22 am

    Loved this post! More patents need to relax a little (or a lot) on the stereotypes they subscribe to and expectations they place on their kids. Both boys and girls deserve freedom to play with whatever they choose, and discover just who they want to be freely.

  • Reply Siri September 5, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Your latest post reminded me that I totally forgot to comment on this one!! My little boy is 15 months old, and I find it pretty funny when he wants to wear hairbands and stuff. His hair is long, and he’s very pretty – often mistaken for a girl when we’re out, though honestly, I couldn’t dress him more like a boy without hanging a sign around his neck. But I find it a bit weird when my husband (lovely, but a bit conservative and Afrikaans) gets slightly offended when I clip his hair back off his face or put a hairband in his hair. I mean, it can’t influence him at this age, so where’s the harm? It’s just a bit funny for me, and helps him see past the mop! Anyway, all that to say, I’m with you. And I’ll continue to fight the good fight to let him be whatever kind of boy he wants to be, regardless of what his dad thinks 😉 Thanks for putting that thought into words for me.

    • Reply Belinda Mountain September 6, 2016 at 7:53 pm

      Ha I also have a ‘pretty’ boy Siri! Keep on keeping on (I think it’s hilarious to do Ben’s hair up with clips – although it never lasts very long as he tears around the house!).

  • Reply Lindsay September 6, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    Absolutely loved reading this post Belinda, we have a family of boys with only 1 niece other side and yet you will always hear a family member tell the girls to go and play with the dolls and leave the boys to do boy things and play with cars. I hate it, it bothers me so much.
    I have no problems with my youngest walking around in moms shoes or watching me apply makeup and want to also paint his face, he’s finding himself and as parents we should encourage them to explore and experience everything.

    • Reply Belinda Mountain September 6, 2016 at 7:51 pm

      Exactly Lindsay! – why should we hide these things away from them? The world is such a big exciting place and to limit our boys because of preconceived ideas seems a bit cruel.

  • Reply Sharon March 1, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    I’m not a boy mom. Let me start off with that.
    But as a mom, raising two daughters, one of which is atypical in terms of gender stereotypes, I totally get it and agree 100% with you.
    Let them explore all aspects of who they are just leave them be!

  • Let me know what you think!