You Have to Read This Dad's Letter to His Sons About What It Means to Be a Man
I've got a 14-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son, and after last night's final Presidential Debate, it's becoming more and more difficult to explain some of the disgusting things they've been seeing and hearing on the news lately.
They've heard horrifying statements about women. About sexual assault and groping. About men laughing and egging each other on. And I'll admit that my husband and I have been struggling to find the words to talk to them about it all.
But dad Derek Steele rose beautifully to the challenge by writing a powerful letter to his two young sons—Caleb, 7, and Ethan 4—on Facebook, about what it means to be a man. And he used New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's dismissal of Trump's locker room talk—"the fact is men, at times, talk like that"—as a jumping off point.
"Men do not, at times, talk like that," he explained. "Sure some individuals with an X and Y chromosome like you may say something like that, but we do not call them Men. We call them perverts, abusers, or rapists—not Men. Real Men don't do that and wouldn't even think to say that. You will hear a lot of people tell you what Men do or what it takes to 'be a Man'. The vast majority of it will be total garbage. If you want to be a Man, forget about masochism or sexual conquest. Being a Man is not about that."
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YESSSSS! And Steele doesn't stop there. He goes on to paint a picture of what, exactly, being a Man is actually about:
"It's about protecting those around you who are weak or innocent," he explains. "It's being awake at all hours of the night to warm a bottle, change a diaper, change the sheets on a wet bed or even worse. It's about being open with someone, vulnerable and accountable. It's admitting your mistakes and failures and seeking forgiveness, over and over and over again. Real Men play dress up and enjoy tea parties and will make a complete fool out of themselves just to hear a child laugh. They cry, even weep, when the situation calls for it. They respect, honor and cherish women because all of them are human."
Amen! Is it too late for Derek Steele to throw his hat into the Presidential ring? Because this guys has somehow managed, in one Facebook post, to remind all of us about the things real men do, and that's no small feat.
The amazing dad ended his letter with a call to action. "It's tough being a Man. Hardest work you'll ever do," he explained. "So when someone tries to justify abhorrent words and behavior by sullying your good reputation as a Man—be angry and speak up. Don't let them define you down by their conduct. In short—be a Man."
Wow! If you are looking for the right way to talk to your kids about all the nasty things they've heard in this election, this letter is a pretty solid place to start.
We also turned to Vanessa Lapointe, Ph.D., R. Psych, child psychologist, parenting expert, author of Discipline Without Damage: How to Get Your Kids to Behave Without Messing Them Up, and mom of two boys, for some additional guidance.
- If your child is very young (under age 5), you can simply say, "Those are not words we use," or "Our family does not talk that way. Children at this age love the idea of loyalty and belonging, and they will quickly get that this is “how we roll” in this home.
- As your child gets older, let him know his words have power and should be carefully chosen. Words can leave people feeling safe or unsafe, equal or unequal, valued or not valued.
- Talk about what to do if your child hears "locker room talk" outside your home. Say, "If we hear that kind of talk, provided it is safe to do so, we really do need to speak up," Dr. Lapointe says. "It might be as simple as, 'I'm not interested in being part of this conversation,' or 'I think what you are saying is a problem.'"
- The surest way to teach kids these values is for them to see you modeling them. If you hear someone say something like “she throws like a girl,” make sure you are jumping in and saying that isn't appropriate. If you hear a racist joke, have your children hear you shutting down the joke teller. "It is in the trickle down of your actions that your children will be filled up with...what it takes to be full of compassion, empathy, and advocacy," Dr. Lapointe says.