My Son Doesn’t Need To “Man Up”

My son doesn't need to "man up." Other kids need to stop being jerks. And I need to teach my son to stand up for himself and others.

My son doesn't need to "man up." Other kids need to stop being jerks. And I need to teach my son to stand up for himself and others. I was bullied as a kid.

Aside from being quiet and shy which made me a great target, I was also born with albinism. This means I am super pale, even more so when I was younger, and have a difficult time seeing things far away which put me in the front of the classroom which drew even more attention to me.

I was never physically attacked, but the name calling began in elementary school and followed me all the way into high school.

It was difficult and sad and not something I want anyone to experience.

Especially my son who is beginning to get bullied himself. At just three-years-old.

He’s always been pushed around by his cousin who’s just a few weeks older than him. They’re family and I’ve talked to his mom, my sister-in-law, about it, and we’re helping them work it out. But the other day at the park another boy, one we’d never seen before, zoned in on my son.

First the boy, who was probably a year older than my son, pushed him on the playground bridge for no discernible reason. Later he grabbed my son’s arm and began tugging on him at which point I yelled “hey!” and a distant mom said, “we don’t touch people.” When it happened again, I yelled “let go!” and when Levi came over to me I said, loudly, “That boy is being mean and we don’t have to play with mean people.” We walked away and shortly thereafter went home for the day.

I’ve heard that “boys will be boys” and other junk phrases. I don’t buy it. I’ve also heard that I need to teach my son to stand up for himself and that is, sadly, not something I thought I’d have to start doing this early.

It breaks my heart because my boy is perfectly content playing alone and doing his own thing. He’s independent and a little quirky and is fine just being left alone. So for another little boy to target him and be mean for no good reason is maddening. My son wasn’t bothering you, little boy, so why did you go after him?

My fear is that this behavior will continue and follow my son into his school years. That he will continue to be devalued by his peers. That his own self-worth will be broken down by each cruel interaction.

I can’t fight his battles for him. No one could fight them for me when I was a little girl. But there are things I can do and will do.

I will teach him how to identify a mean person and to stay away from them. They’re pretty easy to spot once you know what to look for.

I will teach him to find the nice people and stick with them. I still believe there are more of these types of people than the others.

I will teach him that he, as a person, is worthy of respect and kindness and does not deserve to be treated unkindly by his peers or anyone.

I wlll teach him that everyone is worthy of respect and kindness and encourage him to extend grace to everyone.

And, yes, I will teach him to stand up for himself, but I will also teach him to stand up for others. To speak up when something wrong is happening. To do the right thing regardless of what the consequences may be.

My son doesn’t need to “man up.” Other kids needs to stop acting like jerks. But we don’t live in a perfect society so instead of teaching him to man up, I will teach him to stand up. Stand up against cruelty. Stand up against injustice. Stand up against those who just want to tear other people down.

And I will cling to hope. Hope that perhaps this behavior won’t follow him into school. Hope that he will always do what’s right. Hope that he will be a difference maker instead of a deviant. Hope that he will be a loving and kind and respectful person. I think we can all agree that’s the best thing we can do for our kids and the future generation.


4 thoughts on “My Son Doesn’t Need To “Man Up”

  1. I am so sorry you are going through this. My son is also three but he would be the “bully” in your story. He has a lot of trouble keeping his hands to himself. He has a loving home, is constantly told to keep his hands to himself and is never rewarded for that behavior. Sometimes he will randomly go up to a kid and just hit him or her. I always say something and intervene and often my son ends up playing alone.

    Perhaps people may read this and think I am a bad mother or I don’t give my son enough attention. That is not the case.

    I know in my heart that my son is a good boy. Like yours he is also sensitive, but his emotions manifest in a physical way. It makes me sad that at only three, when he us still learning about the world and how to interact, he is already “the mean one.” I now wonder how often other moms are saying that about my child. It’s especially hard because I never tell him to man up, or laugh off his behavior. I am honestly quite ashamed at times.

    My point is, while that boy on the playgroun’s behavior was wrong, he may not have been trying to target your son. I don’t think at 3 or 4 or even 5 kids are conscientiously targeting others for bullying.

    I do hope our children see an end to bullying and that starts with understanding all around.

    1. I would like to respectfully agree with “Maybe I’ll Shower Today’s” response. I think she has perfectly stated a lot of the feelings I had with the original post, so I will not restate them. Only to say that I clicked on the article because I have a 3 year old son and am constantly aware of how our society and culture nurture this idea that boys should be tough. Every day it is my goal and priority that my son be KIND, not though, but KIND. However, like the woman above, my son’s feelings often manifest in a physical way. He is NOT mean. He is three. And I will state plainly that he is not taught at home that hitting is OK. “Hitting is not OK” is a phrase that I say a lot. I don’t know why exactly he expresses himself in a more physical and aggressive way. Usually his aggressiveness comes out more towards me, but we have had incidents on the play ground. And if that does happen, and he cannot keep his hands to himself, we leave. And he often plays alone. But to simply label him as “mean” seems too simple. Because he is not MEAN. And quite honestly I do find it hard to believe that any three or four or 10 year old is inherently mean. All kids are different. They have mean and aggressive behavior for a variety of complex reasons. They are young and impressionable and from countless different life backgrounds and experiences. I was bullied. I was ridiculed as a child and young adult. But labeling children is not helpful. I completely understand the fear, the fear of our children venturing off on their own, and facing others who may or may not be nice to them. I don’t know what the answer to bullying is. It is sad and hurtful. I also hope that our children see and end to it. But hopefully, because we as parents are concerned and aware of our children’s behavior, we can find healthy solutions to these behavioral situations that will be a constant throughout their lives.

  2. Thanks for this article. I too have a sensitive son as well. He is a full time job, lol. Every day I instill in him the importance of kindness and compassion above all else. He’s been on the receiving end of negativity many, many a time because of his sensitivity. He’s now 5 and yes, quirky, but awesome. It’s nice when we can finally see all the hard work we put into this parenting thing pays off.

  3. I wish more parents felt this way. i constantly see parents pushing their boys to disregard feelings and “be a man”. Then they have trouble all their lives with emotions (or lack of).

    Unfortunately there really are alot of mean kids out there. Hopefully these experiences will make your son stronger, as you seem to be.

Whatcha think?