Posted: 11 September 2019

Toxic masculinity: 5 ways fathers and male role models can break the cycle

Boys are becoming increasingly unhappy with their appearance according to findings from this year's Good Childhood Report. Evidence shows that social media and a culture of toxic masculinity is affecting how boys feel about how they look. 

However, toxic masculinity is not simply a phenomenon of the digital age. It is a problem inherited across generations. It's important to understand that children pick up toxic behaviours at a very young age and male role models play a key part when it comes to breaking the cycle of toxic masculinity. 

Andrew, a 21 year old, has given us his top five suggestions for positive male role models.

5 ways to break the cycle of toxic masculinity

1. Communicate your issues

Stereotypically, men are not good at expressing their emotions. When faced with an emotional problem, many men will bottle up their feelings. It's important fathers and male role models don't feel chained to these outdated stereotypes. 

By communicating with their children, they are showing them that it's good and healthy to talk about any issues affecting them. Boys look up to their fathers and male role models to learn how to deal with the problems they face, if they know they can talk then they're more equipped to face any struggles that may come their way. 

2. Treat others with respect

Boys learn from how father and mother figures interact. This is particularly important for understanding how men should treat women. Be a positive role model by talking to and about women in a healthy and respectful way. 

3. Encourage their interests

Not all boys are interested in football, rugby and boxing. Male role models shouldn’t expect children to conform to stereotypes. Even if they don’t share the same interests as you it’s important to encourage their hobbies.

4. Dispel the belief in a perfect physique

Young boys are facing a relentless bombardment of advertising on social media promoting unrealistic expectations about body image and how they should behave. This can have a serious impact on young boys’ self-esteem. It’s important to tell them that that there is no such thing as a perfect physique. 

'social media has a very bad influence on young people' - young person

5. Be open about your experiences

In the digital age, it's tempting to carefully manicure the appearance of our lives. Most people will go to great lengths to ensure their lives appear to be perfect on social media. Sharing your mistakes and failures from the past reminds a child that no one is infallible. What you see on your screens is not what real life is. Everyone makes mistakes, has boring days, feels sad sometimes - and it's absolutely fine.

We can all do more to be more positive, inclusive and attainable in setting out what it means to be a young person moving into adulthood. Only by listening to young people can we help them overcome the challenges of modern childhood and face their future with hope, confidence and optimism.

PLEDGE #IHEARYOUTH

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