Here is to raising boys who are compassionate!
“Mom, here. Hand me your bucket. I've got it," My six-year-old son said to me. We were blueberry picking in the warm summer rain at a local organic blueberry farm. My three-year-old daughter was tired and wanted me to carry her up the hill. We had picked two buckets full of blueberries and though they weren't heavy, my son could tell that I was trying to carry too much. And he wanted to help. I handed the basket over to my son. I watched his slender, strong figure take a basket in each hand, distributing the weight. I saw his growing six-year-old body walk up the hill, paving the way, lightening our load. As we walked, I “got a glimpse" of him as a grown man—seeing his aged mama and seeing how he could act with compassion. “I've got it, mom," I could imagine him saying as a grown man. But I saw his way of being with me or any woman isn't one of “dominating" or “having power over," rather it's one of deep regard, shared power and compassion. I imagined him coming into my kitchen, putting down my groceries, making us a little something to eat and still asking his mom to listen to him as he shares what's on his heart. A few tears welled up in my eyes, blending with the rain gently falling on my eyelashes and cheeks. My heart was full of awe for the boy—and man—he is becoming. My heart swelled with gratitude for my husband who is showing my son how to be a man—a man of compassion and kindness, a man of gentleness, a man who regards life in all its forms, a man who is redefining what “power" and “being a man" mean. We have been ever so intentional about raising both of our children with a counter-cultural way of defining things like “power" and “being brave."

True power is not domination.

It is not having power “over." It's about mutuality. It's about having power “with." The kind of power I'm talking about is SHARED power.

True bravery isn't about being fearless.

It's about having the courage to be vulnerable, to name our fears and to reach out to connect when we are suffering. My husband and I are raising children who can name their feelings, who can abide with what is arising within them, tend to what is happening in their inner landscape with compassion and share what they need. THIS IS HUGE. HUGE. Counter-cultural. And yet so so so what our world needs. I sit with men in therapy. I see how most men weren't raised with the permission and spaciousness to NOTICE what they are feeling, to NAME it, to be VULNERABLE and share it, and to healthily ASK for what they need. I see how we have a very limiting definition of what it means to be a man and to be brave. I see how our culture defines power.

This is NOT how many of us are raising our sons today.

We are raising boys to become compassionate men. “Compassion" means that they KNOW they are being moved by the suffering of someone—including themselves—and they can respond with kindness. We are raising boys who have the vocabulary and skill to discern what they are feeling, to name it, to see sharing it as a sign of STRENGTH and to be able to ASK for what they need. This mindful way of parenting boys requires that we as parents become very familiar with our own inner landscape. It requires that we are able to “be with" what is arising within us, name it, tend to it and ask for what we need. It also requires that we get in touch with our own aggression. I have seen how one thing that is uncomfortable for many moms in raising boys is “aggression" (yes, girls show aggression, too, but right now i'm talking about boys. No, not all boys are aggressive, either. I'm sharing what I see and hear from clients, readers, and friends). We are uncomfortable with aggression—we are quick to label “wrestling" as aggressive. Why? Let's go all Freud here and say: we are uncomfortable with our unconscious and unexpressed feelings of rage and aggression. So what do we do? We squash even the slightest sign of “aggression" (when things like, wrestling, sword battles, etc. may not even BE truly aggressive). Much of my work with moms, in particular, who are raising boys is getting in touch with and developing a healthy relationship with their aggressive impulses and rage—aggression and rage. With dads, much of my work entails supporting them in redefining what it means to “be a boy" and to “be a man." It's about dads exploring what is uncomfortable for them—namely, to be “weak" (or how they define “weak" and “strong") and vulnerable. As dads do this, they create space for their boys to have a full range of emotions and to healthily embrace (and balance) both their masculine and feminine selves.

Together, we are redefining what it means to be “strong" and “brave."

What it means to be a boy, what it means to be a man. Together we are creating a whole new culture of men who are healthy, compassionate, confident and balanced. Our entire world needs such men. Here is to raising boys who become men who are compassionate—to themselves and others. Here is to raising boys who become men who are able to name and healthily be with their feelings. Here is to raising boys who become men who regard life—in all its forms. Here is to raising boys who become men who redefine what “power" means. Here is to raising boys who become men who acknowledge and balance the masculine and feminine in themselves and encourage this healthy balance in our culture. Here is to raising boys who become men who can ask for help and who believe that being vulnerable is an act of bravery and strength. This article was originally published on