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As parents, we have so much influence over our children. The thing is- our words have power, and if we want our sons to grow into the best men they can possibly be, we have to choose our words carefully.

There are so many phrases that have been used with boys for generations, and many of those phrases are inherently toxic. In the past, parents raised their boys based on age stereotypes, which unfortunately can lead to damaged and broken men. When we approach our boys with a rigid idea of what a boy is, instead of letting them be who they are, we are breaking them when we could be empowering them.

Here are 8 toxic phrases to stop saying immediately.

1. Boys will be boys.

When we dismiss bad behaviors with the excuse that they are ‘just a boy,’ we open the door for them to use that excuse to get away with things they should not. This phrase is half the reason why many boys engage in toxic behaviors because they have been told it’s okay because they are men.

2. Be a man! Stop crying.

Emotional invalidation is damaging to everyone, and it is commonplace for parents to invalidate the emotions of their sons. The reason for this is because far too long, people have associated having emotions with being weak. However, everyone has emotions, and if you invalidate your son’s emotions instead of teaching them how to manage them, they are going to have a difficult time in life.

3. Boys don’t do _________.

If you notice your son playing with pots and pans, the last thing you want to do is say, “Boys don’t cook.” I don’t care what you see them doing, if it’s not harmful and you are just afraid they might engage in a behavior that isn’t gender-specific- remember, kids, use play to figure out who they are. Don’t thwart their attempts to do so.

4. Those ________ are for girls.

In our society, dolls and long hair and make-up are all thought to be for girls, while balls and short hair are for boys. So, when boys have long hair or reach for a doll, we often say, “Dolls are for girls.” When you do this, though, you are shutting down your son’s natural instinct to be a caregiver.

5. Why can’t you be more like ________?

The comparison game is a destroyer of self-esteem. It might seem harmless to compare your son to their brother or cousin, but what they are hearing is that they aren’t enough.

6. You ______ like a girl.

This phrase is toxic in so many ways. Firstly, it insinuates that women are somehow less than others. Additionally, it is emasculating, and it set your son up to be a misogynist.

7. You have to win.

By using this phrase, you are basically telling your son to win, no matter what the cost. This can be toxic because you are shifting their attention from playing a game to focusing purely on winning. It’s good to be competitive – but you don’t want to send the message that winning is the only point.

8. You need to find a woman to do that for you.

Please, stop. Teach your son to do all the things, including cooking, cleaning, and caregiving. When you tell your son to grow up and get a wife to take care of him, you are diminishing women to nothing more than servants.