I Would Prefer That My Son Be Toxic

7 Toxic Phrases Parents Need to Stop Saying to Their Sons

I genuinely try my best not to live in an echo chamber, as much as anybody really can in the year 2018. What I actually mean by this is that I don’t typically “unfollow” or “unfriend” over political beliefs. It’s no secret to anybody who’s ever read a single word that I’ve written that I am generally to the right of Ronald Reagan on most issues, although I like the think that when it comes to social issues, I’m fairly Libertarian, and I wish that more Republicans would be, too. Marry whomever you like. Smoke whatever you like. But please don’t force me to pay for failing social programs, your healthcare, or your “right to housing” or whatever that lady from Westchester is talking about in between her hilariously incorrect takes on global politics.

There’s one guy whom I follow on Twitter (and if you’re not following me…well, that’s actually pretty smart of you) who hits retweet on every single possible liberal social issue. He’s a basic white dude, but of course he’s an advocate for LBGTQ, for womyn, for minorities, for poor people, for immigrants…you name it, this dude is on it. He’s childless, but he’s all about Marching For Our Lives. He tweets about toxic masculinity at least once a day. Drives me crazy.

In the real world, he and I get along smashingly, mostly because we don’t talk about any of that silly shit in person. I even coached him around a racetrack once. Genuinely nice guy.

Unfortunately, I can’t agree with him on most of what he says, or really any of it, because I don’t get to have the “luxury” (note the sarcasm here) of living childless in a three-floor walkup in a trendy neighborhood. I’m raising kids.

And, generally, I think that I’m doing a decent job of it. More to the point, one of the people I’m raising is a white male—and boy, is he white! I mean, blond hair, blue eyes, soccer player, Minecraft and Pokemon gamer…I’m pretty sure that he’s never heard a rap or R&B song, and Jazz barely qualifies as black music anymore. (He does like Shakira, but, I mean, come on, so do all white men.) He’s gone to a private Christian school in a rural county since he was 3. I couldn’t make him any whiter if I tried.

I am doing everything that I can to be a role model for him, because I’m pretty sure that’s what fathers are supposed to do, but also because popular culture is nearly devoid of them. When I say “them,” I mean that it’s becoming harder and harder to find people that look like him and, perhaps more importantly, think like he does whom society elevates as being worthy of praise and adoration. You might not remember this, but after 9/11 happened, the NFL canceled all of its games for a couple of weeks. It was, without question, the right thing to do. But, eventually, the nation had to get back to normal, and games resumed. The very first game after the attack, several players proudly waved the flag as they ran onto the field. The NFL used to be the home of American patriotism. Now? I think we know where it’s gone.

Anyway, a friend of mine from my high school days shared the post at the top of this page on Facebook the other day. It lists 7 “toxic phrases” that parents need to stop saying. She’s the type who wishes she had invented the word “theybies.” And of course the author’s name is Jeremy. Let’s check them out and see how toxic they really are.

“You’re too sensitive.”

This one is somewhat on the fence for me. I don’t want my son to cry over everything, and he does have a tendency to be overtly sensitive about things. I also don’t want him to feel like he has to keep his feelings inside, and if he’s feeling hurt about something, I want him to know that it’s okay to share that. But there’s a fine line here—I want him to realize that sometimes he really is too sensitive. He doesn’t have to cry when we throw away an old broken toy. But I won’t be too mad at anybody who thinks this is a bad phrase to say to kids. All right, you’ve got my interest, Jeremy. Let’s move on.

“Boys don’t cry!”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m not with you on this one, Jeremy. If you cry on a soccer field, or, God forbid, a football field, you damn well better have a compound fracture. (I know, because I had a compound fracture on a football field once. I didn’t cry.)

“Those are for girls!”

Damn skippy I say that. We don’t play with girls’ toys. We don’t wear girls’ clothing. A psychiatrist in the article says that “The binary view of gender is harmful and restrictive for everyone.” This is a subject that’s so dangerous that I’d rather not comment other than to say that I believe sex and gender are synonyms, and I’ll leave it at that.

“Why can’t you be more like XXXX?”

Okay, I kinda agree with this one. I don’t compare my kid to other kids. I accept that he’s not as fast as some or as strong as others, and that’s mostly because he is half my genetic material. Can’t get mad at him for that. But when I see somebody outwork him, whether athletically or academically, you better believe that I’ll point that out. “Joe out-hustled you on that one.” I see no harm in that—most of the time it has the desired effect, which is to get him to try to out-hustle Joe next time.

“You play like a girl!”

According to Jeremy, “This phrase sends the message to boys that girls are somehow less than and, in essence, gives them permission to view girls as being unworthy.” Eh. Maybe. I’m actually more concerned about the effect it would have on my daughter if she were to hear me say that to my son. I might say it if I were coaching a team full of boys, and I have given some kids on my team a bit of a razzing when they’ve been beaten by a girl during a practice or a co-ed game. But I’ll give you this one, J-Dawg.

“You must win!”

I’ll never, ever apologize for telling my child that winning is important. Never. Jeremy says that by having your child focus on winning that “in reality, you are narrowing their focus so that all they see is the prize, as opposed to the experience.” THAT IS CORRECT, JEREMY. In the words of the great Bill Parcells, you are what your record says you are. I want my kids to hate losing—not to fear it, but to hate it. Fearing losing means that you don’t try. Hating to lose means that you’ll do whatever it takes to avoid it. Winning matters. Teaching kids that losing is okay just makes them good at losing.

“Boys will be boys”

Yeah, I say this one, too, mostly around foolish teachers who try to force my son into a box. When he gets bored, he’s going to look out the window. When somebody teases him, he’s going to tease back. Or punch back. I’m okay with all of this. Jeremy seems to think that excusing this sort of behavior in young boys turns them into rapists. Can’t say I agree with that. I think it turns them into Alphas.

After reading Jeremy’s post, It appears that I’m raising a toxic male. Good. He’ll be a strong, competitive man in a world full of people who tweet every other day about how “terrified” they are. Example:

This guy’s been debilitated for three years. THREE YEARS! Trump has only been POTUS for 18 months—he was so debilitated by Trump that he was afraid before Trump was even elected! I can’t wait for my son to kick this guy’s ass.


Just search for “trump” and “scary” on Twitter and you’ll find a whole host of Betas who are “scared” and “terrified” and “hurting” and “crying.” For fuck’s sake, people. Your ancestors went to wars and fought actual Nazis. You’re afraid because of…what exactly?

I’d prefer that my son be toxic, thanks.


42 Replies to “I Would Prefer That My Son Be Toxic”

  1. MrGreenMan

    They are afraid that if they admitted that “Pres. Cheetoh with the Comeover” has done several things that Pres. Obama said were impossible for a president to do, they might have to reconsider their worldview, Yet, like the woman who suffered from arsenic poisoning because she was downwind of an artisanal glass blowing shop in her Portland neighborhood, having the right political views is the wellspring of their entire existence (and that insufferable fixation, their “identity”). Remember that woman – she said she shouldn’t have bad air because she volunteers for all the right causes and only Republicans have dirty air! Similarly, if they ever thought this constant amygdala-freeze was something to avoid, and they came out and looked around and saw 4% growth (we know every government number is a lie; Pres. Obama said that Pres. Trump simply could not achieve the Commerce Department putting out that number), they might start to question everything – can you imagine how many months they would be pulling a Lena Dunham – sick, hiding, unable to move out of bed?

    Keep doing what you’re doing. Kids need to compete so they don’t turn into amorphous blobs crying in bed that something didn’t go their way. It’s not good to be frozen by fear. It shows that their fathers didn’t tell them to go out there and fight like a man and try to win.

  2. Fred Lee

    I’m with you on most of this. I will say, however, that knowing several transgendered people as well as people with more, er, fluid gender identification has opened my eyes a bit. I’m not advocating that we go around telling boys that it’s OK if they want to be a girl, but I think it is important to recognize that “gender” and “sexuality” is a lot more than one’s genitals.

    For anyone truly interested, Radiolab just finished an excellent 6-part series on this. While I find some of radiolab’s radio-labbing to grate on my eardrums, the content was very good and I’m trying to figure out how to encourage my mother to listen to it. Like most people, she identifies the same as her genitals would indicate, so naturally she believes everyone who doesn’t is psychologically flawed.

    But suffice to say, the seemingly black and white concept of binary gender is anything but binary. An engineer might say that genitals are a binary projection of a complex process. And a couple sigmas away from the mean there is a long tail in either direction that allows for some very non-binary interpretations of sexuality.

    • rambo furum

      People that are honest about being butch women or sissy males may be annoying but they are honest. Anyone claiming that their gender is not the same as their chromosomes is an enemy of nature, society, and basically all that is good. Trying to force others to abide by such nonsense should warrant expulsion from any civilization that wishes to continue.

  3. Rob De Witt

    Surely it hasn’t escaped your notice that every “expert” on the raising of boys cited in that article was a woman, has it?

    OK, I’m older than you. Whether because it’s generational or not, the presentation of female holders of Education and Psychology degrees as listen-worthy on the topic of child-rearing in general and boy-rearing in specific is immediately suspicious to me, and reason enough to stop reading at around paragraph two – as, frankly, is the use by anyone of the phrase “toxic masculinity.” How could you possibly tolerate somebody like that in your life, and certainly around your male progeny? Shame.

    I’ll be candid: My dad died with Patton in France in 1944, three days before his 27th birthday and about 5 months before I was born. As a result I was raised by resentful and male-bashing women, who did everything possible to turn me into a frustrated and angry sissy. Didn’t work, and despite having a childhood characterized by my last shrink as “that of a serial killer,” I’m still here, not a drunk, not in prison, not a rageball. There have been plenty of women I’ve loved, and more than one – particularly since the “feminists” got ahold of ’em – who have tried without success to break me down and dictate my behavior. Boundaries are everything, and I’m long since convinced that the soul of my dead father has been my guardian angel all the way through.

    In my opinion, it’s your fatherly duty to keep this poison away from your kids. Sounds to me like you and your brother both are doing a great job, but a little selective intolerance of lefties will go a loooong way. “Nice guys” or not, those people are toxic.

  4. John C.

    I don’t think you should be too harsh about Obama people being upset about Trump. He is after all a repudiation of what came before and what they very much believed in. As far as the kids, one should be also a little forgiving of a little liberalism, it just being their way of expressing their desire for a better world. Paraphrasing Churchill, A 20 year old that isn’t liberal has no heart, a forty year old who isn’t a conservative has no brain.

    • Joel

      @John C,

      I forget where I heard this (probably the comments section of ReturnofKings) but I definitely agree with it: Conservatives are fighting a losing battle because we’re simply trying to hold the line, and not gain any actual ground, against an enemy that is charging at them full speed.

  5. safe as milk

    this site really let’s me know about things about which i am oblivious. having spent my life in urban centers, i’m very good at shutting things out and filtering. had i seen that tweet, i would have skipped it and forgotten it almost immediately. it’s laughable that people think it’s ok to tweet to others about proper parenting. i’ve learned a lot about virtue signalling here.

    after defending the idea of eliminating straws on this site, i went to my job at a fortune 500 company that’s best skill is screwing employees out of getting benefits and they had hung up posters by the elevator bragging about their new no straw policy. i then went to the men’s room where i was greeted in the stall instructing me on how to recognize & report to hr any discrimination in the workplace. i sh*t you not.

  6. Gene B

    That article is the kind of social engineering garbage that is purposely designed to change society. I wonder what organization is behind it. It must be resisted.

  7. Spud Boy

    I suspect among young, urban hipsters, being gender-fluid is considered cool. Kind of like getting a tattoo—it’s a way of indicating you are special without actually accomplishing anything.

  8. George Denzinger (geozinger)

    The less we govern/educate/bloviate by Twitter the better off we will be.

    I ended up with two daughters. My siblings were my sister who is signifcantly older than my two brothers and me, thanks to WWII. By the time I really remember anything, I was raised with my brothers and knew nothing but brotherly love (i.e., torture and sadism). I had no idea about how to raise girls. When my wife gave birth to two girls, I thought: Hey, this should be pretty easy, right? I always heard that girls were easy to raise. Couldn’t. Be. Fscking. Wronger. If. I. Tried…

    Now my daughters are in their mid to late 20’s and I’m starting to hear how my child-raising methods worked. I hear stories about what I told them back in the day and how it affected them. I apparently told them lots of things I shouldn’t, but they figured it out and survived just fine.

    I was told many of these same “toxic phrases” as a child. Hell all of us were, including the girls. It was a sort of code of conduct, a rough guide on how to act. I’d say the vast majority of us turned out OK. Most of our parents raised us to be reasonable people and we should do the same.

    It sounds like you’re doing the right thing, teaching him nuance, not just black and white. Good idea and it applies to your daughter, too.

    The kids are alright.

  9. MrFixit1599

    I told my son basically all the things, knowing when I was at sea in the Navy, hopefully it would over-ride my ex-wifes complete protectionism. I wish I had been better at traveling for work, which I have always done since my children were born for various jobs. Travel was always required. Poor life choices maybe, but I always put a roof over their head, and when I was home, made sure they were fed. My son has dis-owned me, thanks to either my doing, or his step-father being the pot smoking video game playing father he always wanted. My first daughter wants me to walk her down the aisle next year at her wedding. My youngest daughter moved in with us last year. She had a job at the local Taco Bell, with family ties, and she couldn’t handle it. Moved back to Buffalo with her mother.

    My step kids, the oldest female has 2 kids by different fathers and is living a train wreck of a life, but not homeless. Middle step-son has a FOsT that I installed the blow off valve on, and keeping it together quite well. Youngest step daughter manages a Taco Bell, and is required to help manage others in the franchise.

    I hope I got better at it towards the end of being an empty nester, but I don’t know.

  10. Disinterested-Observer

    I told my kids it is ok to cry when you’re sad, e.g. about grandma dying or something; it’s generally not good to cry if you got hurt, just because you should always play your cards close; and it is not ok to cry when you are frustrated about something trivial like not getting to play the game that you wanted to play. I think that is pretty reasonable, I don’t think that is “toxic” at all.

        • -Nate

          No point, he’s just B.S.’ing .

          Any Child that never cries is a sad thing .

          My Son is taking my 5.5 Y.O. Grand Daughter fishing for the first time to – morrow, I bet she’ll have a great time .

          That’s what good Fathers do : TEACH .


  11. hank chinaski

    Toxic masculinity built civilization and keeps the lights on.
    The closer a society follows these absurd progressive gender roles the faster it goes extinct and is overrun by one that does.

  12. -Nate

    I look at my 39 & 7/12ths year old Son who’s doing far better than I ever did and know Jack’s on the right track here, if John isn’t a well adjusted, happy and productive Adult it won’t be Jack’s fault for trying .

    I remember all those crazy assed Mothers and a few Fathers too long, long ago when I was a little boy, even then I knew they were way off base and sure enough, most of their kids grew up warped and unhappy, unable to be independent or roll with life’s ups and downs .

    You’re THE PARENT, not your Child’s friend for Christ’s sake .


    • Bark M Post author

      Jack probably is 7 for 7 on this list, Nate 🙂 I’m a little softer with my approach with Kevin, but not too much.

      • -Nate

        Just remember : you’re your Children’s _FATHER_, not their Friend .

        When they get older, they’ll become your Friend for life, when they begin to understand how much you loved them to raise them up properly .

        Never lose an instant of time to spend with them no matter what the occasion . all too soon they’re grown and gone .


  13. ComfortablyNumb

    I’m pretty much 7 for 7 on that list. They’re not hard rules, but at one point or another I’ve used some variation on each of those. I’ll have to ask how extensively I’ve damaged him next time we’re playing catch.

  14. Max Hoffman

    Make sure he understands the “manly” virtues (honor, self-reliance, discipline and all that unfashionable stuff) of yesteryear and that his moral compass is true. The sensitivity and other softness will shed itself as he grows older.

  15. S2k Chris

    I’m mostly with you.

    Couple of thoughts:

    -I get the feeling that the Baruth brothers put more weight on winning in sports at a very young age than I think is important, and possibly healthy. Granted, I never competed at the level Jack did, but I was on state-championship-winning teams in high school too (cross country) so I’m no stranger to competition. In my opinion, when you’re not yet in middle or high school you aren’t ready to make the jump from “learning about sports and how to be a teammate” to “how to be a competitor.” I don’t think a kid feeling like shit for losing when he’s 10 years old is healthy. I also think youth sports are absurdly aggressive in this country, no 10 or 12 year old needs to be flying around the country competing with other 10 and 12 year olds. But that’s my opinion, I’m not raising young boys, so take it for what it’s worth. If my daughters are passionate about something at that age, I will do my best to support them financially, but I’m not going into hock to do it. We’ll wait to see if they can cut it at the high school level before I spend too many resources on it.

    -Which brings me to my other point, I’m not raising boys. I have a six year old daughter (and a 1 year old daughter, who obviously doesn’t get this kind of parenting yet). I was raised in the same “don’t be a girl, don’t throw like a girl, don’t get beat by a girl” atmosphere as most of you. And there have been plenty of times I’ve started to make a comment about someone doing something like a girl, and then I thought of my daughter and stopped myself. That being said, I’m not raising my daughter to be a victim or to think she’s inferior. If someone is out there yelling “don’t get beat by a girl” I’m out there telling my daughter “so what if he’s a boy, you can still beat him.” I expect her to kick ass and take names at whatever she’s doing, and I tell her all the time the fact that she isn’t a boy doesn’t matter. I’ve cheered her on for knocking her boy cousin on his ass for picking on her, and then called him a baby in front of her when he started crying about it. Don’t care. I’m not going to go all SJW on someone if they don’t want their boy getting beat by a girl, but at the same point, let’s realize that at some level, raising a kid who is mentally tough is what’s important, not what’s between their legs. I’m teaching my daughter her gender is nothing to be ashamed of nor is it something to be used as an excuse. Results are what matter.

    • Bark M Post author

      Good thoughts here. Thanks for your input!

      BTW I am driving to Tennessee next weekend for a 10 year old soccer tournament. 🙂

  16. Tim Marsh

    The fact that you felt the need to write a thinkpiece on a buzzfeed-style listicle (and agreed with a few of its points) kind of proves its legitimacy, doesn’t it? I’m pretty sure the entire point of these is to get you to click on them and then talk about it.

  17. Crancast

    Jeremy, stop being so needy, whiny, and just STFU already. Why can’t you be more like Bark, win something every once in a while, and embrace your masculine-side which has clearly been bitch-slapped out-of-you. Your pieces and writing are absolute crap. Since most of your work is about failed relationships ….. well, that actually makes a lot of sense. If you are looking for a new pen name, I’d recommend Stuart Smalley.

    On a more serious note, I steer clear of any girl references.

    Since I can’t stand TTAC anymore, I will comment here about the Buick Encore review. That was my rental last week. The dash was the highlight, ok CarPlay integration (Hyundai is the best), and quiet. Hated everything else. Scary slow on the highway getting up to speed, passing.

    • Bark M Post author

      Since one never really gets the chance to drive at “highway speeds” in Miami, I’ll take your word for it!

  18. stingray65

    Nature is imperfect, and it is our job as members of society to correct God’s mistakes. Thus we must teach our children the following lessons: 1) men and women are absolutely interchangeable and equal in all ways, 2) all human races and ethnic groups are absolutely interchangeable and equal in all ways, 3) all cultures are absolutely interchangeable and equal in all ways, 4) all observed differences in achievement among individuals and groups is due to unearned privilege, patriarchy, racism, or some other “ism”, which must be corrected by checking privilege and promoting victims until perfect equality of outcome is achieved, 5) even though everyone is equal, diversity is our strength, and anyone that doesn’t believe this needs to have their lives ruined and be locked up for re-education, and 6) competition is bad because it might lead some to question that lessons 1 to 5 might possibly be false, and a consequent need for further re-education to eradicate such troubling viewpoints.

  19. -Nate

    “gender is nothing to be ashamed of nor is it something to be used as an excuse. Results are what matter.” .

    There you go .


  20. George

    Just what are girl’s toys? Boys toys? Should I tell my daughters to stop playing with LEGO because they used to be in the boys toys section at target?

    • Bark M Post author

      Girls’ toys are much easier to define. I don’t want my son playing with My Little Pony or Barbies. Sorry if that offends you.

      • S2k Chris

        Lego is a fantastic, high quality toy that I’m happy to spend the money on. It encourages thought, engineering, and imagination, as long as it’s not just “build the basic set and nothing else”. And they’re fucking fun to play with even as an adult. Rather buy legos than almost anything else, and I almost always give sets as gifts for kid birthdays.

  21. Zykotec

    I occasionally enjoy some of the stuff you write about cars, and as we are around the same age, we both have kids and like cars in general, I think we could possibly get along OK’ish in the real world If I hadn’t read all the shit you write that isn’t car reviews.
    To the right of fucking Reagan? You’re sound like the kind of person who thinks Maggie Thatcher was right about anything.
    Sometims I think you could possibly be the kind of person that doesn’t think Alex Jones need mental care at all. You could probably watch him for several minutes without out beng scared at all. You probably wouldn’t even laugh or think, wow, what a fucking loony.
    In 1937 you would still be supporting Hitler too keep the scary scary communists our of Europe.
    Some of the things you write condradict themselves later in the same fucking sentence just because you remembered some stupid unchewed right wing propaganda shit while writing it.
    People like you actively work too make the world a worse place for just about everyone else, and you even fucking know it, but you keep convincing yourselves that any bad things that your actions lead to are Chinese sabotage, or left-wing propaganda.
    But, yeah, we could probably talk about cars and about raising kids for several minutes on weekends without me constanstly reminding you what an awful person you pretend to be on the internet.
    (that being said, what you call ‘left’ in the US, or at least what crazy right-wingers call ‘left’ is not even remotely close to being related to politics and certainly not left-side politics in any other way than the fact that some of the common people who support it like to call themselves ‘leftists’ , and I probably wouldn’t support all that the guy you follow on twitter tweets either. )

    • Bark M Post author

      I always enjoy it when people call me Hitler, despite the fact that I have curly hair and a big nose. And you think I’M the loony one.

      • Zykotec

        Well, I didn’t. Not sure where you get that from. But yeah, I wouldn’t expect you to understand much at all. You’re not a loony, just annoyingly ignorant and I’d go as far as say that you are probably not even a bad person, at least not on purpose.


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