Boys and Emotions
I want to encourage my son to feel his emotions but I find it REALLY hard.
He’s an extremely emotional child and since starting school it’s skyrocketed. I’m supposed to be his support, his rock, but I have the emotional baggage of my own childhood to contend with.
I’m stressed and anxious a LOT and when I was a child, emotions were discouraged through fear based tactics (I’ll give you something to cry about etc.). My stepdad saw emotions as a weakness and I grew up with that belief as a core of my personality. In my 20s I wore it with pride and used it to protect myself from hurt. Being in a relationship with me must’ve been tough.
But it’s something I’m working on and we should all work on because it’s so important for us to break the cycle. Our generation has a huge weight on our shoulders – we are breaking centuries of negative patterns and misinformation.
It’s important for every child to be able to express their emotions – I talked in my tantrums post about cortisol being present in tear fluid, for example. And we all know pent up anger is bad. But boys have a tougher time. They find it more difficult to comply to the rules of society – don’t shout, or fight, or run around, break things, jump and climb.
And there are stronger expectations of them, especially from their fathers. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a dad tell his son to ‘man up’, ‘stop acting like a little girl’, ‘stop being a pansy’, ‘be a man’, ‘be a brave boy’, ‘be a big boy’, ‘stop crying like a baby’ and many, many more.
The phrases we use are important and this was highlighted to me when my son knocked his tooth and it bled a lot. He was crying and everybody was (kindly) telling him he was a brave boy. Then when we got home he said ‘I didn’t do very well today – I wasn’t brave because I cried’. I explained how healthy and natural crying is and how it can make you unwell to hold it in.
Many fathers (and some mothers) won’t allow their sons to express themselves in what they consider to be a ‘feminine’ way, which leads to very confused individuals wondering who they are supposed to be and learning that life is about pleasing others and presenting a certain persona instead of being authentic.
The irony is – what most people consider a ‘real man’ or masculine is somebody confident, happy, funny, respectful, loving and caring. And very much open to emotional connection and expression. Women the world over laugh about how rare these men are and they are rare because so many people are afraid their boys will turn into ‘sissies’.
Fathers often struggle with empathy. Empathy used to be reserved for girls, if at all, as there was the fear of feeding a problem. But boys learn from their fathers and if they are taught to withdraw their feelings – how are they to grow up and show empathy to their partner, children, or even their own parents (how many mothers are disappointed their sons have forgotten to send them a birthday card on time yet again).
3 out of 4 suicides are men and suicide is the biggest cause of death in men under 35. This is shocking. Men are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs and on the whole aren’t as proactive as women in self development or as self aware.. People are so worried about cancer and physical illnesses but rarely do they look at little boys and try to figure out where it goes wrong.
Think how many men become abusive to their partner and/or children. Men are often stressed, angry and have low self esteem. And as parents of this generation, we can decide if we are going to accept our boys and ride through their emotions with them or churn out another depressed, angry male.
I would highly recommend the book Inside Out Parenting by Holan Liang with regards to building a strong core of self esteem in our boys (and girls!).
So please comment on any advice you have for supporting our boys and men. I am confident that with enough empathy and acceptance we can begin to turn this world around!